Philanthropy has to do with living so that everyone around us flourishes. Such a person was my grandmother.
My grandmother was born in 1881; she lived to be 107. She came from a family of farmers and small-town entrepreneurs and her father lost nearly everything in the Great Depression. Granny, as we called her, was one shrewd businesswoman, a person of vibrant faith she was known for her generosity, wisdom and caring ways. She had no more than an 8thgrade education yet she saw to it that every one of her grandchildren received a college education.
I grew up in her home. When my parents separated and divorced my mother and I moved into her parent’s home. My Granny’s home belonged to everyone. She took in her maiden sister when she needed a home. She took in her brother when his wife died, and illness left him in need of home.
My grandmother was what you would call a good neighbor. Her home was a frequent way station for individuals we called “hobos.” They were people who hopped trains and wandered from place to place in search of food and work. As a small boy I would watch with curious eyes as these strangers quietly sat on the steps of Granny’s small screened-in back porch savoring her table delicacies. This too I noted, most of them never left without saying “thank you.”
From my grandmother I learned that whatever we may have in life, be it little or much, is not ours to hoard but ours to share. From the hobos I learned that on receiving a gift, however small and needed, always remember to say: “thank you.”
Cotton Mather, a leader in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, encouraged his fellow citizens to create voluntary associations for the flourishing of a community. He wrote: Live so that all your Neighbors will have cause to be glad that you are in the Neighborhood.[i]
[i]Cotton Mather, Bonifacius (“Doing Good”} See: Amy Kass, Giving Well, Doing Good, p. xv.