How should you spend your time?

What should you care about? How should you spend your time?

How about helping solve a life-threatening problem that effects the health of over half the world’s population, some 4.5 billion?  While some are playing around on social media all day and night, just think how fortunate we are.  Speaking for myself, I realize, despite all that’s wrong with this country right now, how fortunate I am.  I have a roof over my head, savings, relatively good health.  I got my flu shot today and went to the gym, had three good meals.  The fact is half of the world’s population has no safe sanitation facilities.  They defecate and drink out of the same troughs.

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, a billionaire many times over, and a very, very bright, ambitious man, son of a well-to-do family in Seattle asks much of himself, even after leaving Microsoft. Never one to shy away from complicated and far-reaching technological problems, he (along with his wife Melinda) co-manage the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ( The foundation’s over-arching principle is simple: “All lives have equal value. We are impatient optimists working to reduce inequality”.  The three goals of their foundation focus on big problems: 1. 
 To improve sewage conditions in developing countries, 2. Eradicate polio, 3. Build a cleaner, safer form of nuclear power.  

As a technocrat and visionary, Gates recognized after Microsoft he had the unique ability to harness his intellect, business and engineering networks and leadership skills, along with vast sums of money to tackle immensely complicated problems.  After years of study and discussion he set out to accelerate development of a safe sanitation system for poor countries. Given the facts that these poor people had no connection to the electrical grid, little clean water supply or sewers, he developed along with many engineers and fellow-entrepreneurs a new toilet that converts waste into by-products like clean water (!), and fertilizer in non-sewered  sanitation.  If you have a chance watch the Netflix 3 hour documentary “Inside Bill Gates’ Brain” do so.

Who influenced Bill Gates to do social good?  His mother.  She was active at the board level in various community-based social service organizations, and while he fought with her in his adolescent years, her altruism made an impact on him too.

Mere mortals like me, in retirement, can’t accomplish what Bill Gates does, but to do social good one doesn’t have to be a Bill Gates. There’s enough in the world that needs changing, and practically anyone can make it part of his/her life’s work to volunteer and help others less fortunate IMHO. My friend John helps a stroke victim  manage his finances and drives the elderly to medical appointments and takes notes while present with the doctor.  I found my calling by joining the local Democratic Town Committee, learning about the climate crisis after meeting Carolyn Barthel of 350 Massachusetts, a climate activist.  A group of us has developed an educational forum called “Franklin 2050: The Climate Crisis” with three speakers and video narrated by Morgan Freeman, happening October 17 at  7 PM-9PM at Elks Lodge 1077 Pond Street, Franklin, MA.  It has been marketed to the community through a barebones but effective integrated marketing campaign of local print, letters to the editor, social media, broadcast, cable audio programming, personal relations and collateral.   It’s been a lot of fun and a a lot of work for a good cause.

The idea is to present a non-partisan forum to educate, inspire and motivate the public to get smart about sustainability, learn about and support state-wide policies  and to move faster to renewables.  There’s little time left to cut fossil fuel emissions before the climate is changed for good!  It’s time to join existing organizations like 350Mass, Mass Climate Action Network, Mass Sierra Club and Mass Power Forward, a consortium of over two hundred organizations seeking changes and get active.

Our forum is coming up soon.  Your participation is encouraged and so is preregistration:

The more I learned about the climate crisis we’re facing, the more urgent and self-evident it became for me to do something about it.  Action is the antidote to fear. I learned that each and everyone of us has a role in making changes in our systems and society if we want to reduce the effects of a warming planet and all that results from that fact.  Witness: Paris had a heat wave of nearly 120 degrees last summer.  Cape Cod had a tornado, and Hurricane Dorian stopped for three days over Bermuda unleashing Category 5 winds and destruction. These are not normal events, but normal times are over. As the planet gets warmer, the frequency and intensity of weather events will only accelerate. Not just on the coastal cities but inland too, wherever and everywhere weather occurs.

I gave some thought recently to who influenced me to do some good in the world. It had to be my mother. She was not an executive type.  She did activities like reading books to the blind at the Jewish Rehabilitation Center, cooking food for neighbors recovering from illness or surgery. She was active in the local PTA and was my Cub Scout den mother. Her presence influenced me to doing good and was felt in my family of origin. She was a proponent of the Golden Rule, to do onto others as you would like them to do onto you ; that was a regularly recurring theme in our family.

I’m glad that I’m able to do my part in marketing the upcoming climate crisis event and expect I’ll continue doing charitable volunteer work into 2020.

One area of particular interest beyond the educational forum is developing “philanthropic and wealth profiles” of prospective donors used for targeted and informed fundraising by non profit organizations. This intelligence-gathering research activity can provide valuable data and insight to help a non profit organization generate money to fuel its activities and meet its goals.

Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

One thought on “How should you spend your time?

  1. This is sure a fundamental question at all stages of life, but esp’y in retirement, when the range of possibilities is wide. I agree politics r an important part of the answer

    Sent from my iPhone


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