Each of us will have a “second half” of our life. Most likely, when we enter it and its equivalency to the first half of our lives will differ greatly. For some, it will come when the next generation leaves the nest. For others, it will be when retirement from a work-a-day life becomes reality. And for many, it may just be a place they find themselves in without event or realization – where age and life stage are not factors.
The distinction between halves is not altogether complicated. Our direction through the first half is, to some extent, mapped out for us. It is full of markers and mileposts. Our social beings are formed through education and selected activities beginning in early childhood. For those of us with the opportunity, that education extends to a college experience that rounds us into full adulthood. Once there, we obtain that first job which tends to lead us towards a career (or two or three) in a field we may or may not have had any initial expectation of participating in let alone have it end up partly defining who we are. Through it all, we celebrate the recognition received from others as each milepost is obtained, be it a graduation, promotion or new job. Our focus throughout is proving our worthiness to both ourselves and those engaged in the process with us and, through this process, some portion of our self-satisfaction is derived.
In comparison, the second half provides few guideposts. It is the place we find ourselves when the amount of money we make, the title we carry or the work we do no longer provides enough meaning to fulfill that wholly appropriate need for gratification. And we have arrived in it when we find ourselves in direct conflict with the focus that carried us through the first half. To be clear, neither half is either better or worse than the other – they simply reflect the arc of our evolution between selfish and selfless. Nonetheless, the success of the second half is based on our ability to free ourselves from the inherent limitations of the first half – to shed our former self-definition, and find the new elements in our lives that we willingly turn our attention to and give of ourselves completely.
One of those second half elements ripe for consideration is philanthropy. Certainly, the initial consideration of the word itself makes one think of “the practice of giving money” – a worthy practice, but not one that sounds terribly fulfilling. However, if you look it up, there is more to the meaning of the word – it is also defined as the “goodwill to fellow members of the human race”. In other word, the action of philanthropy is the active effort to promote human welfare. The action is never defined by size; even small contributions of your time, your effort or your money do indeed make a difference. And there is a bonus – it will make a difference in you too.
And I speak from experience, having recently begun my philanthropic journey. The concept itself did not simply burst out from some deep-seeded desire to give back, at least not at first. No, it was more an evolving idea, one that did require someone to ask me something first. Contrary to what one might think, I was not asked for money per se; rather the question was did I have an interest in taking action and, if so, in what form would I ideally like to see it in. Having already set aside various gifts in my will, I had initially assumed a reasonable “action” had already been set in place. Soon though I came to realize that whatever gift I might provide after I was gone would leave me with no opportunity to see the fruition of its benefit. Through this dialogue, I came to realize that a selfless act while living might actually provide me with the unique opportunity to provide needed support while simultaneously feeling great personal satisfaction.
The result is that I have established a student scholarship at UCR. I took this action for two reasons: first as a way to properly recognize my parents (the scholarship is in their name) for having selflessly provided me the means to pursue my college education; and secondly as a way to provide support for those individuals that clearly desire to pursue a college education, but do not have the same set of resources available to them as I once did. The bonus I did not initially comprehend, but can now savor, is that what has been established generates a most valuable and constant return for both recipient and benefactor.
We only have one second half – do what you must, but also do what you can.
UCR Class of 1981
About the Author
Jeff currently serves on the UCR Alumni Association Board as the chair of the Awards Committee and is a member of the Executive Committee. He earned his B.S. degree in Administrative Studies at UCR in 1981 and in 1988 completed his M.B.A. in Management at Pepperdine University. Presently, Jeff is a Partner and Executive with Aon Hewitt, a leading HR and benefits administration outsourcing firm.