I believe most everyone’s basic sense of philanthropy begins in childhood when our parents teach us to share with others and to care about neighbors and friends and certainly those in immediate need or distress.
It all goes back to the Golden Rule, doesn’t it? Spiritually and emotionally, we should all be about invigorating and nurturing and helping better humanity.
Even in my youthful days here, I sensed that Hot Springs had a compassionate heart for a diverse citizenry that instinctively knew how to pull together for the common good.
A city may be physically defined by its topography, by its demographics, by its infrastructure and economy, however, its true character is felt by taking the pulse of its people and by their commitment to making their town a warm, welcoming, and empathetic dwelling place.
Throughout its history, Hot Springs has benefitted most assuredly from the largesse of so many individuals who have proved themselves to be givers and doers. This community’s businessmen and women, civic and religious leaders, educators, veterans — achievers from the professions and from the public service and private sector ranks
— have inspired so many to be faithful stewards of our bounty and to pass it on in a selfless, resourceful way.
Where there were once just a few, and then a few more, there is now a virtual army of local habitants and well over 250 nonprofit organizations that reach out, uplift, mentor, feed and shelter, preserve and protect, lighten the load, bring music to our ears, and evoke artful expressions that fire our passions and imaginations.
True philanthropy is not just about money and things but about being part of a communal desire to show beneficence and generosity. In that regard, the resort city is very rich indeed.
And best of all, philanthropic endeavors allow us — regardless of who we are or where we hail from — to become engaged with acquaintances, friends, and strangers, who ultimately become friends, in challenging projects. By so doing, we pool our knowledge, energies, ideas, creativity, feelings, perspectives and convictions and hopefully find workable solutions to often difficult problems. And therein lies the reward.
The best we can do to improve and enhance the lot of our fellow man is to give of ourselves — to con- tribute what we can and when we can with the hope and expectation that these gifts — big or small — will sustain positive change.
I am encouraged about Hot Springs’ future when I see how many students are involved in learning more about philanthropy and the opportunities to contribute to the well-being of its residents. These teens and preteens are joining an already dedicated volunteer corps in assessing ways to improve the quality of life across our city and county.
They are becoming enthusiastic fundraisers, knowledgeable granters, perceptive partners with their family members, pastors, teachers, and class-mates, in securing a brighter tomorrow. They are the next generation’s difference-makers and they are undaunted by the lofty goals to which they aspire.
A fitting mantra for Hot Springs’ nonprofits and for all altruistic-minded activists might be found in Edgar Albert Guest’s “It Couldn’t Be Done,” an offering in Caroline Kennedy’s collec- tion, “Poems to Learn by Heart.”
Here is an excerpt:
“Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That ‘maybe it couldn’t,’ but he would be one Who wouldn’t say so till he tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin On his face. If he worried he hit it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing That couldn’t be done. And he did it!”
Whatever your mission, whatever your cause, pursue it with constancy and zeal and know that it holds promise for someone you do not even know. – Melinda Gassaway