by DAVID AFT

It seems like only yesterday that we all took a moment from our busy lives to put on a pair of silly cardboard sunglasses and stared at the sky.  My wife and I joined a great number of our fellow Americans in looking skyward and watching the moon eclipse the sun.  For a moment or three (depending how far you ventured into the celebrated “zone of totality”) our differences were set aside in favor of a truly unique and other-worldly experience. 

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Beyond the natural beauty of this infrequent collusion of heavenly bodies, it was hard not to notice that for a brief moment, it seemed we were all on the same team. There wasn’t any of the contentious rancor that has so characterized our modern world. Even the President took a moment to look upward. He understood that it was bigger than all of us.

Over the weekend, I joined most of the country in watching Hurricane Irma and its devastating dance through the Caribbean and up the coast of Florida. We all held our breath as we thought about our friends and neighbors.

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Utility service trucks organized, staging in strategic locations, ready to move in as soon as the storm’s winds subsided. 

Once again, we focused and we acted - not as a fractured commonwealth, but as a team. 

There are many things that bring us together - some exciting and extra-terrestrial, like the eclipse, but some with a more serious and human aspect.

Now, you may ask what all of this has to do with philanthropy and charitable giving. The answer is pretty simple – we are at our very best when we work together and remember that our highest aspirations and deepest commitments are best served when we focus our energies on the things larger than ourselves.

Sometimes it seems like we will never find the balancing point between our individual perspectives and our collective needs. 

The fact that we pause for a moment to look up at the stars or commit ourselves to the welfare of our common man, prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we can focus on things that are larger than all of us.  Further, these opportunities also remind us that in the face of adverse conditions, we, as a country, are willing to line up, like the utility trucks we saw earlier this week headed for Florida and Texas, and focus our efforts on making a difference.

This spirit is alive and well, and the last few weeks have provided ample reminders that when we pause for a moment, the noise and bickering that so often characterize our world, take a distant second to our resolve and commitment. This is truly the heart of philanthropy.

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development.

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