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Common Threads

In my last note, I talked about my family's diverse community interests and the problem I was confronted with on how to bring it all together into a simple mission statement and cohesive set of objectives for the foundation.

At the time, I had just reread the book, "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", a collection of stories by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. In reading the book, one can get the idea that above all things, Feynman was very good at solving tough problems. Murray Gell-Mann, a colleague and collaborator of Feynman, once said, "[Feynman] has a kind of special algorithm when dealing with tough problems". Gell-Mann, called it "The Feynman Algorithm":

  1. Write down the problem.

  2. Think real hard.

  3. Write down the solution.

I admit that this sounded a little bit too facetious to take to heart, but as I thought more about it, I began to find that there is some truth to it. How often have I blurted out, or seen others espousing, a solution without first understanding and thinking about the problem to be solved. The one thing Feynman did not do is preconceive a solution before first thinking about the problem. Daniel Hillis put Feynman's problem solving this way "[Feynman] was always searching for patterns, for connections, for a new way of looking at something". I began to wonder whether there were any connections that would help me see my problem in a different light.

I began by reviewing each of the mission statements and objectives from the various charities that the family supported. I then decided to input each of the mission statements and objectives into a Wordcloud generator, and to my surprise and delight, themes began to emerge. This ultimately led to our mission statement that "Every life deserves to be happy and meaningful ", and a set of objectives.

Every Life: The use of the word "life" was purposeful, in that, charity is more than just helping people, it is about helping any body or thing that is suffering and in need.

Deserves: Everyone has the unalienable right to pursue happiness. Although the pursuit of happiness comes in many different flavors, it takes opportunity, purpose and determination to catch it.

Happiness and Meaning: The art of pursuing happiness is finding out what God put us on earth to do and going after it with every fiber of our being.

Unfortunately, not every person has the same opportunity to pursue, let alone achieve, their dreams. The playing field of life is not level. Inequalities exist not just in income and living standards, but in wealth, health, family environments, life chances and political influence. I believe that leveling the field must first begin by giving hope. Our goal is to deliver on this by providing resources and opportunities to help level the playing field, if only just a little.

We will accomplish this by helping to enable, enliven, and enrich people’s lives, especially among the poor, disadvantaged, and disenfranchised through a set of objectives:

  • Children and Youth: We support early learning educational programs that teach and empower children to feel valued, capable and self-confident.

  • Communities: We believe in the power of community by helping to find local solutions to local issues.

  • Seniors: We support elderly care and services programs that promote the family's general welfare and enhance the quality of life of older adults that enable them to lead joyful, fulfilling, and meaningful lives.

I still worry that these objectives may be too broad, and perhaps, overly ambitious, but it does offer us the flexibility to adapt to an ever changing world and focus our energy and investments to the areas with the greatest needs. The benefits of this flexibility has been especially advantageous during the pandemic, allowing us to address emerging issues such as food insecurity, health and wellness, isolation, homelessness, and after school safety and support for children and youths.

I realize we may not change the world, but if we can positively change the fortunes of just one life, then our efforts would have been all the more worthwhile.

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