Staff Blog

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This is a space where Foundation staff share their thoughts and musings on giving and community:

Paying it Forward

Posted by: Stuart Comstock-Gay on 11/5/2012

Fourteen months ago, we had no idea what was about to come. And I’m not talking just about Tropical Storm Irene. What blindsided us wasn’t the wallop of the storm, though that is true, too. No, what stunned us equally was the absolutely overwhelming support that Vermont received from every corner of this country. Money, yes. But volunteers and in-kind contributions of every conceivable form. I don’t need to tell all those stories again – they’ve been told over and over – in this video and in many other places. 

In light of the devastation of Sandy, I’m thinking anew about what we in Vermont received. And like others, I’m reminded that we now have the opportunity to pay forward that awesome support. It’s our chance to keep the circle going.

A few weeks ago, my wife was having lunch with a friend at a little place in Burlington. When she went to pay the bill, the waitress said their bill had been picked up by the people sitting behind them. My wife turned to look, and nobody was there – the anonymous bill-payer didn’t want recognition, just wanted to pay the bill. So my wife and her friend – they did the same for a couple at another table. How long did it go? I have no idea. But with no expectation of thanks or recognition, she paid it forward.

We say we’re paying it forward, but it’s the simple idea of reciprocity. It’s a core notion behind social capital. Places with high social capital are those where people trust each other and where there are high levels of reciprocity – where people contribute and participate, with no expectation of getting anything in return for it, but knowing that when they have need, they’ll be covered, too. We in Vermont are blessed with incredibly high levels of social capital in all forms. 

So it’s our turn. It’s our turn to help our neighbors in New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, and other areas that were hard-hit. Here at the Community Foundation, we are not necessarily in a position to go muck out homes, but we are in a position to make giving and volunteering easy. At the Community Foundation, we’ll be making a grant to at least one of the several funds that have been set up. I urge you to check out the giving and volunteering opportunities we’ve posted and consider a gift. Find a way to help. It’s time to pay it forward. 

(And oh yeah, after you’ve done that, don’t forget that Vermont’s long-term recovery efforts still need your support, too. To learn more about the remaining and critical effort of the State’s Vermont Disaster Relief Fund, click here.)

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