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Lesson #3: Give Something Back
“We have a responsibility to help others who can’t help themselves,” said Thomas. “The more you give, the more you get in return.”
Thomas believed that everyone, whether a businessman or not, had a duty to give back to their community. It didn’t matter how much wealth one had; Thomas believed that the true measure of success was in relation to how much of a contribution one made to the world and the people around them. While he never aspired to be a millionaire, Thomas understood that profit was not a dirty word, nor was it bad to take pride in his success, for profit meant growth and opportunities and allowed Thomas the chance to share that success with his community.
“Share your success and help others succeed,” said Thomas. “Give everyone a chance to have a piece of the pie. If the pie's not big enough, make a bigger pie.” Thomas knew that if it weren’t for much help along the way, he never would have succeeded to the extent that he did. Thus, he felt compelled to help others experience the same opportunity. Whether wealthy or not, Thomas believed that it was everyone’s duty to help someone less fortunate than oneself.
“Giving back is the right thing to do,” said Thomas. “If you can provide financial support to community groups, do that. If you can only afford to give your time and energy, that's just as important. When you give back, you get something important in return – the knowledge you've made a positive change in the community and lent a hand to someone in need.”
It is for this reason that Thomas used his popularity and fame to draw attention to the cause that was nearest and dearest to his heart – adoption. Having personally experienced the ups and downs of being an adopted child, Thomas felt a connection with those other children waiting in foster care. “Every child deserves a permanent home and loving family,” he said. He thus established the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and also headed the White House Initiative, Adoption Works…for Everyone. In addition to the time and resources he put into making the process easier and more affordable for parents, Thomas greatly helped improve the image of adoption in the public’s eye. “If just one foster child is adopted, all of our work has been worth it,” he said of his efforts.
Thomas also created the Thomas Center at Duke University, the Enterprise Ambassador Program at Nova University and the I. Lorraine Thomas Home in Ft. Lauderdale. Thomas wasn’t interested in creating a legacy or doing things solely to be remembered for later on. “If I’m dead, why would I care about it anyway?” he asked. He simply wanted to use what resources he could to give back to others both because he felt he needed to, but more importantly, because he wanted to.
“Everyone, at any age, should be involved in their communities,” Thomas said. “Giving back doesn't just mean financial support...it's also an investment of time and energy. By supporting our communities, we are making them a better place to live.”
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