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Strong leadership requires active benevolence

Thursday, February 22, 2018 - 09:00
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Goodness inside any organization is always within reach. And, sadly, so are misdeeds. I often worry whether last year’s race riots in Charlottesville, Va., and other forms of harassment “isms” will lead to more divisiveness elsewhere. These distractions should inspire us to engage in active benevolence in circles where we wield the greatest influence.

Last fall, at a religious service, I was moved by some of the worshipper’s anxiety over the indifference over how poorly Americans treat each other. On Thanksgiving Day, I carried out a deliberate act of charity by volunteering in a New York City soup kitchen.

The organizers laid out an impressive holiday spread to hundreds of homeless and needy people looking for a place to eat for a couple of hours. Most fittingly, Trinity Church, the rugged icon that sheltered the 9/11 relief crews, hosted this diverse crowd of people.

Although I played a bit role greeting Chinese immigrants who barely spoke English, hanging coats for the well-heeled drag queens, and stowing the suitcase of a wayward man with a memorable scent of vinegar, I was swept by the festivities.

I earn a decent living and freely admit that I should give more. But on Thanksgiving, I belonged to an interfaith gathering, consisting of Christians, Jews and Muslims. Ironically, our faiths pulled off a selfless feat without calling much attention to ourselves. The consequences were energizing.

A paralegal who lives from pay check to the next, expressed her gratitude for having a warm place to eat in the company of chatty strangers. For five hours, givers and receivers came together for their own reasons, but I assure you that no one seemed visibly apart except for the lone pianist who was content to bang out a string of Elton John songs.

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