Giving Back

“The enduring credo of Silicon Valley is that innovation, not money, is its guiding purpose and that world-changing technology is its true measure of worth”.

This sentence opens the brilliantly written article of Alessandra Stanley for the New York Times International titled “The paradox of Silicon Valley’s generosity”, published on November 2, 2015. “Wealth is treated as a pleasant byproduct, a bit like weight loss after rugged adventure travel” continues Mrs. Stanley, who later on adds: “Tech entrepreneurs believe their charitable giving is bolder, bigger and more data-driven than anywhere else – and in many ways it is”.

There are not many arguments or insights I can add to the article. I simply found it revealing (probably fascinating is a better word), that similarly to the way Silicon Valley and the “new – economy” it promulgates, have changed the way we work and even the way we live, it has also affected the way in which societies in general and individuals in particular “give back”.

Foregone are the days in which giving back implied organizing splendid charity balls or naming hospitals’ expansion or university’s libraries. This way of giving was intrinsically linked to the old American culture and to a lesser extent to a fiscal system which incentivizes donations as one of the few ways to reduce tax payments-, That remains, according to Mrs. Stanley, the (soon to be outdated?) way of the East Coast and its “Old money”.

Without sounding pretentious, I also think there are a myriad of smaller scale initiatives where one (anyone) can successfully share part of their wealth, even if it is only measured on time and engagement. In my previous Blog article I talked about “ADD ART”, I have to say, that the experience of opening the company’s doors to anyone, of letting them explore our premises and discover the art of two young, and very talented artists, have awoken in myself a feeling of “giving back” that I was not expecting when supporting the initiative.

Last, but not least, my husband, who is this year’s Administrator and Trustee of the “Niederländische Armen-Casse, a very Hanseatic foundation dated from 1585 (yes, 1585 is accurate!) invited one of the pensioners the foundation financially and emotionally assists to have dinner at our home. The pensioner is a soft gentleman, in this early 80’s, extremely thin, whose life turns around visiting every single day his only child, who has been sick for the last 20 years, and can not walk, can not eat for herself, can hardly see, and the only three words she regularly pronounces are “Es lohnt sich” (in English “it’s worth it”). It was a real pleasure having him at our home, seeing him enjoying a warm meal (believe it or not, he does not have a stove, and not even a microwave oven at home), and sharing our daily routine with the kids. It might not be a big thing, it might even seem insignificant to others, but I believe in the power of small gestures and we certainly managed yesterday to light up (even if for just a couple of hours) his life. And that was very much worth it.