Our recent Family Legacy Planning posts have stressed the importance of relationships and social interaction in improving the quality and quantity of our lives. Developing that theme further, I think of the various communities we belong to and how those interactions benefit us. We all belong to a number of communities: family, friends, work, church/synagogue, clubs, civic groups, etc. Today, I want to focus on the many benefits of civic engagement. One benefit is that it provides us a community, as we build relationships with an organization’s volunteers and staff. That, in and of itself, is enriching. But civic involvement provides us with so much more.
I’ve emphasized before how author Jay Hughes teaches that wealth comes in multiple forms—Financial Capital being just one of five. The other four are Human Capital, Intellectual Capital, Social Capital, and Spiritual Capital. Civic engagement runs across all of these capitals, but in particular Social Capital is where we give our time, talent, and treasure to society, building relationships in the communities where we live, while also providing the family with a life of meaning. Author Chaim Potok challenges us in The Chosen to live a life with meaning: “It is hard work to live a life with meaning.” Civic involvement provides a pathway to live such a life.
Over the years, I’m grateful for the numerous causes where I’ve had the opportunity to serve. Most have to do with the arts and education, especially those providing opportunities for young people to thrive. Chief among these have been Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth Symphony, Texas Cultural Trust, B-Sharp Youth Music Program, along with my school and religious affiliations. But one that is really grabbing my heart, and the focus of today’s post, is The Multicultural Alliance (“MCA,” formerly the National Council of Christians and Jews, “NCCJ”). This organization started in Fort Worth in 1951, and I’ve been actively involved for over 30 years. I’m now in my third stint of serving as MCA’s Presiding Chair. Over these 70+ years, the mission has stayed the same: to fight bias, bigotry, and hate while working to build inclusive communities. It’s important work, but never has it been as important as it is now. Today, more than ever, we need MCA to break down barriers that separate us and bring people together.
We are living in turbulent times. The rise in hate crimes is beyond tragic. Earlier this year, our own community experienced the horror of a terrorist taking members of Colleyville’s Beth Israel Synagogue hostage. The hostages were saved by the heroic bravery of Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker. Rabbi Charlie’s wife Adena served as MCA’s Vice President of Programming for the last 15 years. So this terrorist act hit home. Rabbi Charlie is a member of our close-knit MCA family.
Under the superb leadership of our President Dr. Cheryl Kimberling, MCA sponsors numerous programs to educate us, opening hearts and minds. One of our signature programs is Camp CommUNITY (formerly Camp Anytown), where high school students from diverse backgrounds undergo a transformative experience over five days. Campers return home with a newfound acceptance of others, no longer seeing differences as something to fear, but rather as something to embrace. Given that our world has become more divided than ever, now is MCA’s time. MCA builds bridges of understanding to bring us back together. My daughter Lizzy was a camper and later a counselor, and I served as an adult advisor, and the experience was life changing for both of us.
(In 2016, I was honored and humbled to receive MCA’s Annual Award at that year’s MCA Awards Dinner. To learn more about my passion for MCA, click here to read my acceptance speech.)
I share all of this to encourage others to find a cause that (in the words of Lady Bird Johnson) “makes your heart sing.” MCA does that for me. Furthermore, MCA operates on a very limited budget, so every donation truly moves the needle. In selecting a cause to support, it adds to the satisfaction if you know you’re doing something that directly impacts and advances an important mission.
As I advocate for Family Legacy Planning, I cannot overstress the benefits of civic engagement. The Blum Firm specializes in helping families incorporate into the estate plan a charitable structure that’s right for you. Philanthropy (whether it be your time, your talent, your treasure, or all three) is a laboratory for building a legacy. A family coming together to support meaningful causes creates powerful family glue. It brings generations together, fostering family communication and trust. Siblings and cousins develop group decision-making skills. Philanthropy strengthens the family’s Social Capital and builds deeper connections among family members. Not everyone in a family can work in a family business, but everyone can play a role in family philanthropy. Civic activity not only benefits the community, but the family who does it gets back considerably more than it gives. It’s truly a “win-win.”
Marvin E. Blum
Marvin Blum, Presiding Chair of The Multicultural Alliance, at this year’s MCA Awards Dinner, promoting the MCA mission to fight hate and build inclusive communities.