A Webelos Scout volunteers to help package meals for hungry children.

Generous People Are All Around You.

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It’s really tempting to be cynical. Especially when watching the news. There’s a lot of negativity out there. It’s easy to think the world is filled with wicked people. And to be frank, some of them are. But they’re a small minority. The encouraging thing is generous people are all around you.

Generous People

Two-thirds of Americans make some sort of charitable donation every single year. The average American household gives almost $1,900 a year to nonprofit organizations. And product sales aren’t counted in that figure, so that box of Boy Scout popcorn or Girl Scout cookies isn’t counted – and that’s a huge chunk of revenue for those organizations. Private philanthropy amounted to $258 billion in 2014.

I suppose it’s really hard to really grasp just how generous people are until you’ve actually gotten yourself in the trenches and done some fundraising. The biggest fear of every new fundraiser is that everyone’s going to say “no,” right away. And then they don’t. You find people giving perhaps more than you think they should to causes they believe in.

And this country has a great history of philanthropy. People have been working together to solve problems through organizations like this for well over a hundred years.

Seeing is Believing

I think if you haven’t actually stood in front of a room full of strangers and asked them for money to support a cause you all believe in – and had them actually say, “yes,” it can be tough to believe that such a thing would happen. But I can tell you that it does happen, every day, in towns all over the country.

And these donors aren’t usually seeking any recognition for their gifts. Most gifts are made quietly. People like donating money to causes they care deeply about. Helping other people makes us feel good about ourselves. Whether it be running a marathon for charity, organizing a golf tournament, or just pulling out a checkbook – we like the feeling we get from doing good.

I look forward to the Jimmy Fund Telethon every year, to hear the amazing success stories in the fight against cancer in children. The Jimmy Fund is a Boston-based charity which raises money for research and care for children with cancer at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Everyone who knows someone who’s been lost to cancer. Everyone. That people are donating to such a worthy cause shouldn’t take anyone by surprise. The work they do at Dana Farber is a benefit to humanity.

And there are so many other organizations doing work like this.

It’s easy to think everyone around you is greedy in the abstract. But when you really start breaking it down and listening to the stories of what people are actually doing, you start to see how generous people actually are – and that’s pretty wonderful.




Generous With Their Time

But these philanthropy figures only count monetary donations. It doesn’t count the value of volunteer labor hours. About 25% of Americans do some sort of volunteer work every year. That’s almost 63 million people. The average volunteer gives about 32 hours of their time. That works out to about 8 billion hours of volunteer time a year – worth an estimated $184 billion.

You know it’s a good joke when it has its own patch (eBay Photo)

For example, each week this summer at Scout camps all over this country, scout volunteers are giving up their vacation time to make sure kids get a great program. Over the winter, they camping in sub-zero temperatures. That’s a special level of dedication that has to be seen to be believed. They spend their own money purchasing supplies. They make donations to cover the administrative costs of the program.

The biggest joke in Scouting is that volunteering is “only one hour a week” – but they all know it’s more than that. While they lightheartedly complain, they still do it; and they do it with enthusiasm.

And while you can say, “sure, but this is for their own kids.” But there are so many volunteers who stay around long after their own kids have aged out of the program.

We have no right to take these generous people for granted – but should rather look at them in awed amazement.

Still More Groups

Rotarians meet every week for lunch all over the world. Their donations and willpower have nearly led to the eradication of polio. But they do more than that. They raise money for projects like buying coats for kids in the winter. They volunteer their time in community service project after community service project.

Through volunteer labor, Habitat for Humanity improved the living conditions of three million people in 2016 alone, either by building new homes or fixing up existing ones. These are regular people giving up their time to swing a hammer or lift a board.

generous people - habitat for humanity volunteers photo

State Farm employees volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Photo by State Farm

And I could list off organization after organization that does things exactly like this in different fields. I could run through Lions Clubs, Elks Clubs, or Moose Lodges, just to name a few. There are American Legions or VFW’s, and this hasn’t gotten to the volunteer work that people do through their churches and faith-based groups. And there are so many others. And there are new ones starting up every day.

So, if you’re tempted to be cynical, please take a good look at the amazing things being done by regular people in this country. People who do so not for pay but because it’s the right thing to do. Not because someone’s threatening them with a gun in the ribs if they don’t, but because they want the world to be a better place.

Can we be thankful for that?

Feature Photo by Feed My Starving Children (FMSC)

 

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