Dear Marketplace Friend,
I’m considering a news fast; the daily headlines are in conflict with my quality of life.
The markets are losing steam, and there’s no indication of change-points on the near-term horizon. The ideas in Washington – and, on the early-stage campaign trail – regarding a “fix” for the economy run the gambit, from tired to trendy.
As the markets run down, many people who had growing balances a few years ago now have growing uncertainty, instead. The people who were comfortable just “getting by” are either jobless or hopeless. The bell curve has shifted and reset; today, there are more people with current needs… and less people with current abundance. Today, compassion seems to be something that more people need, but less can afford.
What a time for people like Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett – the “two” Americans at the top of Forbes’ List – to challenge their billionaire peers with The Giving Pledge ( givingpledge.org ).
Buffett describes his outlook in this way: “The reaction of my family and me to our extraordinary good fortune is not guilt, but rather gratitude. Were we to use more than 1% of my (resources) on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others. That reality sets an obvious course for me and my family: Keep all we can conceivably need and distribute the rest to society, for its needs. My pledge starts us down that course.”
The Gates and Buffett didn’t invent generosity, but they’ve introduced it as a value to people for whom generosity would not require personal sacrifice. They’ve aligned with a certainty expressed half a century ago by Winston Churchill, who said: “ We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Years ago, entertainer Danny Thomas went from comedy to compassion in his own life; he put it this way: “ All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.”
When great surplus comes alongside even greater need, the solution seems clear. Generosity is the free-will provision that alleviates the shortfall. When the surplus is taken against the will of the person who holds it, emotional damage is imparted on both parties. When interpersonal provision occurs, both giver and receiver are enriched.
Generosity isn’t taught in school, and – too often – it isn’t modeled at home. It’s more caught than taught … and seeing it in action is better than reading about it in books. Where do you go for the ultimate picture of generosity, in action?