Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, and it kicks off what, for me, is a very special time of year. The holidays are likely to look and feel a lot different this year, which means it’s more important than ever to embrace the spirit of the season. The events of 2020 have shaken us all—and they’re a reminder of just how fortunate many of us are.
The opportunity to give thanks is a big part of why I love this time of year. For me, though, these annual celebrations are also a reminder to give more than just thanks.
Linking Gratitude to Giving
Years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Mother Teresa. I had traveled to Calcutta with a group of executives, and we had the opportunity to visit her Home for the Pure Heart, formerly known as Mother Teresa’s Kalighat Home for the Dying and Destitute. The experience (which I recalled in this blog post) had a tremendous impact on me.
Everywhere I looked, there was suffering, yet it was countered by the palpable compassion of the sisters who cared for the patients. It was extremely poignant. Later, when we spoke with Mother Teresa, she surprised me by expressing her appreciation for what we did—how businesses can provide people with jobs and improve their lives.
Then, she added a gentle admonition I’ve never forgotten: “If you have money . . . use it,” she said. “Don’t just leave it in the bank. Put it to work.”
I was struck by two feelings during that experience: wanting to give thanks for just how lucky I’ve been, and an overwhelming desire to give back. One feeling naturally led to the other.
Gratitude is inextricably linked to giving.
Exchanging Money for What Really Matters
At Commonwealth, money is at the root of what we do—we’re a for-profit business, after all, and we literally deal with money every day. And while it can’t necessarily buy happiness, money does buy opportunities: to chase our dreams, to support our families, and to improve the lives of others. One of the lessons I’ve taken from my 40-plus years at Commonwealth is that money is a medium of exchange. We exchange it for what really matters.
Lately, what matters to me has increasingly included philanthropy, a logical extension of Commonwealth’s commitment to making a profound difference in the world. A huge part of that has been launching The Elevate Prize. Some of you may have heard my talk about “Making a Profound Difference” at our recent National Conference, where I highlighted the progress we’ve made with The Elevate Prize. But for those who don’t know, it’s an annual search for changemakers, wherein its winners aren’t just awarded money but also comprehensive assistance (including 1:1 mentorship, educational training, and access to professional networks) to help scale their worthy causes. I’m excited to announce that we now have our first cohort of winners! They are all amazing. I’m humbled and inspired by the work they’ve done already, and I’m excited to see what’s possible with our help.
Because part of the mission of The Elevate Prize is to catalyze positive change and awaken the hero in all of us, we believe an important part of realizing this is to also provide our winners with a platform: to share their stories and expand their audience and to help create a global fanbase for them.
When more people hear about the incredible work these social heroes are doing, they’ll feel inspired to take action themselves—just as I felt when seeing the work being done by the sisters at the Home for the Pure Heart.
Motivating All of Us to Fight for a Better Future
It’s been a challenging year for the whole world. But it’s also shone a light on those individuals and organizations who are using what’s happening around us as motivation to fight for a better future. I’m so honored to be a part of helping these heroes make the world a better place.
Which brings me back to giving thanks: I’m enormously grateful to the Commonwealth team, our advisors, and everyone who helps make our success possible. Without you, The Elevate Prize simply could not have become a reality. So, thank you, all!
I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season.