Twenty years ago today I became a mother. In the blink of an eye my entire life changed. My heart grew beyond its capacity, I never knew what tired was, until that moment and somehow my re-birth began with his. They handed me this perfect little bundle and my life was forever connected to another.
That indescribable connection that threads one human being to the next. The cord is cut and yet somehow in that moment, you become another’s life anchor. The first decade blows by in a flash, as your little boat tugs and pulls but never strays too far from safe harbor. Happy to be safely moored and tethered to its anchor.
The second decade comes and the waters begin to get rough and choppy, as the storms blow in and out of adolescence. As many dark and stormy days as there are, the smooth water is just now on the horizon. Little by little you realize that it is time to untie from the mooring and watch your boat sail away. You know there are rough waters out there ahead. You see the storms before they do and yet, always, you are there as their anchor and safe harbor, no matter how far away they sail.
The moments pass from days to years to decades and yet, the anchor remains. Always there, solid, strong, waiting for the safe return of its boat to the safe harbor of home.
I wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then I realized, I am somebody.
I love this quote and I think when I reflect on the incredible women that I profiled this week, it is the perfect fit. Two women, very different who simply wanted to make the world better in any tiny way they could. There is nothing tiny about one person simply helping another. It is the ripple effect of their kindness that makes them unknown heroes.
Each of us has the capacity to do a family service project, get a group of friends together for a dinner or simply to find a small way to lift another up.
I love meeting people who want to make a difference. Every time I come into orbit of an extraordinary person who simply wants to make the world better, I am lifted up and inspired. Last week a friend of mine connected me to another quiet angel is quietly doing just that. Her name is Alexandra Dwek and she is not your average philanthropist.
Alexandra had the brilliant idea of combining the things she loved most, her friends, the causes she cares about and bringing them all together in her home. She named her concept Friends With Causes. Like most of us with busy lives, we don’t get enough time with our friends and going out for dinner or drinks with a friend or two at a time is both expensive and time-consuming. Alexandra came up with the perfect solution.
Four times a year she invites a fun group of friends, usually about 30, to a pot luck at her home. She lets guest know that there is a contribution, usually what you would spend if you went out for drinks or dinner, or whatever you are comfortable with. After a fun casual dinner, a speaker from the non-profit shares the story of their cause and a specific program that they need help with.
Alexandra finds causes that cover a variety of areas from children’s issues to veterans to health and beyond. More than that, she visits the non-profit and specifically identifies one project that her friends can complete, so friends leave knowing that their fun night out made a specific impact. Her dinners typically raise $3,000 and up per evening. More than that, they expose a non-profit to a new audience, enlighten one another, bring people together to make a difference.
As Alexandra so beautifully said quoting Mother Teresa, ” If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” She added, “Every little bit makes a difference.”
This past weekend I attended a party for an East Coast non-profit that is heading to LA, which is an unusual move in the non-profit world. There are so many things that make Project Giving Kidsunusual, and by that I mean, out of the ordinary and extraordinary. Most of that comes from the amazing founder, Molly Yuska.
I met Molly a few months back interviewing her for CM and knew instantly that she was extraordinary. Her mission is to teach, expose and connect busy families and children to fun, meaningful and age appropriate service activities. She does that by partnering with local (now LA based) non-profits that vary from Healing the Bay to Food for Free and Gotta Have Sole, just to name a few.
Molly is an uber connector but more than that she is passionate about instilling the values of compassion and kindness in her children and ours. She shared a story Saturday night that said it all. Molly told the crowd that her young children wanted to have a lemonade stand a few weeks back. Molly groaned, as they had just done one.
Molly asked her children, “What would you give the money too?”
Her child’s response was,” I don’t want to charge money, I want to give the lemonade away.”
Molly, ” Why would you have a lemonade stand for free?”
Her daughter’s answer,” To spread love and kindness.”
That is exactly what Molly is doing, spreading love and kindness. Two things that world can never have enough of. So welcome to Los Angeles Project Giving Kids! Thank you for bringing all of us more love and kindness.
A few months back my sister-in-law emailed me to tell me about a conversation she had with her childhood friend, Valerie. who was starting a foundation. In 2011, Valerie received some extremely sad news that her then, seemingly healthy 5-year-old son was in fact, not healthy and was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. What began with sore leg muscles was in fact a disease that is the most common fatal, genetic childhood disorder, which affects approximately one out of 3500 boys each year and has no cure.
Valerie and her husband Jorge were told that most Duchenne boys are diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 5 and are in a wheelchair between 10-12 years old. The disease is associated with respiratory failure, heart failure, and debilitating orthopedic complications. Up until just few years ago – upon a diagnosis of Duchenne, neurologists offered no hope for the families and told them just go home and love their boys as long as possible. Most Duchenne boys die in their late teens and twenties. The worst of all there has never been a survivor.
However, after grieving and processing this incredible news The Llauro Family decided to get to work in search of a cure. After learning about some breakthrough treatment drugs that are being developed which may be available soon, they decided to create the WalkingStrong Foundation to dramatically increase Duchenne awareness and support scientists in funding their research.
