The United-in-Philanthropy States of America

Independence Day is a day to celebrate the ideals of our country.  Americans are often defined as a people who value individual freedom, who work tirelessly to earn all that we need and desire.  However, although there is a great focus in our country on maintaining individual rights and freedoms, we also know the value and necessity of helping others.  Philanthropy, whether it is sharing one’s time or sharing one’s goods, flows from the American spirit more than we sometimes realize.

When we think about American philanthropists, we often think of the rich and famous givers. We might remember people we studied in history class such as Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller.  We might also think about more recent celebrity philanthropists, like Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates.  However, everyday people also give in smaller, quieter (yet abundant) ways.  When we drop our spare change into the convenience store’s “Tsunami Relief,” cup, when we pack a bag of clothes and donate them to rescue societies, or when we give a cup of coffee to a homeless person huddled under a viaduct, we are being philanthropic too.  Philanthropy is even embedded in policy, with our taxes paying for such institutions as public libraries and public schools. This way everyone, rich or poor, has access to knowledge.

Of course, besides individual acts of philanthropy, Americans also band together to help others on a larger scale.  Charities abound in our country to help every person in nearly every circumstance.  Whether someone suffers from a chronic disease or lives in chronic poverty, there is a non-profit to help that person build a better quality of life.  Technology has allowed everyday people to easily help non-profits, from texting donations via phone to donating online in honor of someone.  In Chicago, Zealous Good also uses the internet to connect donors to local non-profits in need of various goods.

This Independence Day, let us not remember only the famous people who make our country great.  Let us not only celebrate our individual freedoms.  Let us also remember and celebrate our great ability to give to others.

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