At their annual “We Day” event attended by thousands of student leaders across the country and celebrities alike, Canadian brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger like to rouse a popular refrain: “We are the generation we’ve been waiting for!”
Not an empty cry that one.
As founders of Free The Children, they have managed to turn a six member team of 12 year olds outraged by child labor back in 1995 into the “Me to We Generation” – the world’s largest network of children helping children through education. Five hundred schools in 45 countries and counting, the organization continues its mission of empowering young minds to look beyond themselves and make a change.
Marc and Craig were years ahead of their time of a trend spotted in Feb 2009 by Trendwatching the global purveyors of cutting edge business savvy.
This is how they described it:
Generation G: Captures the growing importance of “generosity” as a leading societal and business mindset. As consumers are disgusted with greed and its current dire consequences for the economy – and while that same upheaval has them longing more than ever for institutions that care – the need for more generosity beautifully coincides with the ongoing (and pre-recession) emergence of an online-fueled culture of individuals who share, give, engage, create and collaborate in large numbers.
In fact, for many, sharing a passion and receiving recognition have replaced “taking” as the new status symbol. Businesses should follow this societal/behavioral shift, however much it may oppose their decades-old devotion to my, myself and I.
What I love most is that this trend is not the privy of Gen X or Gen Y alone. It cuts across all age and marketing barriers.
Of course, there is nothing new about the concept of giving. Millions of inspired changemakers past and present have tapped into the Buddhist trancendent law or Paramita of Generosity.
The laws describe six universal aspects of our basic human nature – the other five include Discipline, Patience, Exertion, Meditation and Wisdom- that create wellbeing. As the Kielburgers discovered:
Me to We began simply. Two brothers, one basic idea: helping others makes you happy. Better yet, it also changes the world.
Its a given that you’re generous. Now what? Here’s a cool spin for you to experiment with (courtesy of the Buddha).
Push the boundaries of your threshold for giving. For instance, most of us believe that we can only give once we have enough – food, money, time or love. Not true.
- Stretch the G muscle this week by reframing every circumstance as an opportunity to give. Even when you feel like you have nothing to give or not enough, challenge yourself. Dig deep. You’ll find something, guaranteed.
- And then, take it to the limit by doing it from a sense of genuine caring rather than duty or ethics.
Phew! Its okay to groan a bit. Its a fun workout (and a great example of the Exertion paramita).
Some ideas for gifts that keep giving:
- Lend a few or more dollars to microfinance an entrepreneur in a developing country at KIVA. Your return on investment includes at least one person making it across the poverty line.
- A friend’s birthday coming up? Parent’s anniversary? Looking for a Wedding Registry? Ditch the electronic gadget/china/whatever and make a donation in their name at Changing The Present where your celebration connects you with your extended family of six billion.
- Volunteer an hour at your favorite cause this week
- At your next conversation, give of yourself completely i.e. listen with all your attention
- Come up with your own cool giving idea and tell everyone you know