The world was in crisis mode long before the orange blob of toxic waste moved to Washington. There’s been plenty of poverty, hunger, disease, displacement, fear, uncertainty and misery to go around, both globally and in our own back yards.
And there have always been those who have consistently risen to the challenge, raised their hands and helped. By volunteering, speaking out, challenging the status quo and giving financial aid. Private citizens, celebrities and the mega wealthy, like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates who’ve pledged to give away at least half their fortunes; and who are, through their Giving Pledge initiative, encouraging their fellow billionaires to do the same.
But lately it feels like these efforts are being stepped up. Maybe it just feels that way to me, I don’t know. The wealthiest among us could always be counted on, but there seems to be a greater sense of urgency now. Younger billionaires and millionaires are also now donating huge sums of money; and even regular folks, like you and me, are looking for ways to get involved, give back to our communities and help.
Dare I say that Donald Trump, who has demonstrated an unprecedented ability to bring out the worst in humanity, is also bringing out the best (inadvertent as it may be)?
Not through intention, let me be very clear about that. But through his lack of empathy, consideration, kindness, generosity and just plain decency.
With every nasty, inappropriate, evil move he makes he proves again and again that he, his administration and the ruling party can’t be counted on; and if we don’t do something, the world is going to find itself in unimaginably bad shape and all mankind will suffer.
The good news is, it’s working.
Last week a friend of mine sent me a NY Times article on the subject. Although they talked about many philanthropists in the story, it was prompted by the fact that George Soros, the hedge fund billionaire, Democratic donor and holocaust survivor, just transferred $18 billion to his Open Society Foundation, which promotes democracy and combats global intolerance.
Could there be a more critical time to be promoting democracy and fighting intolerance than right now, when the poster child for the exact opposite lives in the White House?
Then this past Sunday Maria Shriver, in her blog Sunday Paper, talked about making a difference. Next Saturday, it seems, is National Make a Difference Day. Who knew? The point is, making a difference is something we can all do, in our own way. And it doesn’t take billions, millions or even hundreds of dollars.
I used to volunteer. When I was a child, in Montreal, my mother volunteered at a hospital there. She set a great example and as soon as I was old enough to become a “candy striper” (16 years old) I volunteered for a couple of summers.
When my mother moved to Toronto, in 2000, one of the first things she did was to become a volunteer at a hospital here — and went twice a week. Again, I followed in her footsteps and volunteered, at that same hospital, once I stopped working full time and became a freelancer. I wish it had been something we could have done together, but unfortunately by the time I went freelance she had passed.
There were three different departments in the hospital where I volunteered and I loved them all. I was there for five years, when an extremely heavy workload resulted in my taking a break.
But I really miss it. For me, nothing has ever felt better than knowing that, even in a small way, I was helping patients, and their families, at challenging and scary times of their lives. And also knowing that the work that volunteers do makes it easier for the medical teams to do what they’re there to do — care for patients, heal the sick and save lives.
These two articles I read on the weekend made me aware of a feeling I’ve had for a while now. It’s time for me to get involved again. I could go back to the hospital and I may very well do just that. But there is just so much need out there, and so many different opportunities, I’m going to think about it for a while. Maybe there’s something else I can do, something else I should do, that would make more of an impact and do more good.
All I know is, I’m ready. What about you?