Every so often, especially while doing chores, I like to let my mind wander and indulge in fantasy “what if” scenarios. Nothing radical. I tend to revisit the familiar question of “If money were suddenly no object, what would I do?”

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

I’d be lying if I didn’t confess there are some straight-up selfish indulgences. I don’t want to bore you with all the details, but let’s just say I’d have a heck of a personal library and some truly fabulous sweaters.

But I also think it would be really interesting to have the kind of wealth that allows a person to make some really meaningful donations.

I do give to things I care about now. I’m sure that my $5 a month here and $5 a month there do some good. But I mean really large donations. One of the things I wonder about is the nature of the donations themselves.

As a general rule, large donors (such as Stephen and Tabitha King, for example) and small donors (such as myself) give to established nonprofits. This makes a ton of sense. It provides a level of accountability and oversight of the gift. It ensures the money goes where it is supposed to. It also allows for many small gifts to be lumped together to make a more substantial impact. For those of us in the $5 a month category, it is the only sensible way to donate.

But what about those in the big money category?

What would happen if, instead of a charitable gift to an institution, you took away the day-to-day financial stresses of a regular person? As I was tossing this idea around in my brain, imagining wiping out someone’s mortgage or paying off their car, the radio aired a segment on a real-life, actual example.

Robert Smith, a self-made billionaire, took the rather unusual step of paying off the student debt of the 400 students in the 2019 graduating class at Morehouse College. All $34 million of it.

The gift included additional funds to study and monitor its effects on the students. The results were positive.

One student was able to go on to medical school, beginning that next phase of life with a clean slate. Another was able to take the job that was right for them – as well as impactful to the greater community – as opposed to the job with a higher salary. Several were able to buy houses and establish themselves within their communities years before they would have otherwise been able to. And so on and so on.

What is most interesting is the way the students spoke about the emotional and psychological impact of the gift. In addition to instilling the concept of donations, it also granted them the ability to make gifts of their own. Not as large as Robert Small’s, perhaps, but at least in the $5 a month group.

This gift opened up entire worlds – to the recipients and to the people whose lives those students will go on to change for the better. I hold this in my mind as I contemplate several broad-ranging policy shifts currently under national discussion. What a wonderful thing we could create for ourselves and future generations.

Comments are not available on this story.