A Good Story
Young people view and discuss the film The Gift of All: a Community of Givers and identify the influences and attributes of the generous people interviewed. They read biographies of generous people and make a four-slide presentation about their civic virtue.
The learner will:
- explore general attributes of different generations.
- define philanthropy and give examples.
- compare the experiences and values of the featured philanthropists to the learner's own experiences and values.
- streaming video of The Gift of All: a Community of Givers, produced by The S.O.U.L. (Sharing Our Uncommon Legacy) of Philanthropy
- Wikipedia list of descriptions of the generations
- copies of handout of Journal Prompts
- handout or projected copy of Philanthropist Biography
- The Gift of All: a Community of Givers, produced by The S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy along with The Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Calvin College. Copyright © Grand Rapids Public Library, City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2008, 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmaJoQicCEE
- Wikipedia. List of Generations. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_generations
Ask the youth to name some of the generations they are familiar with, such as Gen Z or Boomers. Ask what people generally say about these generations. Do they identify with the traits of their generation? Talk about stereotypes as generalizations made about people based on a few examples.
There is a list of generation names, years, and descriptions at Wikipedia. Discuss how generation studies use historical events, popular culture, and polls to make generalizations about people born in certain years. The descriptors don't fit everyone in the generation, but can show trends.
Introduce the one-hour film The Gift of All: a Community of Givers. Say, "In 2004, West Michigan was recognized as the second most generous region in the country." Most of the featured philanthropists are from the same generation who were children during The Great Depression. The documentary explores the historic events and cultural influences that led this generation of people to become generous givers concerned with rebuilding their community.
Define philanthropy as "giving time, talent, or treasure for the common good." Discuss examples of giving time, talent, and treasure. (Examples: Giving time includes taking care of a community garden. Giving talent includes tutoring someone in math. Giving treasure may include giving money or a possession that is valuable.)
Summarize key ideas about The Great Depression. They should know in advance that the 1930s were a time of a depressed economy when many people did not have jobs and had lost their invested money. The adults interviewed in this documentary were children during this time and saw and felt daily hardship.
Ask "Do you think people would share their resources more or less when times are tough and money is scarce?" Many people think people share less when they have less to share, but it is more true that when the need is higher, people tend to work together to help each other more.
Tell them you are going to show them the first part of the film to 19:00. Have them listen for stories about people sharing and giving during the depression.
Stop the film after Casey Wondergem. Discuss the stories and comments of these individuals. Notice that the documentary does not focus on their achievements but their character and their influences - what their core values are and the influence of their parents, their learning environment, and the major events of their lifetimes. What hints are there that they will be generous in their later lives?
Stories from the film to recall: two sides of the quarter, giving milk to poor people, making gloves last, using stones for heat, going barefoot to save shoes for Sunday, unemployment, community coming together to share, employer sharing any profits evenly, collecting what people can pay for rent, love in the neighborhood, war, concentration camp.
Have the youth reflect on their own influences and traits that may also characterize their generation. Help them get started by brainstorming as a group some political and cultural events and technology advances that occurred in their childhood and adolescence.
Reflect on these ideas:
- How do you think the technology and political and cultural events of your life set your generation apart from people of other generations?
- What values did your parents and extended family (and faith-based instruction) teach you?
- Describe your environment and free-time activities.
- Describe a time when you (or a family member) helped someone.
See Handout One: Journal Prompts for a list of these and further journal prompts. Tell them that someday future generations will look back at them to analyze why they became who they did.
Give pairs or small groups one briefing paper to read about a philanthropist and make a brief presentation using the handout guide below. The briefing papers about people are available here.
Discuss: "What do you think people will say about your generation in 40 years?" Discuss major influences and ask if any of these events are likely to promote civic engagement or lead them (or their generation) to take action or responsibility. (For example, seeing the effects of war may inspire more people to be active advocates for peaceful solutions.)
In this session, each group shares their slideshow about one philanthropist.
After all presentations, discuss common traits and unique situations that characterize the philanthropists. How did their community shape them and how did they shape their community?
Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
Benchmark HS.1 Discuss the role of family life in shaping a democratic society.
Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
Benchmark HS.3 Give examples of human interdependence and explain why group formation is one strategy for survival.
Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.
Benchmark HS.4 Cite historical examples of citizen actions that affected the common good.