Behind the Scenes

Three weeks since I posted, and I’ll be honest, it feels like two days. A whirlwind of activity involving a trip to California, many networking coffee dates, focused writing for the novel, some work on the business plan, fundraising for my board work … and quite frankly, I just haven’t been in the mood to write here. The biggest event of the last three weeks has been purchasing the mother of all fixer uppers. I’m going to be hard pressed to accomplish my list of goals this year with this grand old lady on the horizon. Here’s to streamlining and being intentional with every bit of time I have …

There are many things I want/need to write about, not least of which are some thoughts on the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But today I wanted to reflect on a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain in Haiti. It was a tough episode to watch, as it seemed to be a tough episode to film. There is a pivotal moment when Anthony decides to buy all the remaining food from a woman cooking on the street and give it to the kids standing around watching them film, kids who haven’t eaten in days. And what happens? As the observer you can just see it coming. Long queues form, someone uses a leather belt to whip back the crowds, and, as Anthony says, “it all turned to shit” (watch it here). You get that knot in your stomach that tells you that your ‘help’ did nothing but make you feel good about yourself for a moment; its how I’ve come to define the difference between charity and philanthropy. Philanthropy gets to the underlying issues and solves problems long term while charity takes away the pain for a moment. In order for real change to occur there needs to be a one-two punch, artfully constructing a new reality by weaving philanthropy throughout your charity.

Most importantly, if you wanna help people, you’ve gotta get down in the trenches and be with them (lovely to see Sean Penn in this episode showing how this is done). Anthony muses on the fact that the problem was thinking with his heart rather than his head, but in these situations it’s imperative to do both. This is where working withthose you’re serving is key. If Anthony had asked the woman serving the food how best to distribute it, I bet she would have had some good ideas. Or maybe he could have selected some of the kids sitting at the table with him to work with the crew for the week in exchange for meals. It’s an impossible situation, one that people the world over are trying to solve. How do you meet the immediate needs while building and sustaining a way for people to move beyond immediate needs? It’s a balance between serving with your head and your heart, working logically with compassion.

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