“Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall all be saved.”  — Dr. Jane Goodall 

Stephen G. Post and Margaret May

In Chicago last month, at the Advisors in Philanthropy Conference (AiP), I met and talked with Stephen G. Post, author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping. Post is professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University. He is also president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love.

I wanted to meet Post to find out more about the institute and to seek out collaboration of my hypothesis that “eudaimonia” (the ancient Greek word for “well-being”) is the ultimate goal of women philanthropists who seek to practice “self-interest rightly understood” as defined by Alexis deTocqueville in his historic treatise “Democracy in America” (1835). The case being that the true meaning of philanthropy (again from the Greeks) is the “love of humankind.” And the premise being that when women let their values validate their valuables, they express those values through self-interest, not only for themselves and their families, but also for the greater good of the community. And in the process of carrying out the philanthropic deeds resulting from self-interest rightly understood, a more caring and compassionate community evolves at a time when our nation has lost its moral compass.

Listening to Dr. Post speak on his research added another dimension to the benefits of “self-interest rightly understood.” For according to Dr. Post, “when we show concern for others by acts such as volunteering, we improve our own health and well-being and embrace and give voice to our deeper identity and dignity as human beings.”

Could it be that every woman and every man can make a difference for a more harmonious and virtuous world, and in doing so not only experience “eudaimonia” but also help the world survive and thrive?

“Only if we help shall all be saved.”