Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is tomorrow. If you’re not already receiving emails about it from your charities of choice, you will be:

#GivingTuesday refers to the Tuesday after U.S. Thanksgiving, which is the fourth Thursday in November. #GivingTuesday is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season. #GivingTuesday was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a response to commercialization and consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving season (Black Friday and Cyber Monday)

I wrote about my hope for “White Friday” in November 2011 as a response to Black Friday. Giving Tuesday is different than what I was thinking, in that it still involves spending money. Here’s what I wrote a few years ago:

“Black Friday has become a sort of universally maligned instance of the worst kind of excessive, obsessive capitalism. Even among those who camp out, or head out early for deals, there’s an acknowledgement that it’s not healthy. For Catholics, especially, who have a special obligation to stand out from secular culture and to avoid the temptation of materialism, I think Black Friday provides an opportunity.

“The hyper-materialism and thirst to acquire things symbolizes the opposite of the faith’s humble, austere, ascetic roots. Why not “White Friday,” then? A day to spend nothing except time with family or community — with the other engines of our culture?

“A Christian’s duty is to conduct himself in a way that his life stands out in an obvious way from non-Christians and the wider culture. White Friday would be a way to begin reclaiming that public duty.”

I was thinking too small. Giving Tuesday makes a lot more sense, and it’s great to see it institutionalized in the way that it is.

Diarists

Earlier this year I wrote about keeping a diary. I think there’s value there—not only for personal reasons, but for family reasons. For public figures, there’s even more value.

James Carden’s review of George Kennan’s diaries got me thinking about the value of private journals in the era of ubiquitous social media. Kennan, the architect of the U.S. policy of Soviet containment, was an enormous public figure:

What strikes the reader of these diaries, besides the sheer abundance of literary talent on display, is Kennan’s capacity, in the space of a single entry, for deep wisdom and even deeper melancholy. This duality runs like a thread through these pages, and a little of the latter goes a long way. Take one example from April 1951: “It would be a miracle if, with some combination of personal and public problems, anything remained for me personally in life … this will be a time for leadership or for martyrdom…

Kennan’s private reflections animate the public space. How many families would benefit from their parents keeping even semi-regular diaries?

How many otherwise routine, even stiff mental pictures we keep of our closest friends or family members would be re-written if we could catch a glimpse of them as more bohemian diarists? If only I could read about the lives of my ancestors.

Do not disturb

“Do Not Disturb” is one of my favorite features ever introduced to the iPhone. It’s great because it limits the ability for our most used daily device to interrupt us at times when we shouldn’t really be interrupted. 

I have mine set so that any calls, texts, etc. received between 11pm and 6am are muted. I’ll probably extend those hours as I get older.

A feature I’d like to see developed in future iOS releases? Expand Do Not Disturb so it can be enabled per app. I’d really like to mute apps like Slack or Inbox after 5pm. And I’d like for apps like YouTube or Twitter to be muted most of the day, except for times when I can consume the content they’re pushing to me.

Email is probably the biggest offender, though. There’s no reason it needs to feel urgent. It’s always coming in. I don’t usually need a notice about what’s incoming. Let me mute the app.

Rising fortunes

I joined the Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute a few years ago. Shortly after I joined, I was talking one night with Clive, the Philopatrian’s old house manager. He mentioned that the vacant properties nearby—a parking lot behind the Philopatrian and another just down the block—had nearly transformed into a new tower. But the 2008 financial crisis hit, and those plans had been shelved. Still, he guessed something would be built sooner rather than later.

That conversation came back to me when I saw news that the plans for 1911 Walnut Street had been unveiled. You can see the Philopatrian in the Google Streetview photo above (with the vacant lot/fencing somewhat obscured by the trees), and then the new view from Rittenhouse Park:

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It’ll be a major development for Center City and the Rittenhouse area, and it’s transform the block that the Philopatrian inhabits at 1923 Walnut. This is what the street is expected to look like:

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Today there’s none of this. There’s a chain-link fence and an Indego bike station:

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It’s great to see such a landmark tower coming to this lot. It should be a rising tide that lifts the ship that is the Philopatrian, bringing more people to that block, and providing a good retreat for the many weddings and events that are hosted there.

I hope as property values rise in the years to come, the board at the Philopatrian values its history and future enough to conserve the mansion.

Thanksgiving

The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

The Gift Outright
—Robert Frost

Family philanthropy trends

I wrote yesteday about developing a charitable mission within your family. Being that it’s nearly Thanksgiving, I also want to highlight the National Center for Family Philanthropy, and specifically their feature on some of the “biggest trends” in this area:

We’ve seen an influx of new organizations, new ideas, and new approaches that are ushering the practice of family philanthropy into a new era.

With the release of the National Center of Family Philanthropy’s 2015 Trends Study, we now have data to support these observations.

