Good in the World: Alan Naiman


Sometimes it makes a big splash in the tabloids when a celebrity takes up a cause. Or perhaps a philanthropist’s generosity catches our attention by launching a foundation that could very well change the world. But to do good, some folks prefer to fly under the radar, and that’s how you could describe a guy like Alan Naiman.

Naiman was a social worker for two decades before he passed away after a battle with cancer at age sixty-three. He spent his days helping children who couldn’t help themselves, but behind the scenes, he was preparing to make a final statement that would shock his friends, coworkers, and family.   

Alan wasn’t poor; he made about sixty-thousand dollars per year over the two-decade stretch on the job. He had also inherited some money when his parents passed away and invested wisely. Despite that security, Alan dressed humbly, drove older, run-down cars, and seldom allowed himself any extravagances. It puzzled some folks around him, but in the end, that was just Alan.  

Then came the cancer diagnosis, a life event that could have sent Alan on a “bucket list” trip. He’d always dreamed of traveling more, and plenty of us would be tempted to use our life’s earnings to spark some joy for ourselves while we still could.

But not Alan. He spent his final days finding charities that helped kids in all types of difficulties, especially focusing on worthy foundations in his native Washington that were underfunded. Then, as his final act, he surprised them with the types of donations that really make a difference.   

In all, Alan donated over ten-million dollars to a range of charities, from his parent’s local church, to Disabled American Veterans, but his focus in the end was on helping kids, just as it had been for the last twenty years of his life.

It was the exclamation point of a life spent focusing on the wellbeing of others, instead of his own. Alan Naiman knew one simple truth — helping others is the surest way to lead a most excellent life.


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