The Importance of Character


Recently, Laity Lodge hosted a retreat with Philanthropy Roundtable, a national organization that advises foundations and donors from around the country. This particular retreat was focused on character formation.

Our guests that weekend were quite diverse—politically, socio-economically, and spiritually. Only two people had been to the Canyon before, and the participants came from all walks of life. One man had been imprisoned numerous times. Now, he helps other ex-convicts build life-skills and develop honesty, integrity, and self-respect. In the same room, in conversation with this man was a woman whose family foundation is one of the largest in the country. All walks of life!

At the end of the retreat, just like always, Laity Lodge carved out time for people to share. They mentioned the essential elements that have made Laity Lodge a special place for almost 60 years. The beauty, the cadence, break from technology, art, music, and of course, the setting that allows relationships to flourish.

This gathering was unusual for Laity Lodge because it focused more on developing our strategic relationships and less on theology, more on character formation in general and less on Scripture and prayer. Even so, the entire event was a kind of living prayer for the people who joined us—and, I believe, for our country, too.

The state of our society was top of mind, especially the judgmental dismissiveness we witness around us. It surfaced in many conversations at the retreat. We gathered purposefully because we are concerned that so many institutions, organizations, and individuals seem to have lost their guiding compass. The organizers wanted a diverse group of minds to focus on how philanthropists can use their influence to reposition the importance of character in all of society’s institutions.

Philanthropy Roundtable has sponsored events like this for many years in some of the most well-known locations around the country. As our time ended, the Roundtable president said to me that Laity Lodge is especially unique. “Really?” I asked, a little skeptical. But he confirmed his sense that Laity Lodge had created an exceptional space for significant dialogue. We had provided hospitality that removed barriers and helped people find common ground quickly.

On the drive home, Deborah and I reviewed the weekend. There had been some powerful names in philanthropy at the retreat representing an array of views. Deborah reflected, “It’s always been gratifying to see Laity Lodge guests form deep and meaningful relationships so quickly. Mom and Dad would be thrilled that we continue to partner with people of national influence.”

As we broaden and deepen the work of the Foundation over the next ten years, it’s a joy for us to cultivate spiritual formation with groups from all walks of life.

More from this issue

William Macedo

Echo Valley’s resident trilingual maintenance expert—and former university biochemistry instructor—mostly just loves Jesus and people.

There’s a Fire on the Mountain

Since 2015, Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Bill Armstrong has led formal prescribed burns every year.

A Week in the Life of Outdoor School

Follow the Outdoor School staff through a typical week in the Canyon.

Adults-Only Foundation Camp

Meet Vincent and Mary. After overcoming difficulty of their own, they now help others at their annual marriage retreats through the Foundation Camp program.