Oseola McCarty was a washerwoman with a heart. She grew up in southern Mississippi and never finished school – in sixth grade, she quit so she could take care of an ailing aunt. Her home in Hattiesburg was humble, and she made a meager living. She never married or had children, and she walked wherever she needed to go, often pushing a cart a mile to get groceries. But before she passed away in 1999 at the age of 91, she donated $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi.
The money that Oseola had saved so diligently, dollar by dollar, went into a trust fund designated to provide scholarships for deserving students who otherwise would not be able to go to college. She wanted to create an opportunity for others to obtain the education that she was never able to get. Her example inspired both the University of Southern Mississippi and Harvard University to award her honorary degrees.
Such was the legacy of this unpretentious woman who became Dr. Oseola McCarty, philanthropist. Throughout her life she saw a greater purpose, and though she struggled, she strived to attain it. She also left a legacy gift to her church, while also providing resources to help support her niece and nephew. All of her wealth came from what she had earned by cleaning other people’s clothes – work she continued to do until arthritis forced her to stop just a few years before her death.
The charitable spirit is a relative concept. Our gifts are not measured by what others give, but by the intent in our heart. Oseola McCarty ultimately gave away 80 percent of what she had earned and saved to benefit others in ways she believed were life changing and important. “If you want to be proud of yourself,” she explained, “you have got to do things you can be proud of.”
Others might give far greater sums – but perhaps a far smaller percentage of what they have. Oseola’s example recalls the Bible story of the widow and her “mite.” She too, gave abundantly from the little she had.
It is a lesson for all of us: Even if we think our resources are limited, we may still be able to help others more than we realize. With a generous spirit, we can make a difference. And if we have been entrusted with much to steward, grow, and protect, we may be able to leverage those resources in ways we didn’t expect. We can maximize our influence on generations to come, without sacrificing our own lifetime goals and objectives.
-Excerpt from You Can Do More That Matters, Introduction
Ron Ware, J.D. and Greg Hammond, CFP®, CPA are wealth impact strategists and personal legacy advisors who help individuals, families, and business owners enhance their financial standing while discovering a greater capacity to provide for their loved ones and support cherished charities. Contact Ron or Greg.