’Tis the season, right?
The season of joy. The season of ugly sweaters and hot chocolate. The season of feel-good music, traditional holiday specials on the television and carolers coming to the door. The season of begging your credit card company for a higher limit and feeling like a worthless bag of dog poo because you can’t wrap a big red ribbon on a new luxury car in your driveway for your perfect wife while your perfect kids behave like little angels sharing the moment like a nauseating cadre of...
But I digress.
While Thanksgiving is the time of the year we’re actually supposed to take a deep breath and appreciate all that is around us, the winter holiday season, to simplify things for the purpose of this particular column, is about sharing with the ones you love and practicing the art of giving.
Editor’s Note: I’m not using “winter holiday season” as a politically-correct substitute for “Christmas.” I’m using it because this is an important holiday season for many faiths around the world, and the sharing of gifts is fairly universal. And, because the main subject in this column happens to be Jewish. You know what? Forget I brought it up. I said “winter holiday season,” and I’m sticking with it.
We give with presents. We give with decorating our homes to put everyone in a more joyful mood. We give by sharing smiles with strangers, and by wishing each other a good day. And we give to those who need it because we can, and because it makes us feel a little better inside when we do.
I know of at least two families who spend their Christmas days volunteering at soup kitchens together. They do it so their children will understand the importance of helping others, and they do it because it’s a fun family activity. I have another friend who gives his three kids $50 every Christmas, and let’s them decide from a list he puts together where that gift will be donated — then each kid puts that $50 bill in the envelope, writes out the address and mails it.
I fully realize those actions aren’t going to change the world by themselves, but maybe they help. Maybe someone eats that wouldn’t eat, or gets medicine they wouldn’t normally be able to obtain. Every little bit helps, right?
And, obviously, big bits help, as well. Small donations add up when enough people make them, but it truly helps salt the mines for real change when big donors step up to the plate. Watch the happenings with the 4,700 candidates we have right now running for president — they are all appreciative of the grass-roots donations pouring in, but they fight like gladiators for those deep pockets.
Mark Zuckerberg has deep pockets. The CEO of Facebook and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are two of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley, which makes them two of the most powerful people in the world. They have a platform that reaches billions of people, and they have plenty of cash. And, as of last week, they have a new baby daughter, Max.
The couple wrote an open letter to Max that they posted on Facebook on Tuesday, Dec. 1, and it included a statement that many of us have probably shared with our own children at some point.
“Like all parents, we want you to grow up in a world better than ours today,” wrote the couple.
Then they announced they will be donating a giant piece of their wealth — roughly $45 billion, according to the Associated Press — to charity.
“It’s incredibly impressive and an enormous commitment that really eclipses anything we’ve seen in terms of size,” said Phil Buchanan, president of the nonprofit Center for Effective Philanthropy.
The figure represents 99 percent of the couple’s Facebook stockholdings, and will be targeted to such causes as fighting disease, improving education and “building strong communities.”
“Consider disease,” wrote the couple. “Today we spend about 50 times more as a society treating people who are sick than we invest in research so you won’t get sick in the first place.
“Medicine has only been a real science for less than 100 years, and we’ve already seen complete cures for some diseases and good progress for others,” they continued. “As technology accelerates, we have a real shot at preventing, curing or managing all or most of the rest in the next 100 years.”
You’d have to think that $45 billion can help their new Chan Zuckerberg Initiative get a good start on that effort. And how many people do you believe will be inspired to make donations to help their cause? This could truly be game-changing.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, started by the Microsoft founder and his wife, has an endownment of just over $41 billion, which includes wealth donated by friend Warren Buffett. That’s two foundations, created by billionaires, with approximately $86 billion going to changing the world for the future.
Forget who becomes president. This could be exactly what the world needs to make serious, day-to-day change. There will always be wars. There will always be hate. Maybe now we can at least change the narrative on hunger, disease and famine.