Is this Philanthropy?

Today I had the beauty of a true life experience with my oldest child.

Let me start with a little background…. This current session at AJ Collective Workshops, I have been facilitating a volunteer group called Philanthropists Unite. It’s been quite an awesome experience with these kids. I began with the notion that it’s vitally important to me for my children to have the notion that they can make a difference in the world, no matter their age. If the passion, need, or concern is there, they can do something about it. I am always with eyes open for the opportunity for them to take part and make a difference. So this class was to implement the same with an eager group of homeschoolers. I had a good number of kids sign up and it’s been a blast since the very first day.

Each chose a project that they wanted to contribute to; people, animals, environmental, etc. And they did select some really great projects meaningful themselves. They have planned a bake sale to raise money for each of their organizations, work days, organizational tours, and lunch packing for the homeless. They seem to have a really nice span and experienced it all in just this six week session.

So, today was a work day project out at Springbrook Prairie. A portion of the group was able to make it, including K and myself. We were excited to do something for the environment. We looked forward to this experience and it was quite an amazing day after these (several) past zero temp days. When we finally arrived after getting a wee-bit lost, it was a bit apparent that our work guide was less than thrilled to have us there. He started the work day with a brief historical chat about the prairie. He says that for a long long time this land was farmland. This land was only bought back by the city in 1970 and that since it’s been in a transformation back to prairie. What he mentioned was that there were invasive species that were taking over and creating it harder for the native plants to grow.

We go out about a 2-ish mile hike out to a spot that he introduces as someones farm. He says that this farmhouse was torn down and that this “Prickly Ash” (referring to a large number of plants) were decorative plants. These plants needed to be taken down because they just kept coming back making it harder for the native plant to grow.

So, I was wondering why we were just cutting down brush and that the plant roots were not being touched? Seemed like a ton of work to do to only have it grow back again. But we start at work doing as he had asked of us. At first it feels good helping him do what he needed to get done, but as I’m chopping and yanking I’m getting a wee-bit emotionally attached to this. I look at the barren land and visualize a home there. I realize that this is chopping down a part of history really. Yes, it may not be “native” plants, but it did not seem to be causing any trouble. It was providing this earth what it needed (and consequently people too!) and here we are chopping it down.

K felt connected to the history of the land as well. He was saying that he felt we were disturbing the farming spirits doing what we were doing to their home. I then went from the history abolisher, to the feeling of destroyer of nature. I mean here I am thinking that I’m out to “help the environment” and yet I’m chopping down what’s growing stronger all on it’s own. “Invasive”??? But it’s providing oxygen to the world, *and* necessary shade for the smaller animals that are living out there on the prairie.

I then began to think about how I tear up when I see city taking out sick trees! When those saws and chipper machines start going, I get all yucky inside and I really have a very hard time with it. And then…. realized…. this is no different! Why the heck am I out there doing this? K and I are having this intent conversation all along. He gets quite wrapped up in my notions and encourages me to tell this gentleman we are leaving. There was nother family wandering around looking for us because they did not make it before we left for this work location, and we put our tools down and told our guide that we are going to look for this other family. Of course we don’t have the intent of coming back. But we were feeling so much better about stopping what we were doing, that we did not feel nearly as guilty as we probably would have otherwise.

So…. the conversation really stemmed into something much deeper, both while we are working and trying to figure out what we are doing, and while we are strolling back to the car. He asks me, “Is this really Philanthropy then?” Wow. Well…. that is a great question!

phi·lan·thro·py 

/fəˈlanTHrəpē/

 
Noun
  1. The desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed esp. by the generous donation of money to good causes.
  2. A philanthropic institution; a charity.
 
Synonyms
charity – benevolence – beneficence

 

Philanthropy is the act of volunteering, providing charitable aid, or donations.

 

So, yes, we were providing charitable aid. We were out there volunteering our time to a cause that someone, somewhere felt was imperative. But what does it mean if it does not appear to be of moral value to yourself while doing it? When you feel as though a moral conflict is present? I suppose on a surface level, philanthropy is philanthropy. There is not changing the blatant textbook definition. But when your heart and sole are not into it? Or when your view on the need is different than that of who is requesting the help? It was (still is for that matter) and interesting concept to ponder.

It’s no secret that I chose to live life by the law of attraction. Or at least I do my best to try to do so. Part of this concept is being the change you want to see. So if you are against war, you would not go to a war protest, but rather to a peace rally. Same applies to this instance today. And therefore brings more moral questions to light.

It was quite a good experience though. It was interesting to see just how impactful this process was and it left us feeling like we had experience something pretty special together. Glad we went!