Happy National Philanthropy Day! A day created to celebrate charitable activities and volunteer support. I remember a time, not too long ago, when Nov. 15 was just another day to me and philanthropy was just a word. I never stopped and considered what my place in the world was and what I was doing to contribute to its people. But I’m not the same person that I used to be. I can pinpoint the exact event that changed the course of my life and why I am heading in a more philanthropic direction today. It was my decision to join Alpha Sigma Alpha.
I came to college with no intention of joining a sorority. I signed up for primary recruitment on the last possible day after being convinced by my roommates. I had zero expectations going into recruitment but I was fully devoted after philanthropy round. I was surrounded by incredible women who cared deeply about others and represented hundreds of years of sisterhood and service that has spread its influence across the globe. Not only would I get the unconditional love and support from a sisterhood but I had the opportunity to extend that support to improve the lives of others. Philanthropy was one of the main factors for me when choosing a sorority which is what lead me to be a proud Alpha Sigma Alpha woman today. The strongest connection I felt during recruitment was to their philanthropic partner – Girls on the Run.
Girls on the Run was implementing life skills in young girls so they can live confident, healthy and joyful lives. Something I wish I had been taught at that age. They are the reason I ran for our chapter’s philanthropy chairman during my sophomore year of college. My greatest ambition was to create a culture of generosity within my chapter and for my sisters to be proud to serve our community and live out our values and ritual. Serving as my chapter’s philanthropy chairman was what gave me my first real taste of selflessness. I was working for somebody else’s benefit instead of my own, and I realized that’s how I wanted to spend my life. My hard work and compassion could completely transform someone else’s life. I was connecting with people around me and I was genuinely caring for them in ways I hadn’t before I was introduced to philanthropy. I have changed into a more kind and empathetic person.
The empathy I gained through my sorority led me to where I am today. I am currently enrolled in the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy to receive my master’s in philanthropic studies. I’m only four months into my program and my view on philanthropy has been flipped upside down. My entire experience with philanthropy had been so formal that I didn’t realize it extends beyond donating time, talent or treasure. This discovery is what I want to share with you today.
Philanthropy simply means “the love of mankind.” Many people are turned away from philanthropy because it’s believed only the wealthy can be philanthropic with their large checks. However, with this definition, we can see that donating our resources isn’t a requirement for philanthropic work. Philanthropy is the humaneness we are all capable of expressing. It’s the kindness you show to strangers. It’s the smile you give to a person while walking to class. It’s listening to someone’s story because they need a friend. I believe as sorority women we can create a tremendous amount of positive impact in the world and it starts within ourselves.
It starts with finding what you’re passionate about. Know what makes you happy and take action. Nothing can get done unless there are people in the world willing to work for a better future. Grab a sister and look for volunteer opportunities around your community or through your sorority. There are many organizations that need help so branch outside your comfort zone. And, if it’s not the right time for you to be volunteering or donating just remember you don’t need a nonprofit to be generous. Help a sister with her homework, open the door for strangers, and let the people you love know you will always be there for them. Never limit your kindness and generosity to the days you’re formally engaged with nonprofits.
In closing, I want to share with you the phrase that hangs above my desk at work, it is the open giving statement of Alpha Sigma Alpha. “Life is not taking in only; it is giving out too. It is giving of ourselves –freely- to other people, giving ourselves in comradeship, in understanding, in joy, in love.” It hangs above my desk as a reminder of why I choose to live generously and I hope inspires you to live generously too.