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At the end of Candide, Voltaire’s protagonist settles into a new view of the world. “I also know,” he says “we must cultivate our garden.” Chastened by bold adventures that ended badly, Candide realizes true contentment is found closer to home.

I’ve certainly wanted to retreat to my garden after watching news cycles filled with the horrors in Afghanistan. The spread of the delta variant and delayed school reopenings also worry me. I haven’t even gotten the weeds under control in my beloved garden.

Why?  Because I’ve also had my hands full with my youngest son, who was sick with COVID-19. On top of that, my two oldest children are preparing for college. It’s been a bit tough to keep my smile on through all this!

The Upside of COVID-19

I’ve managed to shake off some of the melancholy and returned to a place of gratitude. I have so much joy in my everyday life. Our COVID-19 challenge was relatively mild and provided us time to reminisce about this summer’s fun travels. It’s given us a chance to watch fun movies together. We’ve also worked on an inordinate number of Lego projects.

What’s more, our dog has been thrilled with COVID-19 in the house. It means he gets more snuggle time with me and my youngest son, as we no longer leave the bedroom!

I’ve also had a chance, during my quarantine, to reflect on how fortunate I am to be at DonorsTrust, where I hear regularly about the progress various charities are making with the support we direct to them thanks to our clients’ generosity.

Freedom in Action

Sometimes these conversations provide me with policy victories that matter. The Center for Indonesian Policy, for example, is making food more affordable through free trade. Empower Mississippi is pushing more humane criminal-justice policies. And John Locke Foundation is improving access to healthcare in North Carolina by scrapping certificate-of-need laws.

Sometimes I find myself wildly celebrating the tenacity of friends in the freedom movement. When Pacific Research Institute holds its annual gala this year, we’ll honor Sally Pipes’s 30th year keeping sound policy ideas alive in California. My friends at Young Voices landed an important foundation grant that will boost its five-year-old organization.

In Guatemala, Universidad Francisco Marroquín celebrated its 50th anniversary. Just think: A small college housed in a single home in 1971 persevered through Central American civil wars to emerge as the world’s most remarkable libertarian university. It now sits on a gorgeous campus surrounded by lush nature.

On a recent trip to UFM, I met some of the scholarship students supported in part by DonorsTrust clients. Some students hail from low-income indigenous communities in Guatemala’s highlands. It’s thrilling to know they are changing the trajectory of their families’ lives. They’re also determined and equipped to bring lasting, positive change to the rest of their country, too.

Hope During Dark Times

Other conversations make me embrace the immense blessings in my life. My husband Brad is the CEO of the Atlas Network, which is the hub of the global free-market think tank movement.

Last week, Brad and his colleagues were consumed by the task of getting the staff and families of a heroic group—the Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization—out of the country before the Taliban could find them. It was inspiring to see so many people from the freedom movement collaborating out of sincere love for heroic people whose lives were then at risk.

I’m happy to report this core group from the Afghan think tank is safe. I even exchanged emails with the group’s  CEO. He commented on the craziness of leaving nearly everything behind in Afghanistan. He also expressed gratitude for his single backpack of possessions and the fact that he’s with his (recently married) wife.

Attitude of Gratitude

Lately, I think of all the absurd reasons I get morose during the course of a day. What really matters, though, is that I have a bright future filled with my loving husband and children. I guess that’s what Voltaire means about finding contentment here: cultivating my little garden and the family around it.

Of course, it’s a false choice to think cultivating my garden means neglecting the world around me. The great joy of it all is that we  find contentment in our personal lives and make a positive difference in the world. We do this by supporting the charities that are repairing our communities, our nation, and troubled regions of the world.

I’m grateful to the DonorsTrust clients that put their resources into this community of inspiring organizations. Our grantees are doing so much to improve the world—and so much to boost my spirits, grow my contentment and make me so very grateful on a late summer day.

Open Your Fund

Stephanie G. Lips

Author Stephanie G. Lips

Stephanie Giovanetti Lips joined DonorsTrust in 2018 as a philanthropy advisor with a general focus on planned giving. Before joining DonorsTrust, Stephanie led the events department at Atlas Network, leading its international expansion to organize annual events in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. She also took on major gift officer responsibilities and headed up its planned giving program. Stephanie has consulted on events and fundraising for organizations such as The American Spectator, the Future of Freedom Foundation, National Association of Chemical Distributors and Johnson and Johnson. Stephanie attended Marymount University and has a B.A. in English Literature. When not working for DonorsTrust or mentoring think tank leaders from within the Atlas Network or speaking on topics close to her heart, like planned giving, Stephanie loves listening to the giggles of her children and the panting of her dog, Scooby Doo.

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