In this course, we will read works that explore the varied ways that American writers and thinkers have considered and portrayed notions of charity and public service. At the same time, we will reflect upon our own experiences and ideas and consider how they reflect or diverge from broader cultural trends. We will also speak with leaders from area non-profits about the challenges facing our communities, the process of allocating limited resources to meet pressing needs, and the experience of leading a charitable organization in a competitive and difficult economic climate. These conversations will aid us as we make decisions as a class regarding how to distribute $10,000 to local agencies, a gift made possible by generous support from the Learning by Giving program. When the course is completed, we will have taken an intellectual journey from the American colonies to present-day Valparaiso, one in which we will hopefully learn as much about our own feelings concerning philanthropy as we do about the texts and ideas that we study.