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by Warren Buffet
Many years ago, Ben Graham, my friend and teacher, told me of a goal he had set for himself. Each day, he would attempt to do something creative, something generous, and something foolish. I think Ben included the third activity to avoid sounding "preachy" in recommending the first two.
Jeff Comment has run Helzberg Diamond Shops for Berkshire Hathaway since the day we acquired it in 1995. He's a superb businessman, and I've yet to see him do anything that could conceivably be characterized as foolish. As CEO of Berkshire, I feel lucky to be associated with him.
But, more important, I also feel proud. Jeff is a great citizen, and he has blended Ben's recommendation for creative and generous acts into a program that has lifted the spirits of thousands of ill or disabled children. When Jeff presents his "I Am Loved"® bear, the child receiving it knows that the message is true: The girl or boy can see it in the eyes of the big fellow standing there in the red suit. That's a gift that has more therapeutic value than any pill or wonder drug can deliver.
As I write this, my grandson, Howard, is in his fifth week in the hospital recovering from injuries suffered in an automobile accident. I have seen first-hand the effect of family love on the healing process. Howie bears his pain far more easily when love and humor are in the room with him. He's getting that in abundance, but not all hospital-bound children are so lucky.
In his Santa activities, Jeff has redefined "family," embracing all children as if they were his own. By doing so, he has converted youngsters with impassive faces and lifelessbehavior into the excited and eager human beings they were meant to be. His stories about those children will inspire you, as they have me.
by Sir Elton John
Elton John is one of the most successful entertainers of the past 30 years. From his first Top 10 single in the United States—"Your Song"—he has had numerous hits and has also appeared on stage and in films. In the mid-1980s, Elton John became interested in AIDS research, met Ryan White, and formed the Elton John AIDS Foundation. He has donated royalties from his singles to AIDS charities.
I used to think that giving money was what generosity and philanthropy was all about. That was until I spent a week with Ryan White who, at 13, was one of the first and most courageous AIDS activists.
I was with Ryan in Indianapolis in 1990 during the last week of his life. I went to the hospital every day and saw in Ryan and his family humility, generosity, and the ability to forgive during the most tragic and sad circumstances. That week, when, instead of money I gave my time and understood how much it was appreciated, meant so much to me.
That week had a huge impact on me. It was at a time of my life when I was very self-absorbed. I was not behaving very well. I was into drugs and simply out of whack. Ryan's example was the catalyst for me to change my life and get sober and clean and start doing philanthropic work myself.
Many people can't afford to be philanthropic with money, but we all have time we can donate. That is the most important lesson I've learned since Ryan's death. The time I spend with my AIDS Foundation or just talking to people has the most value. There are so many people who need our help. It is important to get involved. When I see how grateful people are, that's the biggest thrill for me. Go see for yourself. The rewards are incredible.