I do my bit through formal philanthropy, giving to good causes. I’ve always supported the economic empowerment of women and girls. I like entrepreneurial efforts — successful ones — to help underserved populations get health care, which I consider a basic right in a wealthy society like ours. I occasionally give to causes not in my central focus because I like the individuals running them, and want to support their efforts. I get a tax benefit for all of this, at least under current tax law, so it’s not exactly altruism.
I do something else, which I call “spontaneous altruism”. I find a way to reward people who are making a difference in a neighborhood, in my life, or in some deserving person’s life. Usually that doesn’t involve a 501[C]3 organization, so no tax deduction. All of what I do in Panama falls into this category. I do some in the U.S. as well. It isn’t so much the money — which tends to be relatively small — that I think is appreciated. I think it’s the simple fact of being seen. Lots of good and decent people do kind and important things, largely without being noticed. Some do it for religious reasons. Some do it because they’ve cultivated generous spirits. Some do it because they know there is no one else.
What I do is my way of saying, “I see you. Keep going. It matters. You matter. Whether or not you are racking up points in heaven, you are making a difference here.”
I’m being intentionally vague about what I actually do, but you get the idea. I’m preparing my end of year spontaneously altruistic gesture now, and it gives me great joy.