Is it possible for one person to make a difference in this world? This is one of the many questions Lawrence Scanlan set out to answer when he began a year-long journey into the world of philanthropy.
Scanlan chose twelve different charitable organizations - some local, some international - and spent one month with each to find out exactly what they do, the challenges they face and if we the people can truly be a part of the solution.
The result of this journey is A Year of Living Generously: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Philanthropy. Scanlan spends his year with a soup kitchen, hospice drop-in, First Nations high school, Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans, a women's radio station in Senegal, an HIV/AIDS shelter in Costa Rica, a horse riding camp for the disabled, a prison outreach program, a street outreach program, an immigrant centre, an environmental group and a program for people with developmental disabilities. This wide range of programs shows not only the many ways that a person can become involved but the many, many needs that exist in our society.
This is a truly inspiring book. Partway through the second chapter I had signed up my family with an organization in our neighbourhood. A couple of chapters later I made the mental note to find out the needs of another neighbourhood organization. This book will show readers that there are many small ways to become involved that make big differences in the lives of others. There are needs everywhere in the world and everyone has a talent that can be put to use.
What is great about this book is that it's not a tale of "look at all the good I am doing." It tells the story of the front line workers, the people who work long and hard hours making little or no money and who don't do it for the recognition, but because of the desire to make this world a better place. And it tells the many stories of the people who receive that help, how they got where they are and their hopes and dreams for the future. The difference between the two groups is circumstances, but beyond that we are all the same.
There is no magic wand that can be waved to end poverty and solve the worlds problems but there is something we can all do. As Lawrence Scanlan says - Keep on volunteering, keep on giving. Do not stop, and in fact do more. Weave generosity into your daily life. But marry that individual giving with political engagement. Show empathy as a volunteer, show passion as an activist. Get angry, get informed (p.324). If each and every person can follow this, then we'll see change happen in this world, and we will all be richer for it.
I highly recommend this book to everyone. Prepare to be inspired to reach out.