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Philanthropy. I think it may be one of the best words in the dictionary. As a lover of words, I looked this one up several years ago to learn its origins. I was delighted to discover that it is derived from two Greek words that mean “lover of mankind.” After more than forty years of raising money and thanking donors for their support, I finally understood why so many people are so generous in so many ways. Quite simply, most of us are philanthropists. We sincerely want to use our material blessings to make the world a better place for our fellow travelers. We want our children and grandchildren to inherit a world that is gentler and kinder than the one we were born into.

This explains why we feel so good when we practice generosity. Scientists have actually performed brain imaging and discovered that generosity lights up the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by other activities that make us feel really good. This is a PG column, so you can figure out for yourself what that might be. The point is that most of us are wired for generosity, and the practice of generosity is a mutually gratifying experience. The donor whose gift changes a child’s life becomes the recipient who shares the joy and warm feelings of that child. The philanthropist who sees her church doing amazing and transforming work in the community is herself transformed in the process. What a deal that is!

You might say this is my public service announcement for this time of the year. There are dozens of pastors on this email list, and thousands of you belong to their churches. Your pastor might not know that you consider yourself to be a philanthropist; that you are eager for the opportunity to transform your treasure into life-giving ministry; that you really do experience joy in the practice of generosity. Please don’t keep it a secret. Let your pastor know that you are a philanthropist, a lover of humankind.

Rev. Don Underwood