It would be so cool to be a philanthropist and give five or six figure donations to causes I believe in. While I have manifested and been gifted with an amazing life, six figure donations are not part of my reality. So in a typical Aquarian manner, I decided to redefine the meaning of philanthropy. It is just a word, and there are no definition police, at least not yet, so I can use the word any way I want.
In my world philanthropy is not based on a dollar amount, but on the level of intention connected to the gift, in whatever form that gift is given. This means that if I donate five dollars or hundred dollars to an organization with spiritual intention, I am a philanthropist. If I fundraise for an organization, creating an amazing opportunity for others to share their financial energy, I am a philanthropist. If I participate in a walk/hike/run/bike ride for a cause, I am a philanthropist. And clearly donating blood is philanthropy.
I came to this conclusion last week during the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) hike. My brother passed away nine years ago from a reaction to his MS medication, and I have been participating in the MS hike in his honor ever since. As part of that event I donate as much as I can, ask others to donate at whatever level they can, sell my art with proceeds going to the hike, and then proudly wear the T-shirt and hike in his name. The event is amazing and set up with different routes so individuals with MS can participate. There is cheering and laughter and congratulations throughout the day. Yes, top fundraisers are giving a special bib so that we can be identified, but everyone is supported and thanked. The real cheers are given to those who have MS, and courageously join the event.
Somewhere between mile four and mile eight it hit me: philanthropy should not be measured in dollars and cents, but rather in heartfelt commitment and the courage to act with grace in the face of adversity. With each step I honored my brother and told his story. And telling a story invites others to tell theirs. Philanthropy emerges when we listen deeply and simultaneously have the spiritual courage to stand up and walk in support of others.
This year was surprisingly sad for me. Each year I have created “Team Newfy” and hiked with my husband and dog. But last year my husband passed away and my 150 pound Newfoundland is too old to hike. So this year I found myself crying as I started the hike, missing the camaraderie and joking. We would make up songs and keep the newfy hiking with treats. She expected everyone who passed her to stop and massage her back and feed her something. But this year it was just me, the lone spiritual philanthropist, on the trail.
But of course I was not alone. I was surrounded by other hikers and volunteers. The mountains were full of hiking spiritual philanthropists. Yes organizations run on money, and need donations, but it is the energy from our hearts that changes the world for others. Giving money tainted with anger or guilt, while still appreciated, is not philanthropy. Giving what we can gladly and with joy fills us and creates a world of giving for others, inviting them to donate and share whatever they can. We can all be spiritual philanthropists no matter how much money we make or how much time we have. All we have to do is give honestly from our hearts.
Dr. Elisa Robyn, a modern-day Renaissance educator and leader, is the author of The Way of the Well, a spiritual romance, and Pirate Wisdom, lessons in leadership. Her eclectic career positions include geologist, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Futurist, and Innovative Mojo Coach. Currently, Elisa is an executive director at Regis University. She holds a Masters degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her most current writings can be found at https://www.ElisaRobyn.com