Bending Imagination toward Hope

By Demi Prentiss, reprinted from Living God’s Mission.

Dustin B. Benac and Erin Weber-Johnson are the editors who compiled the recently published Crisis and Care: Meditations on Faith and Philanthropy. The book examines the outpouring of care and funding that seemed to be unleashed by the crisis of the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic. In an Insights column for the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the editors wrote, “We could not have imagined a year like 2020 and yet, as an abundance of care rose to meet the gravity of crisis, we encountered people acting in new and life-giving ways. Their combined words and witness bend our imaginations toward hope.”

Benac and Weber-Johnson point to “shared philanthropic imagination” as igniting the generosity that helped support institutions, non-profits and individuals through the adaptive challenges that threatened to overwhelm them. From the learnings gleaned through the pandemic, they offer four touchstones to guide all of us forward:

  1. Everything is an experiment.
  2. Generosity and justice shape a shared future grounded in a faithful, fragile belonging.
  3. Making space for tension is a significant act of generosity.
  4. Philanthropic imagination emerges on the edge of certainty.

It strikes me that living each day in the loving, life-giving, liberating pattern of Jesus is an incarnation of philanthropy – literally, the love of people. Our usual understanding of philanthropy involves generous donations of money to support worthwhile causes. I believe that even those of us who can’t claim the identity of philanthropist can use these statements to guide us toward generosity as an every-day lifestyle.

Taking Benac and Weber-Johnson’s touchstones as our guideposts for living, wouldn’t we all be better “people lovers” – just what Jesus called us to be? Can we use these four statements to “bend our imagination toward hope”?

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