It’s Not What You Gather, It’s What You Scatter

Apr 28, 2020 | The Power of Philanthropy

I grew up in a large family. We lived modestly, but always had the essentials of life and made the most of our circumstances. Even though my parents had a limited income, they made sure to give their time and money to charitable causes. They paid a full tithe to the church, and participated regularly in service efforts, helping others in need. Many times they included me and my brothers in these service projects. I didn’t always go willingly; however, over time, I learned the satisfaction that comes from helping others along the way.

There was an elderly couple in our town named the Marions, affectionately known as Mr. and Mrs. Claus. He’d grown up in an orphanage where he passed many lonely Christmases with few of the joys and gifts most are accustomed to during that season. They were not wealthy, but they amassed an extraordinary array of Christmas decorations which turned their modest home into a wonderland. They asked local business owners and shops to donate toys and candy, and in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Mr. and Mrs. Claus held court on their front porch, making sure every visiting child received a gift. People came from all over to visit their street.

At first, I was just one of the kids lined up to get a hug and a piece of candy or a toy. But Mom and Dad took the time to get to know the Marions, and they became dear friends. I soon found myself on the production side of things, helping the Marions string lights and decorate the yard, collecting donations from shopkeepers and local residents and helping take everything down after the holidays.

I wish I could say I did this willingly, but that wasn’t always the case. It took some time and several Christmases to appreciate and ultimately share in the vision the Marions had created. I look back now and realize the impression this made on me—that the joy of giving far exceeds the joy of getting.

Later in life, I was blessed with a good career at a great company: Walmart. Sam Walton was leading the company as Chairman when I joined, and he and his wife, Helen, encouraged us to be active in the community and seek ways to make it a better place for all to live. With their inspiration and the upbringing from my parents, I began to look for worthwhile organizations to support with my own time and money. I joined the Jaycees and later the Rotary Club. I provided leadership in our Church, particularly working with youth. I became a Scoutmaster.

As my career progressed, I joined the Boards of organizations that made a positive difference, such as Open Avenues, a training center for adults with disabilities, and the local council board of the Boy Scouts of America. We were blessed to have the means to provide financial support to these, and other important charities and causes. Another one is Thanksgiving Point, a wonderful organization that celebrates and encourages family togetherness at their interactive children’s museum and butterfly biosphere. We created a fund at our alma mater, Brigham Young University, to help students with travel costs as they venture out to explore career opportunities. It has been a blessing to see how these cumulative gifts and acts of service have positively influenced others.

As Helen Walton often quoted: “It’s not what you gather in life that matters, but what you scatter.“ I couldn’t agree more!

Sam Dunn Guest blog:
Sam Dunn
Director, MBA Career Management
Brigham Young University
Marriott School of Business