Thursday, May 14, 2009

Greedy Philanthropy

The other day I experienced an example of greed; not greed for money or posessions, but greed for the opportunity to do good. Let me explain. Our school had a student who would be on his own (without parents) for a number of week due to a family emergency. Some parents in the school took the initiative to start a calendar where people could volunteer for one night to cook a home made dinner for the student. The completed calendar was distributed to all of the families who volunteered and every day was taken by a different family. When our turn came, we were really excited to cook one of our old family recipies. The student came to our house on Thursday and said that he really wasn't hungry because the volunteer family from Monday cooked extra food so that he had enough for the whole week. While the fellow did eat a little bit, our opportunity to participate in a philanthropic community event was pushed aside by the Monday family's overly generous actions.

Have you experienced anything like this? I've seen it over and over in various organizations (especially PTA) where a small percentage of parents volunteer and then are unwilling to share the load - and often complain that nobody is there to help.

It takes a certain amount of maturity to be able to say "yes, I could use some help" rather than "no, I've got it" even when you probably could do it by yourself.

When I go out to lunch with somebody and I want to pay I no longer say "let me get that". I say "please let me have the honor of paying for your meal". It makes people see it as though they are doing you a favor by allowing you to do them a favor, which is really what relationships are all about.

As you're going about your work, look for opportunities for other people to help you and feel connected. It will not only lighten your load, but give others a sense of usefulness.

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