How Giving Back Can Change Your Life

At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we often think about philanthropy in terms of its direct impact on others -- such as how many people were fed or how many children were vaccinated. While we often focus on how to achieve the greatest level of impact, we sometimes do not stop to reflect on how even the smallest act of giving can change the lives of everyone involved.

Callie Lentz was just a first grader when she lost her best friend, Ben Towne, to cancer. It is never easy to say goodbye to a friend, but to lose someone so young is especially cruel. In the face of tragedy at the age of seven, Callie decided to transform her mourning into inspiration so she could make a difference.

Recently, we welcomed Callie to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center to share her incredible story via StoryCorps, a national project intended to instruct and inspire people to record their narratives. Our StoryCorps project has captured the stories of people who were inspired to give back because of another individual or an experience. In listening to their experiences, I was struck by the ripple effect that philanthropy can have on a community. Callie turned her heartbreak into positive action, and in turn, changed the lives of many -- from the children who will benefit from pediatric cancer research to Ben Towne's family who have seen their son's memory live on in the fight against cancer. In my years working in the philanthropic sector, I've seen the real impact of giving. The act of sharing a part of oneself to help others can benefit all of us. It's a high return on investment, and is what keeps me coming to work each day.

Callie and I have nearly 80 years between us, but I do not think I am alone in saying that what she has accomplished in her life so far is incredibly inspiring.

Listen to her story below.

Next month, I'll reflect on the story of Carey Jackson, a Seattle doctor who describes the life of a Cambodian patient whom he grew to know and deeply appreciate.

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StoryCorps is a national project intended to instruct and inspire people to record their stories in sound. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center partnered with StoryCorps to capture the stories of people who have been inspired to give back to their community.