When I was first asked if I knew what a “philanthropist” was, I confidently answered—“Sure, that’s someone who collects stamps!” Well, I immediately learned differently. I didn’t see myself as a philanthropist then, and I’m not sure I consider myself to be one even today. For me giving is all about making things better for everyone, including my family and myself. Our personal well-being is ultimately dependent on a better quality of life for the whole community.
You never know when you might need the services of a United Way agency. As it turns out, I too received help when I had to deal with a bout of cancer some years back. I count myself lucky that I had support, not only from friends and family but also from community service agencies.
Most of my inspiration comes from seeing my parents in action. My mother was always taking care of others as an ICU nurse, while my entrepreneur father still found time for volunteer activities. We lacked for nothing, but we had nothing superfluous. Helping others was always front and centre in our family. So, it came to me naturally later on.
When I started a permanent job, my first paycheque was about equivalent to what my mother was earning at the end of her career. At that time, I still lived with my parents, and I had few expenses. So, when the United Way campaign came about, it seemed easy to give a regular amount off my salary. It didn’t look huge to me, and it was money I never really saw. Unbeknownst to me, my contribution put me among major donors. Initially, I stayed anonymous, and that was fine with me.
But when it comes to charity, anonymity may not be such a good thing. Talking about my contributions is important to me now, especially as an example to inspire young people to give. Starting early is key because it then becomes a habit.
For my spouse Audrey and I, our values are focused on our two kids’ happiness. She was the one who introduced me to a vision based on consuming less to achieve a better life. I always have to resist a certain urge to buy things to find some fleeting comfort. When you think about others, the contentment you feel is richer and stays with you longer.
The pandemic has laid bare one great injustice: its direst effects are being felt by the poorest among us. On the positive side, it has helped raise issues related to mental health and shone a spotlight on the needs. I hope that people who can afford it will see it fit to be more generous.
With United Way, my family and I have an opportunity to participate in something greater than ourselves, to be part of the solution. I trust United Way to invest the money where it is most needed.