A couple of weeks ago I reconnected with some “old” high school friends on a farm in Ithaca, NY, where one of our friends (Rita) has lived for over 30 years. (The name is Rosebarb Farm and it has a great cottage you can rent should you choose to visit - www.rosebarbfarm.com )
It was a magical week-end. We enjoyed a hay-ride, visited the farmer’s markets, took a hike, collected blue eggs and I even brought home fresh rhubarb and made the best crisp. Yum …
Well, I’m not writing to tell you about my week-end or the rhubarb crisp (though both were was fabulous). I am writing to share with you the impact of what I experienced that week-end: the quality of life and community that surrounds a farm. It is what works in this world … and it is the spirit that makes philanthropy thrive.
When Alex de Tocqueville visited America at the turn of the 18th century, he noted that America was unlike any other country he had visited. What made it unique was a shared sense of community. No one “took care” of anyone else … but everyone took care of everybody. There was no formal feudal, obligatory system of “noblesse oblige”; rather there was a communal sense of having (and wanting) to work together. Rugged individualism was valued, but so was lending a helping hand to a neighbor. The stories of “barn-raising”, harvesting the crops, sharing the bounty at church suppers, and fighting adversity, whether it was fires or floods or Mother Nature’s fury lashing out through a storm are passed down to this day. And the principles upon which they were based have morphed into vital and vibrant non-profit organizations that are the conduits for people to volunteer, contribute and continue the legacy of helping others.
We just need to take a look around. Maybe we don’t raise many barns any more, but isn’t Habitat for Humanity’s building houses in New Orleans much the same thing? We still share meals at a church supper, and in addition, we have developed a way of sharing the food for those who are hungry through food banks. Recently Angelina Jolie and Brad Pratt contributed $500,000 to help rebuild Springfield, Mass after a tornado struck – it was a town where Brad Pitt grew up.
The fundamental value of people helping people has never changed. And, thanks to those who still choose to farm, share their food, reduce their environmental imprint, and lend a helping hand — these fundamentals that made democracy and philanthropy flourish are still in place. After all, we don’t have to own a farm to make a difference. We can help a neighbor, bake for a church supper, and make our own charitable contributions. And for those non-profit organizations, that bring the many threads together that help others … you are an integral part of weaving this fabric that ensures the best quality of life possible for us all.
Let me close by saying that, in the interest of serving mankind, if you want my recipe for Rhubarb Crisp, I’m willing to share. (P.S. – it’s actually Rita’s recipe, but I know she doesn’t mind sharing, either)