Gifting to the future.

I am reminded today of the work done in the past by others that allows us to enjoy what we do today.  I know that this sounds so heritage-like, historical, and perhaps boring to many, this is not what I am getting at.  When Terry and I visited La Sagrada Familia In Barcelona, I was flabbergasted to think that this structure has been under construction since 1882 and is not expected to be completed until 2026.  It was a real eye opener for me, much of Europe was like that for me, from the Roman roads and walls, to Stonehenge, to railway stations.  Inside La Sagrada Familia  I could easily see that at least seven generations of people have worked on it to carry out the concept that was hatched before, electricity, telephones, airplanes, or the internet (However, not before street trollies. One struck down Gaudi, the very architect that was working the project. Very sad.) Yet there must be something completely compelling about this project to keep people interested and engaged in the work.  What is it?  These people had great faith that their work would benefit the future in some way.

What do we do today to create something better for those seven generations in the future, or seven years in the future, or even seven months in the future?  Is there something what we could vision and begin working toward that would inspire people to keep striving for 150 years?

I went to a meeting tonight with my colleague Janice to speak about endowment funds of the Red Deer and District Community Foundation.  Endowments are money that community-minded people put in place to benefit others in the future.  The money is held in perpetuity, adjusted annually for inflation with the remaining interest earned on the money granted out to important causes, like symphonic music, or education, or health and wellness, or blue bird preservation.

Red Deer is home to the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, and the board of that organization took steps in 1994 to establish an endowment fund with the intent to grow it over time in order to sustain the organization.  You may not know but the revenue from the tickets sales, of even a sold of performances, of the symphony can only cover part of the cost for them to bring music to the community.  That former board knew that if they started something and each new board carried the cause into the future that eventually the fund would grow into a significant source of revenue for their operations.  The board changed over time, and the fund sliped off the radar.  Then the board around 2003 began to think about it again, and the fund started to grow.  Over time the board and staff has changed yet again and the building of the endowment stalled, but still slowly continued to climb.  Tonight the board again visited the possibilities of the endowment and a new spark of enthusiasm appeared.

It’s long term thinking and planning.  In today’s fast-paced world we each seem stuck in doing things that we can immediately see the benefit from.  We focus our efforts on fund raising for causes, rather than the longer term possibility of fund development and endowment building.  I believe that sometime in the future, the efforts of former RDSO board members and staff, and the efforts of this current group will be rewarded.  There is no way to tell who may have put a bequest in their will that could significantly change the landscape of the organization.  Gifts coming from bequest are often significant.  The Community Foundation itself was started with a one time gift of over a million dollar from anonymous donors, who then left further funds in their wills when they past.  That was 20 years ago, today the Community Foundation has over 10 millions dollars in permanent endowments and knowledge that many citizens have bequests in their wills.  20 years from now the Community Foundation will have over 50 million in funds and some of those will be designated to the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra.

As individuals we each need to be aware of the legacy that we create through our actions, our gifts of service and of money.  I wish that there were some way that we could be aware of the gifts that the past have given us as we wake into the future.  It seems to me to be easy to lose our way into the future when we don’t acknowledge and attempt to understand our pasts.  These things are not found in dusty museums, they are found in the streets that we walk on daily, the buildings around us, the innovations that we enjoy, and the characteristics within us.  I have ways of talking and acting that came from my grandparents and parents, and they carried them from their grandparents and parents.  Yes, we are a rattled bunch.

It’s my challenge to you for tomorrow to look around you and really see the gifts the that past offers us, then think about the gifts that you have to offer the future just by being who you are, perhaps your ideal self.

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