They said, “We are determined and hopeful that our son, Alexander, continues WALKING STRONG. We founded Walking Strong to solidify our determination and commitment in making our son and other Duchenne boys – the first ever survivors. Duchenne parents are living on a time clock. As most parents make plans and look forward to their children’s future, Duchenne parents, fear the future. We fear what lies ahead for our boys. The time is now, for breakthrough treatments for these boys
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
I am always planning ahead, it is a blessing and a curse. It makes everything move forward and yet, I often miss the very things that are right in front of me, because I am moving at mach speed. The last few days I have very purposely slowed down….it has been amazing, the beautiful gifts that were right in front of me and the abundance of joy captured. My son catching a fish, a run with my children, a smile from my husband and our grown children jumping on our bed.
Nothing extraordinary but all magnificent, and as I write this I wonder what else have I missed? Since I never look back and only ahead, I am trying to redirect my gaze….remembering to focus on the beauty that is right in front of me.
“Life is a great and wonderous mystery, and the only thing we know that we have for sure is what is right here and right now. Don’t miss it.”
Life has been full these past few months with no rest for the weary. So, I am taking some of my own advice and enjoying some much-needed time off. My oldest is home from college and we are months away from our second son leaving the nest, which seemed like the perfect excuse for a mini vacation.
What is here and now for me is my family and those precious moments of all of us together. What is right here and now for you? Whatever it is I’m sure you don’t want to miss it!
Forgive me if I sound a little bit like a broken record these past few weeks but when signs continue to re-occur, I feel compelled to address them. Each week I write about giving…giving of time, talent or treasure, as they say….but over and over I keep hearing that many of us are empty….and like the giving tree there is simply nothing left to give.
You are not alone. This past fall I had some health issues….the final diagnosis was stress, overload, exhaustion. I had given beyond what I had to give…to my job, the many causes I support, board commitments, Charity Matters and of course our daily commitments to family, friends and the list goes on….mine, I’m sure, is no different from yours.
Did this trigger a radical shift? Sadly, no…radical isn’t in my DNA, but it did cause a slow transition. Have I slowed down? Not really, but what I am doing is recognizing the danger signs and giving myself permission to take a day off, permission to do things that make me happy, fill me with joy and fill my soul.
Of course I want to do it all, give to all , I have to give to myself, in order to give to all of those I so deeply want to help. Tomorrow, I will practice my husbands favorite slogan, “Charity starts at home.”
“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”
March is a crazy time of year for me and my family. All three of our sons celebrate March birthdays, it is a busy work time for my business and basically the NBA so got it right in calling it March Madness. So as I burn the candle at both ends and the tank begins to run very low, it is approaching time to refill.
I simply don’t know how to slow down, but I can step away for a few days, enjoy the gift of family and the precious days together. Then as Hemingway so eloquently stated, I can ensure that,” I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there.”
” How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment. We can start now, start slowly, changing the world. How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make a contribution toward introducing justice straightaway. And you can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness.”
As I wrapped up the week talking about amazing teenagers and young people, Anne Frank’s words from decades ago, are as relevant as ever. Teenagers, regardless of the century or decade they are from inspire hope.
As Anne Frank so wisely said, “You can always give something, even if its only kindness!”
Teenagers get a bad wrap. I love working with teenagers. They are energetic, creative, passionate, full of life and eager to learn and give. The teenagers that I have the privilege of working with, are what I love most about my job. If they believe they can accomplish something, they can.
I recently came across an amazing story about a 12-year-old who wanted to work for a non-profit and was rejected multiple times. Her solution? To start her own non-profit organization and one that was powered by kids for kids. Her name is Simone Bernstein and in 2009 she did just that. She created a non-profit database where middle and high school students across the country can find volunteer opportunities in their neighborhoods, called VolunTEEN Nation.
Today, Simone is 22 and a Fulbright scholar at the University of Toronto. VolunTEEN Nation, which started in St. Louis is currently nationwide and has connected over 78,500 volunteers and funded more than 500 grants and service projects, since its inception. Simone and her brother Jake, plan to take VolunTEEN nation worldwide next year. As Simone said, “I realized that many people fail to understand that youth can make adifference.”
As someone who works with our youth, I couldn’t agree more.
“You can work miracles by having faith in others. By choosing to think and believe the best about people, you are able to bring out the best in them.”
These past few weeks have been very busy with my day job of running a non-profit leadership organization. Just when I think, I simply have no more to give, these smiling amazing faces fill my soul and give me such hope for our future.
The beauty of what I do is watching high school students teach leadership to middle school students. You remember those awkward years when you wanted to be anyone but yourself.? The past few weeks I have had the privilege of watching hundreds of high school students teach and more importantly believe in these middle schoolers…..the result is the confident, smiling faces above.
When you believe in someone, you bring out the best in them. George Michael may have gotten one thing right in the 80’s…you gotta have faith.