“55 Saves Lives”

| by Bert Armstrong

Last Saturday was my birthday!  Fifty-five is a mid-decade milestone, and so I’m grateful to family and friends who offered the right balance of well-wishing and celebration with quips about gray hair, more cautious driving, or the aches and pains I feel getting out of bed every morning.   My age also means I remember the 1970’s when the U.S. set a national speed limit of fifty-five to encourage less fuel consumption and safer travel.  It came with a public service announcement campaign with the tagline “55 Saves Lives”. 

I woke up early that morning not thinking of a tagline for my fifty-fifth, but of some quiet time to check emails and wrap up some unfinished tasks from the week. As I sat there, a to-do list I had started a few weeks ago (don’t judge) caught my eye. In those weeks I had been in conversations with family members and our team at Armstrong McGuire about several special donations we were considering. Some were in response to the recent hurricanes that hit our state.  Others were in honor or in memory of special colleagues to celebrate their lives and their contributions to us and our community at large.  Other gifts were simply in deep appreciation for the impactful missions and ministries that I am fortunate to learn about through my work with nonprofits, foundations, and philanthropists.  

At that moment, the number of contributions I was considering, combined with approaching year-end requests for gifts from clients, my church, my school, and other organizations, began to feel a bit overwhelming.  I decided to spend a little time refining this list of opportunities and get on with the task of writing some old-fashioned checks and submitting some gifts through online donation pages.  

As I moved through the list, I found that sense of anxiety and obligation begin to subside, replaced with a sense of hopefulness and joy for the small part I might be playing in helping start, sustain, or grow a program or service that might benefit a stranger.  I started thinking about the next big, impactful idea that might come from one of these great organizations to change the trajectory of a person’s life or vastly improve our community.  I also shed a few tears as I wrote notes about people whose lives I wanted to honor or remember for their amazing impact on me and others. 

It’s hard to describe the particular sense of hopefulness I felt.  So much so that I have decided to start a tradition for future birthdays: Bert’s personal Philanthropy Day – a day of joyful, intentional giving and sharing.  Going forward, I plan on expanding on my special day to include volunteering along with financial gifts and investments.  It doesn’t mean I won’t be making contributions or volunteering my time on other days. It just means that I want to be intentional in using this special day to do special things for others.  The birthday tagline for my fifty-five and beyond became “The Joy of Giving”. 

This is obviously not a new idea as I’m keenly aware that my day of generosity is not any more or less noble an act than any other.  In the last two weeks, I’ve seen multi-million-dollar gifts made to some of our state’s amazing universities and health care systems.  I have spoken with donors of clients who are eager to invest in some bold visions being put forth by nonprofits in their communities.  And every day I see friends doing toy drives, book drives, setting up birthday fundraising pages on social media, and asking friends to donate their time and money to causes in lieu of birthday presents. 

I’m thankful that the act of joyful giving is alive and well in our community.  And yet I can’t help but believe how much more we will accomplish as we all become more purposeful in our giving.

November 15this National Philanthropy Day – a day set aside for nonprofits, donors and others come together to honor philanthropists and celebrate the joy of giving.  Whether it’s that day, your birthday, Tax Day, New Year’s Eve, or any other times that you find yourself reflecting on the abundant blessings in your life, I challenge you to do something impactful.  Be a Philanthropist!    

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