I could see it in their faces: the sorrow, at yet another unspeakable tragedy stirred by increasing forces of hatred and animus; the confusion, about how to make sense of the country we now live in where our leadership gives license to such expressions of terror; the comfort, of being surrounded by like-minded citizens, coming together to express solidarity and deepen community at such a moment of pain and sadness; and—yes—the resolve, that we have the power to change this and we must step up to our shared responsibility, unequivocally.
This was the scene I joined on the Boston Common on a brisk Sunday afternoon, as more than a thousand of us gathered to pay respect to the victims of a massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh this past weekend.
And yet, this tragedy was only one of several in the past week alone, with the racially-motivated murder of two African-Americans in Louisville and the vile extremism on display with pipe bombs sent to more than a dozen critics of the President of the United States. All in one week.
We have the power to change this and we must step up to our shared responsibility, unequivocally.
Facing such ugliness—again and again—we cannot allow ourselves to become inured. This is not normal. This is not right. And this is not who we are.
More than ever, we have an obligation to be present, to stand up and be counted, and to meet the challenge of this moment head on. For those of us in philanthropy, we must determine what of our resources, power, and voice we will deploy. We may feel our greatest contribution is to speak out in defense of the ideals and values our country stands upon. We may be focused on ensuring our partners on the front lines have the support they need to face these crises. Or both. And more.
Regardless of how we respond, we must respond. Philanthropy means “love of mankind,” and now more than ever before, our words and our work must embody that in every way. My colleague, Grant Oliphant of the Heinz Endowments, captured this sentiment beautifully in his blog post reminding us that “love is the cure.”
At Sunday’s event, I ran into the leader of one of Barr’s partner organizations, and she turned to me, with a touch of sadness in her eyes, noting: “I came directly from a rally for transgender rights to this gathering. This is how we now spend our weekends.”
This exchange crystallized for me what I have been moved and grateful to witness in abundance during these past few years: talented and dedicated leaders who, although they are already investing 100% and more in their organizations and missions, are also heeding the call to even greater work: that of ensuring the ideals of our country are fiercely protected, that challenges to our democracy are forcefully rebuffed, and that the most vulnerable and voiceless amongst us do not ever stand alone, but find us standing with them.
Regardless of how we respond, we must respond. Philanthropy means “love of mankind,” and now more than ever before, our words and our work must embody that in every way.
At Sunday’s gathering, one of the speakers reminded us of the words of the Talmud: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
With all the reasons to be daunted by this moment in our nation’s history, we must draw courage from these words and resolve anew to stand up, to be counted, and to do the necessary work that bends the arc of history towards justice.