Today was a first.
For nearly two decades of my life I regularly experienced what I came to regard as a sacred privilege. I got to listen to people and assist them as they were answering the question, “What will you do?” around their accumulated wealth. Most of these conversations were about how to accomplish something good in the world. For some that was a question about what to do in life, for others it was about what would happen with their stuff after their life. Usually it was a mixture of both.
Surreal every time
During that time I got to see people wrestle with hard questions – for years sometimes – then sit down and sign away millions of dollars in a few strokes of a pen. Surreal every time.
Beginning in my early 20’s I had professional roles that routinely put me in those situations through my early 40’s. Even since then, when I work as an interim pastor, similar conversations happen. They’re less frequent or focused, but the same.
Back then, everyone I ever had those conversations with was a solid 15 to 20 years older than me. Often enough they were 30 or 40+ years older than me. They were in the stages of life when those questions tend to become more persistent.
This morning, it was refreshing – and surreal all over again – to hear myself having that conversation for the first time ever with someone in my own generation. Someone saying essentially, “I’ve reached the place in life where I can afford to do what I want and I want to make sure it’s good. Can we talk about that?”
Absolutely. Of all the conversations, this is one of my favorites.
What will you do to do good?
When I was paid to raise money for not-for-profit organizations, I raised nearly as much for other organizations as the ones I was paid to represent. Often enough, the person making the gift appeared to care more about some other way to help make good work happen. I could rarely bring myself to talk someone out of something like that,
By the last phase of my professional career I worked for a foundation that raised and managed money for multiple organizations. It was the closest I came to being an unbiased advisor in my earlier professional context. But, still, there was a context. Now I get to participate in the conversation completely unbeholden to the interests of any organization(s). That feels good.
It’s a conversation worth having and, for me, it’s had best in the wild. The privilege to participate is surreal every time.