Saturday, December 29, 2007


Paris Hilton’s grandfather, Barron Hilton, has pledged $2.3 billion, 97% of his fortune, to the Conrad N. Hilton charity. The charity assists mentally ill homeless people, tackles substance abuse and increases access to safe water in Africa and Mexico. A significant portion of the money will also go to the Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters, a separate nonprofit organization that supports the work of Catholic sisters. Barron’s father, Conrad N. Hilton, had also donated a large portion of his fortune to charity upon his death.

I don’t know this man; I have no connection to the Hilton family (although I do believe I have stayed in a few Hilton hotels in the past). But I have to wonder, because it’s what I do, did they wait until they were about to die before they decided to give money to the cause of the suffering? Well, apparently the Conrad N. Hilton charity has been helping the poor for a while. It was established in 1944 but remained relatively small until Conrad’s death in 1979 when he left nearly all of his entire estate to his charity, created to help the most vulnerable people in the world.

So this family has been helping the poor for years. But what about the rest of us? We probably don’t have billions of dollars to donate now or upon death. What you leave behind may not make the news, but if you’re like me, you have at least thought about what you want your loved ones to receive after you’ve died. We document these decisions, and it’s sometimes a surprise to family members to receive something. Others expect it and even kill for it.

My question is why wait until we’re about to die to share our fortunes? My dad’s dad, my Papaw, had decided years before he died, how much he wanted to give to his children, and wrote them a check. He said he wanted to watch them enjoy it. I love that. My Mamaw died a month ago. My dad is going through his parents’ house today to clean up and organize the cherished family items that they had kept throughout the years. When my dad was in college, he studied art and had made these incredible portraits. One he did using pointillism, and the other with a scratchboard. They truly are amazing. They have been hanging up in my Mamaw and Papaw’s house for years. I emailed him recently to ask if I could have one some day, and he said he didn’t want for me to have to wait until after he’d died to enjoy it. So I will be receiving one soon.

I love this attitude of not holding on to things until after we don’t need them. It seems perhaps more loving to let go of things while we could still find uses for them. Like donating blood now, giving money to charity now, volunteering our time now.

There is a whole world happening behind our reflection in the mirror, and if we’re not careful, we’ll forget all about them.

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