Monday, July 23, 2012

Do not wait until you're 50 to start....

This past Friday I was honored to speak at the memorial service for Art Grindle. While in community college I was a part of the Art and Phyllis Grindle Honors Institute, named because of their 1-million-dollar gift to the program. 

Art was the kind of guy who wore hipster-black-framed glasses beneath his white hair and shining clear blue eyes. The kind who stayed late after a charity auction to dance while everyone else went home. 

And during the few times I attended these events with him as an honors student, he always left a lasting impression. He inspired me.

At the memorial service they played a video of him talking to honors students, where he said this: " have gifts, and you are talented. Do you have to wait until you're 50 or 60 or 70 to start giving? No! Start now."

I had never heard Art say this before, and it really struck me because I had already planned to write a blog this week about starting the habit of giving and philanthropy early in life.

Because we often assume that we'll be able to give to others when we're "rich." While of course in the state of things now there is no guarantee we will be "rich," it is easy to fall into the mindset that when we're young it has to be all about our own growth and success, and that once we have tons of money then we can start to give. 

But habits start early. And whether you're a multi-millionaire philanthropist or a poor college student sharing a few bucks or dropping off a few cans to a food pantry, each is equally valuable. It's the percentage of things, the thought, the habit.  

So as Art said, do not wait until you're old. Start the habit of giving early, no matter how small it is. 

Look in your local community or your college's scholarship foundation or food bank, and find out what needs are there. Or maybe you know someone in your own family or circle of friends that you could help. 

A great example of starting young is Phi Theta Kappa's Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion scholarship. The CC honors students raised over $125,000 last year and are looking to raise another $125,000 to help students with unexpected life challenges (such as illness or natural disaster) to complete college. Most of that money has come from the students themselves. A few bucks here, a few bucks there. It makes a difference. 

Below is a brief excerpt from my speech for Art: 

In most cases, money naturally causes distance between the wealthy and the poor. As a tutor and nanny I often noticed while driving to work that the biggest houses had the highest walls, closed off, private.

But then there are those rare people like Art, who chose to use his money not to build walls around himself, but to break them down for other people.

Whether you have tons of money or feel like you might be in need of that kind of help, we all have something to give. Whether it's money, food, or your time, your efforts will impact someone else. Art taught me the immense power one person's existence can have on another. 

And in case you haven't realized it in yourself yet, I want to tell you that you have that power too. And you don't have to wait until your hair turns gray to start using it. 

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