If I had a million dollars, I would…
How many of us have played the “if I had a million dollars” game? You know the one where you imagine what it would be like to find yourself the lucky beneficiary of a sudden windfall of $1 million and then opine on the ways in which you would spend it?
Well, let’s up the ante a little bit here, shall we?
What if you had a billion dollars? Or more? Would that change anything?
Would you invest it? Buy a big house, or two? Travel? Finally own that fleet of luxury sports cars? Eat at the finest restaurants?
Would you be willing to give the majority of it away to charity? Just simply give the bulk of it away without receiving anything in return?
That is exactly what billionaires and renowned philanthropists Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are asking the wealthiest people in the world to do by inviting them to take what they’ve called the “Giving Pledge.”
According to the Giving Pledge website, the pledge “is an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their will. The Giving Pledge is specifically focused on billionaires or those who would be billionaires if not for their giving.
“The idea takes its inspiration from efforts in the past and at present that encourage and recognize givers of all financial means and backgrounds. We are inspired by the example set by millions of people who give generously (and often at great personal sacrifice) to make the world a better place.
“Initially, the focus was on the wealthiest families and individuals in the United States. Since there have been enthusiastic responses to the Giving Pledge around the world, the pledge now includes people from a mix of countries around the world.”
To date, according to the website, there are 115 people who have publicly taken this pledge since the concept was first introduced in 2010. See the list here.
So what holds these tycoons’ feet to the fire when it’s time to actually follow through with their hefty promises? Nothing. Participation in the program is entirely honor-based.
Sure, it may be less of a fiscal pinch for someone to give away $12 billion when they still have a nice comfy cushion of $8 billion in the bank for them to live luxuriously on. But I felt compelled to recognize and talk about this handful of extremely wealthy and influential human beings who have chosen to declare themselves as active participants in creating positive change in our world.
Are their altruistic gestures dampened by the fact that, even after their significant contributions, they still remain in the powerful 1%, without any negligible or obvious sacrifice to be had?
Do we need to see some level of personal sacrifice or hardship in order to appreciate the efforts of another? Or does this type of movement signify a start, a beginning, a step in the direction that so many of us have been yearning to see, the ultra rich letting go of a bulk of their empires to better the lives of someone else?
According to the Forbes website, in the current year, 2013, there are 1,342 billionaires in the world. 115 of them have stepped forward to voluntarily participate in the Giving Pledge. Not a large number, but definitely something to notice. What do you think it would take for the remaining 1,227 on this exclusive list of those who have billions, potentially more money than they could spend in one lifetime, to choose to give it away?
What do we have to change in our world to pierce through the illusion of “not enoughness” and to alter harmful ideas of superiority? Are we demonstrating what we desire to see from others in our own life, through our own actions? Are we each giving of ourselves financially, energetically, and physically as we move through each moment of our day-to-day affairs?
Perhaps today is the day for us all to make our own “giving pledge.” What might that look like for you?
Are you willing to say yes to that invitation?
(Lisa McCormack is the Managing Editor & Administrator of The Global Conversation. She is also a member of the Spiritual Helper team at www.ChangingChange.net, a website offering emotional and spiritual support. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)