This new benchmark study — conducted with the Urban Institute — marks the first nationally representative survey of family foundations in the United States. It creates a profile of family foundations documenting the current number, size, age, assets, and giving levels of family foundations across the nation, and looks at a variety of unique aspects of family foundation governance and management practices, including the engagement of the next generation and the participation of the founding donor.

What they delve into is family philanthropy that’s occuring in the millions of dollars. But again, there’s no reason that regular donors and families shouldn’t think in the same, intentional way in their own giving.

A family charitable mission

Every generation faces a different world, but a lot of challenges are common across time. I’m a fan of community foundations like the New York Community Trust because they allow donors to try to address timeless challenges. It’s more fun to solve problems for a century or longer than a decade or so. This struck me when reading the NY Community Trust’s Grant Newsletter last year:

Ninety years ago, when the first funds were established in The New York Community Trust, “Rhapsody in Blue” premiered in the City with George Gershwin at the piano. The Thanksgiving Day Parade marched to Macy’s for the first time. John Francis Hylan was mayor, Calvin Coolidge sat in the White House, and newspapers reported the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.

Much has changed since 1924, but—remarkably—most of The Trust’s funds created that year continue to make New York a better place.

One of those funds honors financier and philanthropist Jacob Schiff, who left Germany in 1873 to seek his fortune in New York. He found it as a Wall Street investment banker with numerous railroad stock holdings before he died in 1920.

His daughter, Frieda Schiff Warburg, created a permanent fund in his honor to provide services for the poor, a cause he held dear. Originally $500,000, it’s now worth more than $2.6 million. In just the past two decades, we’ve used the Jacob H. Schiff Memorial Fund to give more than $2 million to nonprofits finding solutions for New Yorkers in need…

These sorts of funds can be started with $5,000 or less and the impact of these funds can be perpetual. Have a family, cultivate a family mission or areas of interest, and get to work. Don’t privatize it. Share it.

Start now, and the impact will grow in time.

Stand Up For Life

I spent last night in Center City, Philadelphia with more than 1,000 friends to celebrate another year in working to build a Culture of Life. This was my fourth time attending the Stand Up For Life celebration, and its 34th anniversary.

The short film above was shown during dinner and does a pretty good job capturing the work of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, which hosts Stand Up For Life.

I think the most important realization of the Pro-Life Union and groups like it whose mission concerns the Culture of Life is the realization that politics alone is not the solution to the Culture of Death that plagues this country. A focus on service to others can do more to meaningfully change hearts, and ultimately change our politics.

Service to people like Kendra—who was told by Planned Parenthood that she had a choice, when in fact they were really offering her one choice; which is no choice—are an example of that approach.

Tripartisan solutions

A number of years ago Newt Gingrich founded American Solutions for Winning the Future. It turned out to be something of a stalking horse for his 2012 presidential run, but the organization was seriously active for a number of years as a platform for Gingrich in the public square.

American Solutions and Gingrich spoke a lot about “tripartisan solutions” as an alternative to the left/right political divide. In short, the idea was to rely on data to discover policy issues that a majority of Americans—independent, Democratic, Republican—agreed on, and speak for those issues. Whether that has ever really worked in the politics is something I’ll leave for another time.

(I think journalists would probably do well to adopt this thinking in their reporting, though. Imagine any candidate or public official being asked something like, “A majority of every major constituency in the county agrees we should do more of X. Why aren’t you doing more of X?” It would highlight the effects of lobbying in a pretty stark way; certainly more starkly than complaining about lobbying.)

But the idea of identifying common issues that way is something that’s stuck with me. It’s a useful way to move forward in a way where no one feels like they’ve compromised their position, because in reality they haven’t.

When a majority of every faction in a decision-making process agrees on something, you typically just need the right personality and language to help everyone discover that they basically agree.

Dogs

Ben Novak shared this interview on democracy with me. It contains a nugget on dogs that’s striking in how true it is:

In Holland, America or Australia one rarely sees any free dogs, though human beings are allegedly free in these Western democracies. But if you go to a place like Egypt or Senegal or India you always see free dogs. In the West there are no unleashed dogs. Every dog seems to have a master. In India, Senegal, Egypt and many other African countries most dogs are without a leash. They’re free. They have freedom of movement, and the freedom to bark. This suggests there is some kind of relationship between political forms, human beings and animals, and even multi-lingualism. Dogs in India have at least two languages: one to speak with humans and another to communicate with fellow dogs. In Melbourne or New York perhaps the only place where one dog can meet another dog is in a park. Even there the master pulls the leash, or growls, refusing his or her dog permission to interact with another dog. Have scholars looked at this relationship of democracy, dogs and freedom?

There’s something of answer to this question in the interview. In short, we name things so we can recognize them. This can be both good and bad. In politics it can lead to liberty or statism. In daily life it can lead to egocentrism or altruism. In community life it can lead to biases about what’s normal. 

We forget that animals being animals is normal. It’s the opposite that isn’t. There’s something about politics in that, of course.