Our True Nature

Alexa Benson-Valavanis

I used to think that people were good.

When I look back on transcripts of speeches I’ve given during the past ten years at the Community Foundation, one of my most frequently used phrases is, “our true nature is good”.

I sight all sorts of examples big and small, obvious and less obvious. Everyday things, we all witness or participate in, like holding the door open for a stranger, or returning the dropped $10 bill to the person walking in front of us. Little things like that but big things too.

We give money to people in crisis across the seas. We pull over the car to take the wandering dog to the shelter. We stop our busy lives to make sure our neighbor, who recently lost a loved one, has dinner, or groceries, or just a needed hug. We put ourselves in danger for perfect strangers. We even risk our lives for each other. We do this. If you look for it, I promise, you’ll find evidence everywhere.

Oh, but here I go again.

Forgive me, but it’s one of my favorite things to think about — how good we are and how it spills into the world. I also have the great privilege of living it. Day in and day out I meet people, literally hundreds of them, who want to offer their resources (time, money, skills, experiences, etc.) to benefit our world. To help the children, or older adults, or the environment…

The truth is, a decade ago we rebuilt the Foundation with a business model predicated on the belief that humans are good. We focused on removing or reducing the barriers that got in the way of people offering their resources (a lot or a little or anything in between) to the things they were passionate about changing in the world. We created ways to make that giving even more effective. That was it. That’s all we did.

We listened to good people tell us what things got in the way of doing good, or in most cases, what stopped them from doing even MORE good. Then we built products and services that aimed at removing those barriers. The results have been tremendous. But that’s for another day.

Today, as I thought about writing a monthly column again, I wanted to start out by saying, I no longer think that people are good — I know we are. So, thank you.

Just that. Just thank you!

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