How to Be Good by Alisa Swidler

Like most of you, I wear a multitude of hats which vary widely – from mother of five to brand ambassador to trustee. The common thread is a steadfast belief that if you’re going to commit to doing it, do it properly. People are often critical of my inability to say no – but I think it adds to my credibility. Saying yes to new ideas, to introductions, to phone calls, to meetings, to projects – empowers me to keep doing good. Of course, everyone is busy and makes time for what they want to make time for but eeking out a yes just might make you a happier, better person. A do-gooder. The projects that I find most fulfilling are often because of that very first yes, that first conversation, that first realisation that a problem exists and needed to be solved or – at the very least – addressed.

People can only imitate what they know. So it’s important as ever for me to raise children who seek out the greater good, whose world is bigger than their rather cushy bubble. Children who instinctively help people with their bags, who aren’t scared by differences, who are confident enough to speak the truth when it may be unpopular, who defend the underdog, who want to have an impact, who question abject poverty and homelessness, who distribute medical supplies, who serve soup, who stock food pantries, who willingly donate their birthday presents, who say yes (and ideally, please).

Being good is about your core. It’s about questioning the elements of society that don’t feel right – and acting. Often this can be boiled down to assessing a lack of distribution – of food, of vaccines, even of footballs – and it’s easy to say no can do, to take the easy way out. But if one phone call, one email can solve the conundrum – why not say yes? As a trustee, I want a charity’s programs to focus on at risk populations, to go where the need is greatest, in fact to go where no-one has historically said yes. As David Ben-Gurion said “A man who is satisfied no longer yearns, no longer dreams, no longer creates, no longer makes demands.” At this point I equate being good with simply never being satisfied.