It’s easy to see why anyone would be drawn to this residency. For one, it’s called the Society of Mad Philanthropists, which is supremely cool. Who wouldn’t want that job title? Secondly, the website makes me feel like I’m about to dive into some underground tunnel system. It’s mysterious. It’s alluring. It’s evasive.
Let’s also take a minute to break down the syntax of the Society of Mad Philanthropists.
Society: it invites you to be a part of a team –– one that will relish in your successes and reassure you when you’re navigating through mistakes.
Mad: the romantic in me pictures Albert Einstein or Willy Wonka –– someone brilliant but a little zany –– when I envision the word mad. It's a word that envelopes whimsy and eccentricity and tucks it into an electrical package. Maybe we can consider another definition –– maybe we’re angry that before People’s Liberty came to fruition, only pre-established businesses and nonprofits could access funds that are meant to give a breath of fresh air to our city and its inhabitants.
Philanthropists: the do-gooders; the Good Samaritans; the almsgivers. In this place and time where instant gratification and social media gluttony rule the world, philanthropy is a slice of something decidedly different. The work of People's Liberty lifts others up and poses a challenge: see all the beauty that lies in Cincinnati and its people with new eyes. Here, we grant permission to digest “now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good”* in a world that says otherwise.
In the kernel that holds all my kinetic energy and motivation, this is the core of what the Society of Mad of Philanthropists is to me. This job is an opportunity to engage with my town, to put these collegiate skills on their legs, and to traverse the many facets of what the human experience –– our greatest experiment and grandest adventure –– means to different people.
As the lone ranger… erm, resident, this summer, it’s a bit different than working with my two spring cohorts. Before, there were weekly Friday field trips where the PL team went out and visited doers and spaces percolating with potential: the First Lutheran Church on 12th and Race, Creative Mornings, Grantee Ben Sloan’s Percussion Park; our creators at the Haile Foundation, to name a few. Everything was new, and there was always someone to relate when an elementary mistake was made. As one grant began, a different application opened; and there were so many belly laughs coming from my fellow residents on the second floor as I sailed the seas of first floor ambassador.
While we still make time for the occasional out of office escapade, it’s quieter here now; and underneath, a focused intensity buzzes. The work has doubled with the shifting of staff, and so the days can sometimes leave me breathless. When I get to 5 o’clock, my hair is kind of frizzy and my brain is kind of frazzled; and I pick up my bag and sling it over my shoulder with a kind of accomplished swagger, amazed that I did it. There’s a sense of fulfillment that comes from the heart-pumping work of connecting with so many people over the span of a day –– making sure that everyone’s on track, making sure that everyone has what they need; making sure I’m promoting and notating upcoming events.
I could joke and comment that what I’ve learned here is where the paper towels are and how to save PDFs to dropbox (although that’s not a joke. That is real stuff). I’ve learned to navigate multiple people’s schedules to arrange a meeting; how to curate blog posts and media content (dreams do come true); how to firmly tell someone no (just as important as telling ‘em yes); how to put together and file countless documents; and the list goes on.
I learn something new every day. I meet someone new every day. Grantees pop in and out; lunch breaks overlap at the yellow table. There are countless perks to this job, but the best one? Getting to know people as they are totally immersed in manifesting this passion that’s been living inside of them. It’s a vulnerable state to be in; and in a way, so powerful. So if you’re on the fence about applying, just do it. Because if you get it, you’ll be thrown into this loving and completely crazy world. And if you don’t, it’s just the beginning for you. If you want to be here, there’s a place for you –– whether it's as a Mad Philanthropist or as a grantee; as a volunteer or as a fly on the wall, taking everything in. But it is here for you. We are here for you.
*John Steinbeck, East of Eden: the novel that made me truly aware of the fragility of my human experience and for the ability that “thou mayest.”
Spring/Summer 2017 Resident AKA Mad Philanthropist