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Asking yourself three questions can lead to charity

“Who am I? What do I want? How can I serve?”

These questions were posed to the audience during a brief mental yoga session during the 2018 Honors Night at Morris Community High School by guest speaker Tara Stiles, MCHS Class of 1996.

I was in the audience due to my son’s accomplishments, but I was struck by how simple these questions are – and how tightly they relate to charity and philanthropy.

Over the past few months I’ve been meeting with groups of people who are in the early stages of trying to wrap their brains around philanthropy.

I’ve been using materials from all sorts of sources, including Tracy Gary, a speaker and author who spoke at one of our events many years ago. Her book, “Inspired Philanthropy,” has great worksheets to help people explore their philanthropic selves, from early “What do I care about?” to full-fledged charitable giving plans.

Last week I was making copies of her worksheets to hand out when it dawned on me that, even though Tara’s questions are not necessarily geared toward philanthropy, they do hit the nail on the head.

Tara asks, “Who am I?” Tracy asks, “What do you care about? What are your values?”

By exploring who you are and what you value, you can begin to make a short list of the issues that you care about and are willing to put your money and time behind. Your answers don’t have to be philanthropic. Ken and I have children, so our time has been dedicated to their Scout and band activities. Now that they’re in college, our money is dedicated to their tuition.

But now that they’re out of Scouts and band, what do we care to give our (probably charitable) time to? Once they’re out of college, what will we dedicate our money to and will it be a charitable endeavor?

Tara asks, “What do I want?”

Of course, this has dozens and hundreds of materialistic answers: a big house, new car, nice clothes, an adventure vacation and more.

However, as Tracy (and probably Tara) knows, if you take the deep breath and time to think deeper, you’ll know in your heart that
you want humanitarian things, such as peace, education, justice,
a healthy planet and a big sports win!

What have your parents and grandparents always said?

“I just want you to be happy.”

Tara asks, “How can I serve?” Again, it doesn’t have to be a charitable answer.

We serve our families by going to work to earn money, by mowing the lawn and cleaning the house, by paying our bills. We serve our employer by doing a good job.

But in the much bigger picture, Tara and Tracy are both asking you to “Imagine a Better World” (one of Tracy’s worksheets).

This also matches another phrase that I use often: “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” Small actions can change the world… even if your “world” is just your small town.

If some of your answers to Tara and Tracy’s questions have a charitable component to them, the Community Foundation of Grundy County can help you develop those answers into a charitable giving plan and donor-designed fund to make that plan a reality.

And, I believe it’s worth noting that the MCHS annual Honors Night is sponsored by Jim and Carol Baum because it’s something that they care about and hope it never goes away simply due to lack of funding.

It doesn’t take long to ask just three simple questions.

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