“What’s a philanthropist?” I asked my Dad when I was maybe seven or eight, after reading the word in a Bobbsey Twins mystery. He explained in the simple terms that parents use with little kids that a philanthropist is someone who does good by giving money to people in need. I said “then that’s what I’m going to be”. He had chuckled. Probably since in that day and age philanthropists were generally men… men with money. But he didn’t discourage me when I began producing backyard circuses, plays, and puppet shows as fundraisers for the local children’s hospital. Never mind that the total I raised at each of these galas amounted to maybe 15 bucks- tops.
I’m not sure where this longing to do good came from. Believe me, I am no Mother Theresa. I have peeked in friends’ medicine cabinets, sneaked shots of vodka before big, intimidating events, and play “Your Team” with my family on a regular basis (if you don’t know the game, please don’t ask, it’s not nice…not nice at all).
Maybe it’s because my parents had always been volunteers in the community, and though fierce Republicans, ironically, they did raise us with the Kennedy philosophy “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?”
Maybe it’s because they were folks who were kind to everyone, no matter what his or her station in life. Maybe it was the National Geographic magazines that my Dad religiously pored over and collected over the years that gave me a peek into life outside my sheltered suburban world. Whatever it was that gave me the bug to give money to people in need, it’s still with me.
Granted, I have raised lots of money for lots of organizations over the years. But frankly I’m tired of asking people for money for some cause or another. I want to earn the money myself, and give it freely to whomever I want. In a year and 2 weeks I will turn 50. When that day comes, I will look back over the past year and glow.
I am a philanthropist. Watch me grow.