One evening in early December I got a text from a friend (who is a County Commissioner) that there was a mob of armed protesters outside her house. Her 12-year-old son was home alone at the time. He called her while she was at a Health District meeting that would determine whether our county would issue a mask mandate. Can you imagine how afraid he must’ve been?
Events like these have been happening across the country. The storming of the U.S. Capitol last week seems like an inevitable pinnacle in a ramping up of hate and discontent.
These events were inspired by a sense of fear, and were intended to stoke fear in others. Another friend of mine said how those events made her “afraid to even go outside to take a run” that afternoon.
That fear affects all areas of life. Over the past several months I’ve sat down with dozens of philanthropists regarding significant projects and campaigns. One such individual said to me, “I’ve given away millions of dollars to non-profits over the past few years. Right now, though, I just don’t know what’s going on. I’m really concerned. I’m guarding the vault until this all shakes out.”
Several non-profit leaders we’ve worked with have suggested that now is NOT the time to be going out to their donor bases to discuss giving or to discuss new significant projects because things are so uncertain and worrying.
Our divisiveness as a country right now is frustrating, disheartening and inescapable. There’s a lot to be discouraged about if we choose to be. I keep asking myself ‘What’s at the root of all this divisiveness?’ and I keep coming back to the same common thread – fear.
Psychologist Daniel Kahneman describes loss aversion as the tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains. In other words, the fear of losing $100 is twice as strong as the perceived satisfaction from gaining $100.
So what can we do to counter such pervasive fear? How can we demonstrate that the gains we could attain as a community and a world could far outweigh the potential losses?
I believe it is through GIVING. Giving breaks down fear and inspires hope. When we give to feed, clothe, shelter, counsel, teach, we are giving to hope. When we give our ears and hearts to truly listen and seek understanding of one another a connection is made. When we give our time to an important cause that lifts the opportunity and hope of others we chip away at that cold rigid plaque of hate.
Giving is healing, and we are living in a world right now that, more than anything, needs healing.
What if 2021 were the year when all of us adopt a mindset of Giving? What if we thought of our individual efforts more akin to a collective campaign? A campaign for hope. What if we call upon and inspire all of us, from all areas of society, to join us in giving? What if we give to understand, to find common ground, and to heal?
While I have heard fear from some donors and organizations, what I hear most often is quite different. In those dozens of visits with generous donors over the past few months, I have seen incredible giving and support. These donors, just as all of us, are looking for inspiration, hope and healing. They, just as all of us, want to have a role in shaping a world that is more united and peaceful. We shouldn’t deprive anyone that opportunity – especially now.
I recently spoke with a man who runs a cattle ranch in rural Idaho. He talked about being “angry” with how things are going in our country. As we talked I heard him clearly identify the same common themes that bring so many of us together: making sure we have access to good jobs, good schools for our kids, and clean air and water.
I believe that we have so much more in common than we do differences.
As we move into 2021 and beyond, I invite you to adopt a mindset of GIVING. All of us have something to give to the greater good. In return, I believe that all of us will feel an incredible sense of healing.