Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy Birthday! $30,000 for Charity!

My 31st birthday just happened, and it marked another, more momentous occasion: The completion of the $30,000 mark! I'm so happy!

Since my last post, I donated some money to a scholarship fund, to a veterans benefit event, took dinner to the shelter again, and spent out all my contract earnings on Donor's Choose projects. And I got a bunch of support from my family for my 5K next weekend in support of the Misha Rivkin Center. I got to spend part of the weekend picking Donor's Choose projects, which is always fun, which meant I spent part of my birthday getting messages from teachers. I'm not ashamed to admit that I found a bunch of mostly complete projects to fund, so I could get the joyful notes from teachers.
"YAHOO! I am thrilled beyond words that this project has been funded!" 
"I received news this morning that our Magnificent Mindstorms project has been fully funded! I am so grateful. The kids will be so excited to come back to school and begin working on their robotics project with these new materials."
"I am speechless and I can assure you that NEVER HAPPENS!"
This is one of the big things that I have learned in the last year.  Charitable giving is not completely selfless, and it's ok to be a little selfish for the greater good (ie, wanting to get the awesome feeling of helping someone out). In fact, that's pretty much required to get any kind of momentum, either from giving money or time.

I have also learned to think differently about what it means to live generously. I have been practicing thinking about myself as part of a larger community, not just my own family and friends, but the city I live in, the regions we love, and the people who live there. I want to see my family lead joyful lives. I want to live in a city where everyone has a chance to thrive- and that means giving opportunities and support to organizations and missions that perhaps don't directly impact me. This is why I have supported the Puget Sound Blood Center and the Friends of Youth. I have not (yet) needed blood, but I want to live in a region where we don't have to worry about that need. I was never a homeless youth (because I was lucky to have an amazing family), but I don't want homeless youth in my community to miss out on the opportunity for a wonderful life. I really feel that I benefit from the services of nonprofits in my area, and that it is one of the things that makes this region great. Getting to work with HiveBio is really what helped me shape that idea. HiveBio's mission is to bring science to everyone and anyone in our region- and the more I worked with them, the more I realized how happy I am living in a community where everyone and anyone can access science.

It's been really empowering to see how I could make a change in my own community too. I should say, I was WAY too shy to talk about this effort with any of the organizations I worked with, or to solicit support very broadly for this. Instead, the $30,000 up on the thermometer is mostly the work of my family and close friends, chipping away at what sounded like a crazy goal. In that time, my mother and grandmother taught me to cook for 30 people, I built a science education program out of what used to be some boxes in a closet in a warehouse,  my friends got me running lots of 5Ks, my dad donated so much blood the blood center is practically on his speed dial, Donor's Choose reports I have helped 966 kids, my parents started supporting an orphanage in Africa, and most of my family has either given or received charitable donations for birthdays and Christmas. Once we got into the swing of it, the dollars just ticked away. There were hurdles, of course: I lost my job, I lost confidence in how I could reach this goal, at various times I lost focus on the effort. Making a habit of volunteering and the encouragement of my family seemed to provide enough momentum to pull me through. I am really grateful to the friends and family (all of you) that pitched in along the way- despite the fact that the elevator pitch is terrible, and that I often just felt like I was asking for money. And I hope they are happy too- I mean, look at all the cool things we accomplished!

When I first started this project, my dad teased that he would help out this year, but $31,000 is too much for the next year. I have been thinking about how I would follow-up this project. I have found organizations I want to continue to support because they bring me so much joy. I have also learned that volunteering is a really great way for me to feel connected to my community, regardless of whether I meet many people while doing it, so I hope to continue that effort. Mostly, I want to continue to live generously and remain connected to my community, even as my community changes (when I lose my job again in December) and the things I can give change. I want to know that some of the goodness in the world is because of, and for, me.