How to Do Good: Essays on Building a Better World, published by my publisher, London Wall, is a collection of essays by thought leaders, celebrities, statesmen and women, Nobel prize winners, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists and others who are driving and inspiring positive change. Each month, I’m focusing on one essay in the book to use as the basis for a thought piece.
For June, I’m focusing an essay by Frédéric Oumar Kanouté. A former footballer who played for clubs in France, England, Spain and China, Mr Kanouté now devotes his time and passion to philanthropy. His Kanouté Foundation has built a ‘children’s village’ for orphans in Mali.
In ‘Life goals’, Mr Kanouté describes how practising his religion and visiting his father’s hometown of Mali opened him up to the plight of poverty-stricken orphans there and fuelled in him a determination to use his position and savings to make a difference.
‘My faith has been the engine,’ he writes, and then two lines that leap off the page: ‘Sometimes we say faith is only in the heart, but I don’t think that’s true. It is in the hands as well.’ The Quran, he points out, talks of ‘those who have faith and do good’, not merely ‘those who have faith alone’.
I am reminded of Stoic philosophy, of the importance of civic responsibility and doing good deeds. Doing, not merely dreaming or planning or discussing or promising – actually doing good.
Mr Kanouté writes that when, someday, he meets his maker, ‘He won’t ask me how many goals I’ve scored, but instead will hold me accountable for how I behaved on this Earth, and how I helped others.’
As the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations: ‘Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.’
Imagine if we all thought like that. Imagine what a different world it would be.
But being good is not enough! We must not just strive to be good; we must DO good. We do not need to be philanthropists; we need to DO philanthropic work.
Work. The word is a misnomer in this context, don’t you think? Is it work to do good? Is it a hardship, a chore, a trial? No: it is, in fact, a joy, the true source of inner peace and fulfilment – the key to salvation.
Note: All quotations are taken from How to Do Good: Essays on Building a Better World published by London Wall, with the kind permission of Philanthropy Age.
You can read more about Mr Kanouté’s work in his interview with Philanthropy Age at http://www.philanthropyage.org/society/making-difference-frederic-oumar-kanoute