So much of society is reflected in rites of passage. Walking on fiery coals, Quinceañera or getting married are some examples. I met an interesting man a few weeks ago, Raymond Welch, who pondered whether we, as a society, have financial rites of passage. We agreed that certain events in our lives that are societal rites of passage (first “real” job, promotion, retirement) bring about positive financial outcomes but these events are usually marked by purchases (a new car, a new home, jewelry, designer clothing, a vacation) more than anything else. “But what else could there be?” you ask. Well, as Vezzini says in the best movie ever, (“The Princess Bride”), “Wait’ll I get going!”.
Raymond and I talked a lot about one of my passions: charitable giving. In fact, there’s another blog a brewing about that topic but I must stay focused on this one first. He wondered why these major financial events in our lives don’t represent a financial rite of passage focused on philanthropy. With so much of our culture based on outward expressions of wealth (it isn’t socially acceptable to say how much your promotion was, except to your parents) is it any wonder we use purchases to communicate what’s happened in our lives? Maybe, just maybe, we can change that. (I know, when I think, I think big.)
What if these major financial events were automatically associated with the person’s first major charitable gift? Now, I’m not saying the amount is what matters – far from it – but I think the connection between a person’s blessings and sharing them is profound. Afterall, could any of us be so ignorant to think a blessing is solely the result of our efforts and not also the support, encouragement, teaching and wisdom from others?
I wonder… if we were able to change the paradigm about these financial events to be associated with philanthropy, would it encourage people to ask for the raise, ask for the promotion, start the business, take the risk. It seems many of us (especially women) have an easier time asking for something if we’re not asking for it for ourselves but for someone else. The energy required to pursue these outcomes could be provided by the motivation to do good with the results and not merely keep them for ourselves. Hmmm…
A little bit about the amount. My friend Bill Knoche uses a wonderful quote in his email signature, “We can only give from what we have. If we have more we can give more.” ~ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I appreciate this quote but, the more I read it, the more I wonder if people would associate the amount they give to charity with – once again – their efforts and attach the amount to their ego (“Look at how much I’m giving! I must be really awesome!”). This is the antithesis of philanthropy – which is best acted on anonymously – so be careful not to fall prey to the ego’s motivation.
Pictures courtesy of Clip Art.