Thursday, September 15, 2011

Giving Back in Other Ways

Those of you that know me (and let's face it - the only people reading this are 'those of you that know me') know that when I start thinking about an issue, I think about it and think about it and think about it and talk about it talk about it talk about it until you wish I'd never thought about it in the first place!

That's kind of what I've been doing with Peter Singer's The Life You Can Save.

Because as I think about spending my money ethically, the first thing I think is "But I don't have any money!!!" And that, folks, is no big exaggeration.

I have less money than some, however, because I chose to take a job that works on improving the lives of women and children. It is an incredible organization, and I am so lucky that I get to work with such an amazing group of people - whose energy and passion for helping women start businesses, improving the quality of early child care and education, and eradicating the educational disparity amazes and inspires me everyday. The problem is that the world-saving type of jobs - especially the world-saving for women type of jobs - don't pay very much. And I'm fine with that. I knew that when I took this job, when I came to Yale to study Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and when I chose to major in Women's Studies way back during my sophomore year at Wellesley. I had no illusions that I was going to become a millionaire through Women's Studies. I knew I'd have to run over to the Economics Department and sell my soul to work for Goldman Sachs to do that.

But it was and is incredibly important to me to find a job that does some good in the world - that will make it a better place, especially for women. The unofficial slogan at Wellesley is "Women Who Will." I suppose it could be "women who will" almost anything. But I've always interpreted it to say, "Women Who Will Make a Difference in the World." And that is the motto for how I want to live my life. I'd be completely and utterly happy if on my tombstone it said, "Shannon Hill - A Woman Who Made a Difference In The World." **as an aside, Hillary Rodham Clinton recently said she wanted her tombstone to say, "I tried my damn best." I <3 Hillary! 

I hear people say sometimes that they learned a job paid x amount of money, so they decided to pursue it. Or I hear people tell their children, "oh hey! x job pays great - why don't you pick a college that can give you the tools to do that!"  This has always been incredibly sad to me. You're not picking a job based on your passion?! You're not picking a job that allows you to give back to the world?! You're literally going to base your entire life around what makes the most money?!

Obviously, I recognize that my position - that that is the wrong way to pick a career - is extremely privileged. I didn't have to pick a job that could support my parents and entire family. I don't have children. And I don't have hundreds of dollars to pay in student loans every month (thanks mom and dad!) But it always seems sad to me that people are basing what they study and what they do every day around a desire to make the most money.

Getting back to Singer's The Life You Can Save, I think it is important to not just give money, but to give your life. And if you give your life -- but give less money -- than so be it. There are other ways to give back.

That doesn't mean I'm off the hook for donating money or budgeting ethically. I realize that my "less money" is still "lots of money" to a great many people. But in thinking about how to make a difference in the world, I'm glad I work for it every day instead of just writing a check.

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