Many of those I come into contact with are stressed and disheartened by recent events, news and trends. Challenges such as terrorism, a stalled economy, anti-patriotism, moral decline, crime, violence and more are producing a tremendous amount of hopelessness and paralysis. In addition, the overall pervasiveness of news about the presidential election and the strident partisanship and dysfunction of our government have resulted in less civility and compassion. I find myself wondering if we, as a country, will pull together to solve the many challenges and problems faced by our community, country and world.
In such times, I suggest we consider philanthropy and giving back to our community. Philanthropy is defined as the practice of giving money and time to help make life better for other people. Philanthropy is inherently optimistic, reflecting the belief that we can have a positive impact on the lives of others as well as on stubborn societal issues. In reality, philanthropy will not and cannot solve every problem. However, I see or hear about charitable acts daily that empower so many individuals and families and that gives me hope.
While headlines often focus on what's wrong, in many ways the world is getting better. Health is improving. Poverty is shrinking. Knowledge is growing. There is so much need in our communities. but we are making progress.
To find workable solutions for our communities' most challenging problems, we must include the best thinking for all perspectives. We at United Way cannot do this alone. We must engage and listen to the entire community — nonprofits, businesses, educational institutions, government, the health sector, faith-based organizations and individual residents — in the work of solving community problems. Our partners must be diverse and we all must be part of the solution. Serious challenges like hunger, education, transportation, mental health and workforce readiness can only be approached through philanthropy with a shared commitment to finding solutions.
"Philanthropy transcends time, borders and politics," said Patrick M. Rooney, associate dean for academic affairs and research at the Indiana University Lily Family School of Philanthropy. "Philanthropy is a core American value and will remain one regardless of political or business cycles."
As our nation and communities seem more divided than ever, I am reminded of words by James Grubman. "Families can find community in pointing fingers not at each other but toward the horizon, eyes on the shared goals deserving of their attention and resources. Philanthropy is best when we reject going toe-to-toe in favor of standing shoulder-to-shoulder, helping our world. It should not be about defending your preferred tactic. It should be about where you want to go — together."
In these divisive times, philanthropy offers hope for the future as well as an opportunity for people who have political and philosophical differences to work together to successfully address pressing community problems.
"It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result," Mahatma Gandhi said.