Philanthropy: Improving the world.

I still remember the first time I saw a Youtube video that gave me goosebumps and left me in awe, watching it over and over again to maintain this beautiful symphony of feelings inside of me.

 

This video has beautifully captured the intense and eternal happiness one feels when giving to others.  While many tend to see this video as a beautiful representation of how society should be, I couldn’t help but feel a heavy sadness deep inside me.

In the 21st century, society has evolved towards a more individualistic and private way of being. Things like opening doors or giving up your seat in the bus is seen as something only a “gentleman” would do.

And while technology grows at an everlasting speed, so does our ego.

In a “Me first” lifestyle, where we think our problems are the most important, while seeking attention and appreciation from our social circle, we have forgotten what the word Philanthropy stands for. So, let us give a quick definition:

 

philanthropy

noun

  1. the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.
  2. Derives from the Greek words “philos”(friend) and “anthropos” (human). He who is a friend of humans, he who helps humans.

 

Both definitions are perfectly well describing a person who wants to make the world a better place by helping others, just like the people on the video above. Those who have shared their wealth with others know that giving to others gives a deeper and more intense sense of happiness than any object they could possibly buy.

This article will share 2 stories of true philanthropists, people who changed the world by helping others. May these stories motivate and help you ask yourself what you can do to make the world a better place.

 

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie (November 25, 1835 – August 11, 1919) was a Scottish-American industrialist, business magnate, and philanthropist.
He was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, and emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1848

In his teenage years he worked as a telegrapher, and by his mid 20s, he had investments in railroads, railroad sleeping cars, bridges, and oil derricks. He also worked as a bond salesman, raising money for American enterprises in Europe.

He built Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company, which he sold to J. P. Morgan in 1901 for $480 million.

Carnegie led the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century and is often identified as one of the richest people in the world.

He became a leading philanthropist in the United States and in the British Empire. During the last 18 years of his life, he gave away about $350 million to charities, foundations, and universities—almost his complete fortune. His 1889 article proclaiming “The Gospel of Wealth” called on the rich to use their wealth to improve society and stimulated a wave of philanthropy.

Carnegie devoted the remainder of his life to large-scale philanthropy, with special emphasis on local libraries (he built more than 3000 of them), world peace, education, and scientific research.

With the fortune he made from business, he built Carnegie Hall in New York, NY, and the Peace Palace and founded the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, Carnegie Hero Fund, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, among others.

 

Nathan Straus

Nathan Straus was one of the most successful retail merchants in American history, and a co-owner of Macy’s. He put much of his wealth into providing financial help to the less fortunate in New York City, funding Jewish causes and providing drinkable milk to children throughout the country.

During the economic panic of 1893, Straus used his milk stations to sell coal at the very low price of 5 cents for 25 pounds to those who could pay. Those who could not, received coal free.

He also opened lodging houses for 64,000 people, who could get a bed and breakfast for 5 cents, and he funded 50,000 meals for one cent each. He also gave away thousands of turkeys anonymously.

At Abraham & Straus he noticed that two of his employees were starving themselves to save their wages to feed their families, so he established what may have been the first subsidized company cafeteria.

In 1898, during the Spanish–American War, Straus donated an ice plant to Santiago, Cuba. He was appointed by President William Taft as the sole United States delegate to the International Congress for Protection of Infants, in Berlin 1911, also delegate to the Tuberculosis Congress, in Rome, Italy, 1912.

Straus retired in 1914 to devote his time to charity. During the winter of 1914–15, he served 1,135,731 penny meals for the unemployed from his milk depots in New York City. In 1916, as American entry into World War I loomed, he sold his yacht to the Coast Guard, and used the proceeds to feed war orphans. Later he fed returning American servicemen at Battery Park.

While great men, like the two we talked about, did not expect anything in return for their offers and help to society, they have remained in history as some of the few people who really made a difference in the world we live in.

Returning back to my initial, slightly cynical statement, yes, I do feel sad when I watch videos of ideals that modern humans seem to have forgotten. However, I do feel a positive change is coming. People are starting to realize that materialistic pleasure will never equal true happiness. Because what good is wealth if it is not shared for a better tomorrow?