“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Gridlock in Washington, riots in London… has Charles Dickens’ epic novel A Tale of Two Cities become more fact than fiction some 152 years since it was first published? And what does all this have to do with philanthropy (the third sector)? From my perspective, quite a lot.

If one believes as I do, the sage wisdom of the late Robert Payton, former director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, philanthropy holds some of the answers to moving our nation forward in these ‘best and worst of times.’

“The only basis for a claim of special consideration for philanthropy is that it is the principal means by which our ethics and values shape the society in which we live,” said Payton. Certainly government gridlock and corporate greed (the other two sectors that make up our society) have not kept our moral compass heading due north in recent years. Quite the opposite. When classic virtues come under siege or become incongruous with contemporary social culture and customs, where is society to turn for some direction? Where is there a virtuous resolution to a values revolution? And more importantly, how does one effectively engage both men and women in the pursuit of a more benevolent and beneficent world?

Ellen Remmer, president and CEO of The Philanthropic Initiative, Inc. (TPI) in Boston, recently blogged on the virtues of passion to spark and drive personal philanthropy. Remmer writes, “Passion in philanthropy is about making a commitment to your most important beliefs and values.”

Now, more than ever, the idealistic dreams of the boom generation have a reason to shine. Save the world one good deed at a time. Wipe off the tarnish of decades of conspicuous consumption and take to the streets with conspicuous compassion with renewed passion and zest.

In my book, co-written with Niki Nicastro McCuistion, Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation, I identify ‘passion’ as one of the three key principles necessary for each of us to center our search in the pursuit of happiness (Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence). Giving with passion enriches integrity in life. This is a way to identify in our heart the greatest desires for the use of our time, talent, and treasure that we are blessed to control while we are on this earth and remember to engage them in the spirit of justice, prudence, and moderation. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung notes that later in life, individuals have the opportunity to look deeper within and recover renewed vitality and zest.

Life at times can become confusing and complicated. Having the ability to center thoughts and deeds on conspicuous compassion can simplify life and free the mind and the soul to be attentive to seeing the needs of others and being open to creative solutions. It brings clarity of focus to what’s important in life, and it can reprioritize values to complement vision and redirect wealth to bring more meaning into life and the work we do.

To learn more ways the philanthropic sector can play a leading role in guiding our nation back to true north in these foolish and destructive times, visit http://blog.tpi.org/ and get ready to fire-up your passion.