The Redefinition of Charity
by Lauren Baranco, GLIDE Legacy Committee
Saturday, July 28th, 2012 was a night for San Francisco to remember. I, along with nearly 900 of my closest friends, was fortunate enough to participate in A LOVE Supreme, the 3rd annual GLIDE Legacy Gala, presented by a dynamic group of young professionals in the Bay Area who are committed to spreading the reach of GLIDE, its message, its community, its love for others. The Gala could have been a different fundraiser, hosted by well-intentioned donors who provided food and a venue to an affluent and homogeneous crowd (donations = tax write-offs + brownie points). GLIDE could be a distant, out-of-touch organization, asking big people with big money to assuage the guilt of privilege by blindly throwing dollars in the direction of little people with little money, aka those other less-fortunate people way over there. GLIDE could be a different church, limited to the language of evangelism, intolerance, guilt, fear & restriction of people to obedient, pre-prescribed ways of being while inherently ostracizing and invalidating anyone with a little shade of uniqueness. We could have clapped quietly, laughed politely, patted ourselves on the back in the name of charity, and taken our smugness safely home.
BUT – That is NOT the legacy of this gala. That is not the mission of this Foundation. And that is NOT the legacy of GLIDE.
Let me take a stab at some things that it is: GLIDE is a community-organizing, culture-changing, revolutionary, celebratory, difference-accepting, bringing-people-together haven. It’s about sharing, coalition-building, responsibility for self, for neighbor, for friend, for humanity, for the future. GLIDE is special, and it is our privilege to know and be able to invest in a place that meets people where they are and welcomes us into a community based on ideals of love, non-judgment, and radical hope in the face of all adversity. Being a part of GLIDE is wholly voluntary; but by supporting this cause, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our fight to better the lives of others – not because we’re forced to, not because it’s easy for us, not out of guilt, but because that is absolutely what we are supposed to do. Despite what some not-to-be-mentioned presidential candidate thinks, we all got to where we are because at least one other person loved us, cared for us or helped us, and it is our unique privilege to have a place like GLIDE to help us position ourselves to be that person for someone else. GLIDE invites us to leave a little part of our legacy with them, in our contribution to a peaceful world for our future generations.
During the awards portion of our gala, we recognized real game-changers who are leaving their legacies already; folks who understand their capacity, position, visibility and agency in the world and are not ashamed to use it to their full advantage in order to further equality, compassion and justice for those of us who need it most. We, like Jennifer Siebel Newsom, like Vernon Davis, like Jeremy Affeldt, are all superstars in our own spheres: our jobs, our family lives, our schools, our circles of friends. What comes with our superstardom? A unique responsibility to share, teach, help, hug, and heal our environment. I am proud of everyone who showed up at the gala, bought a ticket, donated an item, promoted it to their friends, educated someone else about GLIDE, its programs and its services, or who even felt a spark of joy and hope knowing that there are people celebrating a cause written on their hearts. The demonstration of people power at this Gala was breathtaking: almost eight hundred individuals, young individuals, whom our society often dismisses as being naïve, green, or ineffective, convened to celebrate the contributions that we make to our people. Now, it’s time to act; we can do more. Each and every one of us has true, valid, and worthwhile experiences. Just that knowledge alone gives us so much power and capacity to share our gifts with others.
Can you give:
- an afternoon to mentor a young person?
- a morning to serve a meal to someone who’s hungry?
- $10 per month that you can repurpose to help buy diapers, food, or medicine for one of your neighbors who needs it?
- access to a network of friends, colleagues, or family who have been looking for a way to get involved in helping out, or finding a welcoming space in which to build community?
- a few hugs to people who find themselves at GLIDE for a meal, a celebration, a treatment?
I thought so. So let’s maximize that time and those gifts. Let’s redefine our notions of charity – instead of taking dollars from the haves and dropping the dollars on the have-nots – let’s all push a little more to share the time, love and knowledge that we have, with those who have time, love and knowledge to receive…and can reflect right back to us. The revolution is here, folks and we can lead it. These are our homies, our crew, our cities, our world, and this is our legacy. Through GLIDE we get to redefine what it means to be charitable, to give something you have to someone else without asking for anything in particular in return. Even if you don’t ask, I guarantee that your ROI will be substantial.
I recently took a weekend trip with group of friends and their friends, and had a series of conversations with a man who was convinced that the salvation of our society is through complete and total individualism: the “freedom” for each person to pursue life, liberty and happiness, unobstructed. He was obviously a well-read, and very opinionated man, so I honored his assertions, as they apply to himself. They could also apply to his weekend: he could be in charge of his transportation, food, music, and enjoyment of his time spent vacationing. The trouble was that he was not by himself on vacation: there were 17 other folks who needed to get places, eat things, dance, talk, communicate, relate to and get to know each other. Let’s just say that he was not a team player throughout the weekend, and found himself often on the periphery of the group – something that visibly took away from his happiness. He left the weekend sullen, defeated, and without saying goodbye to anyone. This is not meant to be a socialist manifesto (wait for my next blog post, if this one doesn’t totally disqualify me), but you get the moral of the story. Some of us feel alone in this world, have been told that we are alone in this world, and work hard to be alone in this world. I guarantee that if you met anyone who has interacted with GLIDE – from Sunday Celebrations, to volunteering, to Speak Out, to the Women’s Center Negro Spirituals, to GLIDE Health Serivces, to Pride, to the Family Youth and Childcare Center, to housing, to the recovery, to the Daily Free Meals line – that ALL of these people can say that one thing they got from GLIDE was the knowledge that they are not, and will never be alone. It is our job to protect and uplift something this valuable, and to make it available to the generations after us.
You have so many gifts. Your work is not done giving them. We have all had our share of challenges, and carry with us our stories, memories, experiences, allies, strengths, knowledge, and flavor. No one else is better equipped than you are, to do exactly what you do. GLIDE has gifted us with the vessel – they have been practicing unconditional love, healing and social justice for EVERYONE for decades. Now they need us, and especially us, to continue to do the work that both makes our hearts bigger and our lives better, but most importantly opens doors and windows up for others, just like us, to find their true freedoms in the pursuit of happiness. In that way, our generation can redefine the act of charity.