Philanthropy etymologically means "love of man" in the sense of caring for, nourishing, improving, and enhancing the quality of life for human beings.
Wait, what? Philadelphia? Philippians? Oh, philanthropy. Charity work? Got it.
At first I will admit to needing to look up the formal definition, and according to my friend, Webster, here it is, you can see it above. I had no idea what the word meant when I first heard it years ago. Maybe I did have some basic notion and understanding that it had to do with giving money away to support some charity. Maybe? Well, yes and no.
Let's take a quick trip down memory lane. Dreaded were the days at the beginning of the school year when our homeroom teacher would cheerfully, yet annoyingly announce: "Students, here are the chocolates for the sale!" - Gross! I am sorry, what? What exactly am I suppose to do with these? Sell them?? Uh, no. I don't think so. Why? How am I expected to do that? Was I really expected to go door to door and sell these things? Um, no. I don't know how to do that; I can't do that.
From chocolates we moved to "Brazo Gitano", a jelly roll-type, sprinkled with powered sugar and stuffed with guava yummieness! Nope, didn't work either. The idea or whole-hearted comprehension that personally approaching someone and selling a piece of sweet delights would rely on me was not registering in my brain. Whatever...
Fast forward, ummm, a few years. :) I have been invited to this benefit and that benefit, benefiting this charity and that charity. I have been asked for money, to support great causes, to make a difference. Couldn't have someone explain to me that those chocolates, Brazo Gitanos and even raffle tickets (figuring out how to sell those was the worst!) were meant to be sold for a good purpose? Nope, the concept and lingo was not part of our day to day. That's OK. I eventually got it.
There are so many incredible organizations out there, that just as the official definition of philanthropy states, were established for the "love of man" or women, or children, to enhance the quality of life of people, young and old, ill or healthy, poor and needy. The lives and souls touched by the generosity of individuals who are "philanthropic" and support organizations that strive to improve and respect the dignity of all humans, change. Some changes are small and often go unseen, others are huge and inspire progress. And, that change is true and necessary change, for the greater good.
My personal preference when it comes to philanthropy is no doubt supporting education or educational organizations. It it certainly not because I work at a non-profit, private higher educational organization. It is simple. Not really. It is simple in a multi-layered, complex way.
In an educational environment, young minds are shaped, exposed to the up-to-that-moment unknown; unknown and exciting new "everythings" that, like a tiny pile of kindling lights up at the slightest touch and spark from a match. A fire has been lit. For some it's a small, little fire that burns for a while and generates enough light a dark night. For others, a bonfire is created and the flames burn bright, tall and can almost reach up above, lighting up the night eternally. They remind me of those eternal flames celebrating an undying presence, a life worth remembering everyday, day and night, forever. Education can light a fire in the mind and hearts of people forever. A passion is developed. A life is changed... the giver and the receiver.
At a school, grade school, high school or college, seeds are planted. Roots begin to grow and the fruit of that vine become food and nourishment to communities, social, political and health care organizations. At a school, leaders are born and educated. These very leaders join and support initiatives to improve the quality of lives of others. At a school, philanthropy is born.
Where am I going with this? An educational environment creates and shapes and exposes individuals to needs and wants, and needs and injustices and more needs of this world. This is our world and our home and we must take care of it. While experience is key and those who have LIVED it can share it and be witness to those very needs in society, if we can educate more for justice, to indeed improve the quality of life of our fellow community members, wouldn't we be in a better place? I can certainly get specific and speak to the good work organizations like the Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity or the little Rainbow House, in Denver, do. I want to keep it in perspective. The big picture matters and from the big picture, the masterminds allow the details, the wheels to run and make things happen.
Again, my point here is that YES, there are amazing organizations out there that do amazing and groundbreaking work. I only make the observation that the leaders of those organizations were likely exposed to their passion for philanthropy, to support the charity of their choice, of their heart, during their educational and transformative years. We educate to ask and then to answer questions. We educate to find the truth. We educate to make the world a better place. I support educational organizations to provide access to students who may not have it for the very reasons or circumstances that enable and give birth to the needs for philanthropic organizations. It's my opinion, my passion and what I do. In my heart and in my mind I live to "put my money where my mouth is" and do what I say and say what I do. What about you?
I finally got the meaning of the word philanthropy. I care for the nourishment, the improvement and the enhancement of the quality of life-for others and I believe this difference, this change for the greater good can come as a result of what happens in educational environments. My name is Jessica and I am philanthropist.