While visiting home this weekend, I noticed my grandmother reading an essay by Matt Damon in a free newspaper insert by Parade magazine. My first thought was how Damon is practically everywhere at the moment — Entourage, Clinton Global Initiative, Esquire, etc. And the really wonderful thing about all of these appearances is that they all are for the benefit of charity in some shape or form. Even the actor’s NYC premiere of his latest movie The Informant! helped raise money for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
We are truly seeing the rise of one of Hollywood’s greatest philanthropic leaders.
With his Parade article, Damon touched upon the act of giving, lessons learned from childhood, and how poor nations are struggling to cope with the demand for clean, fresh water. A bit of his words are below:
When I was a boy, my mom had a magnet on the refrigerator with a little picture of Gandhi along with a quote from him. It said: “No matter how insignificant what you do may seem, it is important that you do it.” As a child, I was raised to believe that, and to this day I do my best to live it.
Nowadays, sentimental magnetized credos have gone the way of nostalgia, and technology has forever changed the way younger generations communicate. But those are still really good words to live by.
I got an allowance of $5 a week when I was a kid, but I never spent much money on anything. My mother was involved in all sorts of causes, and when I was about 12, I started sending a little bit every month to one of them. I learned then that you find one thing that matters to you, and it changes your whole mind-set.
Here’s something that matters to me right now. Every 15 seconds, a child dies because of a lack of clean water and sanitation. I should probably repeat that: Every 15 seconds, a child dies because of a lack of clean water and sanitation. A billion people on our planet will never have a clean drink of water. There are 2.5 billion people in the world without toilet facilities. That kind of deprivation isn’t even on our radar in the U.S., but in Africa it’s the central preoccupation of many people’s lives. And the most devastating thing about it is that it takes so little to change it. Just $25 will give someone clean water for life—yes, just $25 will change someone’s future forever.
I’ve taken a lot of trips in the last few years to places like Africa and India and Haiti to try to learn what conditions are like. You can read about extreme poverty and possible solutions, but it’s really powerful when you get to meet the people and shake their hands and listen to their stories. I try to keep my trips short because my kids are so young that my wife, Lucy, can’t come. We don’t like to be separated, but we both feel it’s so important to learn about these things. There’s so much I don’t know. In the future, I know these trips are something we’ll do as a family.