When is Enough Enough?
After months punctuated by crises, “enough!” echoes all around us. From some, it’s a plea for help. From others, it’s a powerful declaration that the chaos, illness, isolation, and pain ends now. Our exhausted community and nation are more than ready to turn the page.
But consider that word differently for a moment. “Enough” also speaks to satisfaction, joy, and generosity. It’s about an examination of our own capacity, responsibility, and values. It’s worth reflecting: what does it mean to truly have enough? What does it mean to give enough?
These aren’t idle questions.
Silicon Valley’s wealth concentration is well-documented. And since the pandemic, America’s most privileged — Silicon Valley residents among them — have done quite well. The wealth of our nation’s billionaires has collectively increased by more than $1 trillion since the start of the pandemic. At what point is that enough, with sufficient abundance to invest in a community where too many don’t have nearly enough?
So many generous individual people and philanthropic organizations dug deep this past year and gave more to help meet the challenges before us. Many of them are now asking themselves — as they ask us — was that enough? If not, when will it be, especially as the impacts of the pandemic persist and even intensify, and the need for action on deep and systemic reforms is so clear?
The answer to whether we’ve given enough springs from our honest assessment of our capacity to give, our recognition of our interdependence on our community, and how deeply we want to live our values. It’s enough when we’ve nourished the soil of our community with the steady, long-term care that lets it fully flower.
We’re not done yet.
This week’s MLK commemorations remind us of the “Beloved Community” that the Rev. King so famously championed. When we invest here — in our people, our institutions, our connections with one another — we create a beloved community of people bound with place. A beloved community is what makes “enough,” and where everyone has enough. That takes more than philanthropy, but philanthropy (literally, “love of humankind”) plays a powerful role.
That’s why ongoing leadership among givers is so important. MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, is one who made it abundantly clear that she believes she has more than enough, and that giving the excess away by teaspoons-full is not nearly enough. Through her quiet donations and a pair of reflective Medium posts last July and December, she looked in the eyes of those who say that it’s just too hard to give away large amounts of money quickly and effectively, and conveyed that, “no, actually, it’s not.” More important, with each multi-billion-dollar announcement, she also said frankly that it wasn’t enough, either. She is going to keep at it.
Of course, Scott’s extreme wealth makes her an outlier. But her approach to “enoughness” is still instructive. And to answer the question about what it means to have enough, for any giver at Scott’s end of the spectrum on down, author and humanitarian Lynne Twist offers this:
“When you nourish what you already have, when you celebrate what you already have, when you give gratitude for what you already have, when you make a difference with what you already have, when you share what you already have, it expands before your very eyes. We call this the principle of sufficiency…this isn’t an amount. This is a way of being and seeing…The mindset of scarcity clears away and what’s there is the absolute profound experience of this thing called enough.”
As we start a new year, a new presidency, a new phase in the fight against the pandemic, let’s begin with a spirit of abundance. Many, many of us in Silicon Valley have enough. We can share. We can lead. We can help create a beloved community here, and, to echo the luminous poetry spoken at this week’s inauguration, “raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.” That is enough.
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Photo: The Health Trust