By Kristi Howard-Shultz
Shakeela Hassan, professor emeritus of anesthesiology and critical care at the University of Chicago, has made a lifelong commitment to promoting peaceful coexistence and understanding among different faith communities.
In 1999, at the age of 66, Hassan left her work and position at the University of Chicago Hospitals and turned to documentary films as a catalyst for unity and interfaith understanding. Her grassroots fundraising effort for the PBS documentary, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, made its National PBS broadcast debut in 2002.
In partnership with noted journalist Bill Kurtis, Hassan’s Harran Productions Foundation is now producing The Sounds of Faith, a three-part series exploring the connections between the sacred sounds and music of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam for a National PBS broadcast.
I recently sat down with Hassan and talked about how she came to value philanthropy as a human right. She shares her reflections below.
My Montessori education is with me every day. When I see graduated learning toys such as colored shapes and size blocks, I am reminded of the message: they are all the same everywhere in the world. Whether made of wood or plastic or in different shades and languages, the building blocks of universality are humankind. This is the first experiential learning experience for all of us.
What we see, hear, and experience as humans, at any age, and how we process and share the impact, its value and its magnificence is simplicity. It’s sound, rhythm, and movement. We must harmonize; be human and practice human values consciously. This starts early and continues our lifelong curiosity.
The nature of being human is inundated with curiosity, wonder, and conflict. Learning to value human life—not just one’s own but of all others. Knowing that each human has a potential, dignity, and curious imagination, an ability to dream—this is their potential for our collected, united hope for human rights.
I had no idea that I personally could be referred to as a philanthropist. Dear Dr. William Enright, when he invited me to join the advisory board of Lake Institute of Faith and Giving, I felt honored but I didn’t feel qualified. I am not an academic. I was to be at the table with new ideas and evolving shared human interests to learn from each other through experience.
And I have learned so much! About experiential learning and not ever forgetting what one learns from his or her own travels, trails, and threads. My late husband, M. Zia Hassan, would smile and say, “Life is a journey of perpetual quality improvement.”
This conversation itself is an example of connection, communication, commitment, coming together, and having the courage to admit how philanthropy seems to be a human need.
Never has just one person been responsible for the achieved result. Many have been involved in participation and shared ideas all go into the pot. Money and resources are crucial. They provide the resources and energy that propel ideas forward and, on the ground, teams achieve results. Shared values that enriched humanity at large.
Every donor has a hope, a focus, a vision, that resources provided will bear results. To enrich, excite, and energize this process collectively is to be nurtured. We are universally bound to be better together for all that is good. Philanthropy is the strongest possible mindset to make these dreams come true. The human spirit will continue to ensure philanthropy as a prospect for progress.
At the core
My eyes and being are in pure ecstasy to share how human it is to not only give but receive. It’s a shared need and shared alleviation of the need.
A term that is very important in my mind and heart is “homeostasis.” As a physician, one requires an understanding and commitment to the very idea of balance in the workings of all five systems of the body.
How does that relate to philanthropy? Just like diverse humans coming to grips with the idea of how much more we have in common and share values and practices and of just being human than we have as differences and diversities. It is humanizing to be involved with philanthropy!
Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death. The basic rights are shared values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect, and independence.
These values are defined and protected by law. Human rights are like armor—they protect you. They are like rules because they tell you how you can behave; and they are like judges, because you can appeal to them. They are abstract like emotions; and like emotions, they belong to everyone, and they exist no matter what happens. They are like nature because they can be violated; and like the spirit because they cannot be destroyed.
Like time, they treat us all in the same way—rich and poor, old and young, tall and short. Like goodness, truth, and justice, we may sometimes disagree about their definition, but we recognize them when we see them.
It is our human right to foster philanthropy as part and parcel of our life as one and being in service to God: we must serve one another. Philanthropy is the act of caring, compassionately and in comfort as human machines—singing, dancing, and moving forward to embrace and enlighten.
My faith has taught me the value of perpetual philanthropy. You educate a human; he or she educates as they have been taught via experiential learning; others explore experiential learning for his/her children and communities, and philanthropy continues.
Philanthropy jumps across the horizon. People, organizations, synagogues, churches, mosques and all other faith groups and communities. It is a human right and is part of being human.
“It is profound and duty-bound
Philanthropy is a human right
As soon as one grasps the meaning
Its treasured and measured value gets found
Spontaneous, heartfelt and spiritually sound
It is all it is supposed to be
Of course, it is philanthropy
Owned by one and all and more”
Kristi Howard Shultz, founder of Kristi Howard-Shultz Consulting, is a nonprofit executive that leads with head and heart. With 20+ years of experience working for nonprofits including nationally-known, time-tested institutions like The Boy Scouts of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Boys & Girls Clubs, she has worked in nearly every capacity of fundraising throughout her career. She has a proven track record of success in board and fund development, campaign management, and capacity building. She has built a strong reputation within the community and is sought after for her industry expertise and thought leadership. Kristi is a natural relationship builder who loves to put plans into action. Championing “firsts” for organizations is her specialty.