Over the past two years, thanks to my astute understanding of the financial markets and some incredible timing, my husband and I managed to lose a nauseatingly high percentage of the dollars we painstakingly saved during our 56 years on the planet. At the same time, I also sent my darling daughter off to college, meaning that I’ve lost (or just misplaced) my identity as a mother. And it appears that any waning desire that I harbored to score another full-time job in advertising has likewise vanished, since I am now approximately 250 in carbon-dated ad hipster years.
Are you sensing a pattern here? Yes, loss has raised its ugly head so frequently in my current life, I figure the only rational response is to roll with it. And start giving stuff away on purpose. Of course, I am also so ridiculously blessed, I should be expressing my gratitude every minute of the day … which would likewise be a step in the correct karmic direction.
Hence, Betty’s What Gives 365 project. Here’s the plan: Starting January 1, for 365 days I’m going to give $100 every day to causes, people, and organizations that I believe are doing good work and are worthy of support. And every day, I’m going to write about why I chose to give– which hopefully will inspire other people to give a few bucks of their hard-earned money, too. Or not. Whatever the outcome, I’ll at least have the deep pleasure of finding, supporting, and shining a light on 365 people, places and things that I believe are making the world a better place.
Instead of my usual obsession with the many, many things that are wrong with this crazy, jacked-up world, I’ll be focused on the upbeat & positive… which should prove to be an epic change for me and probably turn me, miraculously, (and without meditating!) into a honorary Buddhist. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll be doing penance for all the years I spent in advertising, working tirelessly to convince people to buy a whole bunch of crap they didn’t need.
So ..how will I decide who and what to give to? Here’s the really good part: It’s my money, so I am the decider. If you think I’m a boneheaded, delusional bleeding heart for my choices, don’t let it get you down. Just put your own money where your mouth is and give to an opposite cause. (Or keep bitching and let me run the world!)
In super general terms, I’m going to give to places that I have a personal connection with –if I can come up with 365 of them, and I’ll bet I can. I’ll tell you the story behind my gift in the hopes that you might be moved to support the cause, too. And occasionally if I get really tired, cranky or sick of the sound of my own voice, I might invoke a celebrity giver (like one of my sisters or brothers) and let them give away my $100 for the day.
I will try to choose organizations that will use the money effectively and wisely (I’m checking orgs out with Charity Navigator and the American Institute of Philanthropy). Beyond that, my yardstick is to give money that alleviates: a) stuff that make me want to cry: like starving kids or helpless old people; b) things that make me feel ferociously protective: like the wilderness, clean air, and our national parks; c) things that make me want to say Amen: like churches that do good works and promote peace, love & understanding; and 4) things that just make me feel good: like the arts. I’m also occasionally just going to lay a C-note on somebody who is doing a great job that I feel needs a little recognition.
Actually, this is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done – except that it’s also a daily responsibility, which is daunting because I like to play tennis, drink wine, email obsessively, and not have to answer to anybody. I’m also a technophobe so this blog might have a sketchy look for awhile. But … it’s just a year and as my mother used to say: nothing ventured, nothing gained (or in this case, nothing spent).
I’ll tweet you the names of the organizations daily if you want to follow me on that — and I’ll try to include a website of the place I’m supporting, in case you want to check it out for yourself. In the end, by December 31, 2010 hopefully I’ll have compiled a rocking list of 365 great ways to give away your money and save your soul.
p.s. This is all my money. It comes from what my dad left each one of us kids when he died, and I can’t think of a single thing my mom would have loved more than to see me giving it away to worthy causes. (However, my dad would undoubtedly say that I need to get my head examined.)
p.p.s If you want to tell me about a cause you think I should give to, please fill out the contact form (cannily listed under “Contact”on the header … or just post something on this blog!