A friend asked me an interesting question about Help2Grow.org the other day – “Why are you guys attempting to build this charitable trust at this stage of your life? This is the time to learn. Put it on pause, make a lot of money, and come back to do it at a later stage when your impact could be much bigger.”
I thought about it for en entire evening and put the question to our team the next morning. I love questions like this – they feel painful at the time but, I’ve found that when I really listen for an idea that might change the way I view things and understand the question, it inspires many other interesting questions. In this case, we went down the path of asking ourselves why we are this. This friend did get a couple of the facts right –
1. We don’t have large amounts of money at our disposable
2. We could, theoretically, come back 10 years later and be able to do much more.
Our soul searching resulted in the following answers –
1. If not now, then when? – We all believe charity is a way of life. We recognize our privilege and, thanks to Help2Grow.org, we are reminded of our duty to give back to the community. It is easy to be caught up in our busy lives. Taking action now ensures we don’t let the years pass without action on the stuff that actually matters. And, besides, if not now, then when? We’re not fans of deferred action plans.
2. The process of doing this is changing us. We can’t even begin to list the ways this process is changing us. Aside from ensuring we feel very grateful and humbled when we see our partners at work, we are learning every step of the way. We are learning to work better as a team and really understand and use each other’s strengths for doing good, we are staying in close contact and building stronger relationships among the team by working on difficult things, we are learning to do more and prioritize more, we are learning to take more responsibility and make better decisions with others’ capital which have real consequences on the quality of lives of kids, and we’re understanding the challenges of driving real change.
This has been challenging. And, as a result, we’re becoming better people for it. We can’t make the world better if we aren’t learning and getting better ourselves. Change begins with us.
3. We believe in the starfish parable. Here’s a story adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley that you have almost definitely heard of. It is so lovely that I’d love to share it again..
An old man was walking down a beach littered with thousands of starfish. The tide had washed them in and they would all die if they weren’t in the water soon. He saw a young boy bending down, picking starfish and throwing them in and asked him what he was doing. “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
So, yes, we understand that we don’t have the resources to make the sort of difference a Gates Foundation is making. That said, if we can make a small difference every week to one kid at our partners, we’ll take that. We’re in it for the long run and we are hopeful that a combination of little bits of difference over time will make the world a bit better. That’s why we exist as an organization anyway..
This blog post has also been posted on the Help2Grow.org blog.