Being Young and On the Front in the Nonprofit Sector

On August 5, 2009, the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal held a panel discussion centered around a story. In Henri Barbusse’s 1918 short story “The Eleventh,” a young administrator at a luxurious high-end sanitarium is given with its most honored charitable duty, admitting ten and only ten “vagabonds” off the streets to enjoy its lavish accommodations for thirty days. He must turn the eleventh away. Is this task charitable at all, or is it part of some “evil deed,” the young man asks himself. What is it like to be young and on the front in the nonprofit sector? What should this young man do? The inestimable Amy Kass, in whose anthology of philanthropic readings Barbusse’s story is included, invited me to contribute, and what follows are my remarks.

There is a reading of this story that is trying to get through the moral blocks that Barbusse puts on it. He presents us with a striking tale of an odious task: turning down requests for aid from exceedingly needy people. With a few exceptions, these supplicants have lost even their dignity as they implore the young man’s aid. Continue reading “Being Young and On the Front in the Nonprofit Sector”

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