Central to our team values is the concept that we can never stop learning, reading, connecting and sharing. This month, we will share books that have impacted us personally and/or professionally. Perhaps one of our “book reports” will inspire you to join us in our quest for continuous learning. (Although we suspect you are already there.)
How does Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning about his experience in a WWII extermination camp translate to philanthropy? Stay with me on this, because I read Dr. Frankl’s book every few years. Each time I find new insights through whatever lens or stage in life I find myself. And as I read it most recently, I found so much applied to our collective mission to serve others. Where I truly awoke is how you – all of you – can bring extraordinary meaning to the lives of donors. How?
When I first read the book in high school, I just saw it as an introduction to the horrors and inhumanity of the Second World War. In college, I was in awe of how a survivor of the Holocaust could find forgiveness in the face of such cruelty. This latest time, I was stuck by this sentence, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” A doctor in psychiatry, Dr. Frankl saw the horrors and saw three “whys” in life: Love, Work and Dignity.
So many folks I meet – people of great economic and material success – are still trying to find their “why.” What is their passion and love? What should be their “life’s work” as opposed to their “economic” work? And how do they live their life with dignity and provide that dignity to others?
The “why” story I want to share, is about a man named Fred. A man of considerable means, he was recruited into the leadership of a capital campaign – very, very reluctantly. He was retired and recently lost his wife to cancer. He really wasn’t sure what he could or would contribute. Some folks wanted to leave Fred alone, and for good reason.
And yet Fred ultimately was convinced to join the campaign leadership. He gained great interest in the project and, he himself, gave generously – his largest gift. But here was the real lesson for me. Fred said this: “You saved my life. I was lost. I didn’t know where I was going or why. This campaign has brought me more happiness than I could have imagined.”
That campaign gave Fred his “why.”
Love, work and dignity. Offering others a way to serve may be your greatest gift.