The Face of the Philanthropist

The direction of my life changed this year when I decided to look deeper into the idea of a career that had to do with non-profit work.  And slowly, with that decision, I began to send out resumes towards volunteer and internship positions for numerous health related not for profit organizations.  It has been a very new, very uncertain journey for me.  Being unemployed, it was to my dismay that all the positions I uncovered which spoke to me were ones that I wouldn’t be getting paid for.   Yet, I was enticed by the opportunity these positions offered.  I wanted to learn, was very willing to learn anything that I might need to succeed down the road for a career in this sector.  All I knew in those moments was that I wanted to help people, and I had felt that in non-profit work, I might reach the people I wanted to help.

As such, I was thrilled to be taken aboard to assist voluntarily with public relations and marketing for Cystic Fibrosis Canada a few months ago.  Not being a science major, and having had very little interaction with any health occupation in a professional setting, I found myself embarking on a brand new journey in my attempt to understand the illness.  The process of this self-research filled me with a growth akin to an awakening of sorts.  It was the power, and the fuel, of having rediscovered purpose.  A hereditary disease that affects both the digestive and respiratory system, I watched interviews on Youtube, discovered online patient forums, read internet articles and public blogs in an attempt to lessen the gap between these patients, and my lack of knowledge about their situation, their pain, their hopes, and their stories. This disease currently has no cure; hence, it is entirely reliant on transplant, and medication.  Most of those diagnosed with CF do not make it past the age of 40.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending and working at my first charity gala that my city’s cystic fibrosis agency was holding.  The gala was called 65 Roses, originating from a story of how children who were diagnosed with the illness, being unable to pronounce cystic fibrosis, would tell others that they had “65 roses.”  At the orientation, the coordinator had shared with us that in the auctions previous, they had had a record of raising $80 000 in ten minutes.  Being a girl of small means, and particularly being inexperienced with the power of charity up close, this number blew me away.  I was so in awe and so touched at the idea that there could be people out there that could care so much about the cause.  And as the date of the gala drew closer and closer, I became more curious, and more excited to- for the first time- interact with the people who not only had the capacity, but who had the heart, to give their money away at that speed, and at that magnitude. I had one mission for this gala, and that was to discover the face of the philanthropist.  What do these people look like- these people who gave their money away in a heartbeat?  What type of people would I find myself amongst at such an event?  What kind of face does a good person like that wear?  What would it be like to be surrounded by them?

I was seeking an inspiration that I came to hope would come from a moment like that, with people- like that.

The evening of the gala arrived, and it became so busy, so hectic, that I almost forgot my mission.  Remembering it after an hour of frantic work to keep things moving smoothly, I snapped upright, took a deep breath to slow down the pace of the night in my mind, and looked around me.  I discovered that I was amongst an older demographic, the majority of the crowd was in their fifties and up.  I saw sparkles, glitter, and diamonds.   There were the women with perfect hair, and the men in sleek suits.  There was the scent of perfume.  There was laughter.  They carried humour in their conversation, smiles on their faces.  It occurred to me that these people were happy.  This conclusion was the most precious piece of puzzle that I took away from the event that night.

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”  I felt that I saw these words materialize before me as I went through the night.  Would I…one day make it here?  Would I become part of a crowd so posh, so professional, so loving, so wanting to do good?  Me, who clenched her wallet so tight- could I become like this, like them?  Would I, too, one day be able to spare this generosity as they were doing?

I hope so.

I will never forget that night, as I stood there for the first time within a chandelier draped ceiling and watching the live auction take place.  As the bidding dollars increased in the hundreds to the thousands, so did the anticipation and the excitement in the room.  When it reached its highest bidder who sealed the deal, the cheering, the clapping, and the laughter would rise to the roof.  All of this hype for the sheer joy in raising money towards research, to find a cure…  I was standing in the back, and witnessing the power of philanthropy.

It was one of the most moving experiences in my life. There, I found what I have been looking for within this past year.  I found myself in a roomful of people whose prerogative was to do good, to make the world a better place, to support those in need.  It was love, and compassion.  I found that this was the space that I would like to prosper in.  I wanted to be around people like this all the time.

Going home, I left the evening with gladness in my heart.  I knew that I had come to a right place in the occupational world from which I wanted to develop myself. Even though I am only volunteering at the moment…at least that night had confirmed for me that this was a step in the right direction.  I do, indeed, want to be a part of the non-profit world.  From here, who knows what will happen.  But I will try my best to find success and happiness while paving this road.


4 thoughts on “The Face of the Philanthropist

  1. Hana says:

    Dear Stephanie, sorry to take this long. It is lively at work and I wanted to find quiet time to read this. I am glad I did. It is beautiful and moving and I am sure that it was an amazing experience. Please stay in touch and stay happy. I am so impressed by what you are doing. Sending lots of love.

  2. KW says:

    Steph, I am so pleased that you have found your new passion – philanthropy. Your writing is lovely, as it vividly painted a picture for me to sense the excitement you felt that evening. (Of course, I expect nothing less from an English major!) As a former fundraiser, this is indeed the “magic” that happens at those gala dinner events. It is contagious, and many of these generous philanthropists are there making history and leaving a legacy. Each one has their own story to tell about how they are connected to the cause, and they are usually equally moving. We look forward to your next blog! Love, Fufu.

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