Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s often the only time each year–not counting graduations or weddings–when our entire family gets together; the rituals and menu have been firmly established. One of our traditions is to ask each person in turn to give thanks for the blessings in his or her life. This year, we will have four generations around the table; the 17 of us will range in age from one to 91 years old. That alone is reason to be grateful.
Here, I’d like to take my turn to thank some of the people who have helped me in my work as a reporter, in ways big and small, for the past year or so.
Editors: Stacy Palmer, Dan Parks and Drew Lindsay have welcomed me into a wonderful new home for my writing at the Chronicle of Philanthropy. They are smart and thoughtful editors, and they always treat me with respect–which is by no means a given in this business. I’ve also enjoyed working with my friend and former college classmate Roger Cohn and Fen Montaigne at YaleEnvironment360, Jennifer Kongs at B Magazine and Mary Hoff and David Doody at the environmental website Ensia. Freelancing is tough; working with good editors makes it easier.
Animal welfare advocates: I’ve come to admire the intelligence, commitment and passion of those who speak for animals, including Josh Balk, Paul Shapiro and Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States, Lewis Bollard of Open Philanthropy, Bruce Friedrich of the Good Food Institute, Nick Cooney of Mercy for Animals. My path away from meat-eating began in 2013 when I spent time with Ethan Brown of Beyond Meat while reporting for FORTUNE. I just tried his company’s Beyond Burger; it’s really good! That said, turkey will be on our table (for now) at Thanksgiving.
The cookstove crew: Billions of extremely poor people still cook over open fires. That’s bad for them, and for the planet. But making a “clean cookstove” that they can afford to buy and will want to use is freakishly hard–far harder than I would ever have imagined. That hasn’t stopped Peter Scott of Burn, Jonathan Cedar of Biolite, Nancy Hughes of StoveTeam International and Vahid Jahangiri of Lifeline from trying. They’ve patiently answered my torrent of questions about cookstoves, as has Adam Creighton of Instove, whose emails always tell me something interesting that I didn’t know.
Reforming philanthropy: The team at GiveWell, Phil Buchanan of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Jacob Harold at Guidestar, Michael Thatcher at Charity Navigator, Mari Kuraishi at Global Giving and Dennis Whittle of Feedback Labs have taught me a lot about how to make foundations and nonprofits work better. I admire the work of Kevin Starr at the Mulago Foundation and the work that folks at Heron do. Paul Niehaus and Michael Faye at GiveDirectly are terrific.
Writers: For their books, Peter Singer and Will MacAskill, among others. [More to come in my year-end blogpost about books.] Journalists and columnists Tyler Cowen, Nick Kristof, Andrew Sullivan, Ross Douthat, David Brooks, Arthur Brooks, Paul Krugman.
Readers like you: The reason I do what I do.
And closer to home…
Quartermaine Coffee Roasters is my “satellite office,” where I do much of my writing and jabber with office mate Bob Fleshner. It’s not a newsroom, but it’s the best alternative I’ve found.
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, my spiritual community, keeps me focused on what matters and connected with good people.
My running pals, too many to name, but they include Dan, Ashish, Yvette, Vivian, Jen, Cameron and the much-missed Laura, who make Sunday mornings fun from May through October.
And especially my wife Karen Schneider, who generously supported my decision to abandon a perfectly good career writing about business to start anew in the world of foundations, nonprofits and global development. The other people around our Thanksgiving table are pretty awesome, too, so I’ll tell them that tomorrow.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, we pause before eating to read the words of Albert Einstein:
Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of other men —above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving.
Smart guy, Einstein. Thanks for reading, and have a good Thanksgiving.