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A New Way to Keep Score: Giving Back

Earl "Butch" Graves Jr., President & CEO, Black Enterprise

Earl "Butch" Graves Jr., President & CEO, Black Enterprise

Those words have served as a guiding principle of my life. In our 24/7, pressure-cooker lives, so many of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances believe they don’t have enough hours to devote to their own families, much less anyone else’s. As the economy rebounds, still others have again embraced the “I-have-to-get-more-than-the Joneses” attitude—which fosters an artificial competition in which they keep score through the acquisition of material things to validate their success. Many of us have become oblivious to the plight of the less fortunate and lost sight of the simple joy of giving back.

The nation as a whole has been in a less giving mood. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26.3% of the population volunteered their time between September 2009 and September 2010, a drop of more than half a million people from the previous year.

I’m not suggesting that you spend less than the time required to support your family and build a nest egg. At Black Enterprise, we zealously promote our Wealth for Life principles so you can create a life of options. And we have never told our audience to apologize for achieving success, living well, and giving their family the best. I submit to you, however, that spending will not set you free. You will gain ultimate fulfillment not through the number of toys you’ve accumulated, but by the number of lives you’ve touched.

I recently told a friend that I really didn’t want for any material goods. He looked at me as if I were a brother from another planet. I wasn’t boasting, however; I am just grateful to have a wonderful, healthy family; a circle of close friends; a challenging, rewarding career; and the resources I need to take care of my obligations. I also have the blessing of activities that nourish my soul, such as coaching a team in the AAU youth basketball league. My participation is not just about teaching kids the fundamentals of basketball and collecting tournament trophies. I get to share life lessons with a group of kids who have great potential. Some come from broken homes. Most have never flown on a plane, stayed at a hotel, or dined at a restaurant beyond the local fast-food joint. In my role, I offer them guidance and expose them to a world with infinite possibilities. The reward I receive is seeing these young men attend a four-year college and grow into productive citizens.

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