Saturday, November 22, 2014

EXTRAordinary Giving

 Yesterday was "The Extraordinary Give" in Lancaster.  If you've never heard of such a thing, it's twenty-four hours of a light shining on the needs of local nonprofits, and opportunities for support that is initiated and managed by the local Lancaster Foundation, who offered $250,000 in prizes awarded throughout the day to motivate people to support causes of personal interest or passion.  
For the last three years, the giving has been crazy.  

In 2012, 1.6 million dollars was raised.  Yesterday, the final total was $4,474,027 by midnight, with more than 31,000 contributors.  Folks, Lancaster County is not just about the kind, gentle Amish population.  It's a community of gratitude.  Gratitude for the work that non-profits do, and gratitude for the ability to give back and support and improve the community in which we live.

The Extraordinary Give is a pre-Thanksgiving tradition, happening the Friday prior.  If you look closely at the photo above, you'll see my daughter-in-law, Jennie, who works for Water Street Ministries as their grant-writer.  She's the tiny person in the green sweatshirt, who has a heart bigger than her small stature.  Her enthusiasm, online presence on social media, and other support attempts made WSM the top recipient yesterday, with donations totaling $195,231.   
 

Te@chthought Blog Challenge of the day:

Nov 22 What are your family traditions you are most grateful for?

You may be wondering the reason for that commercial for something that happened yesterday.  Clearly, I am not saying that soliciting donations is a family tradition -- and certainly such an effort would not compare to Grammy's cranberry/applesauce or the annual tromping to the local tree lot for a Christmas tree worthy to stand in our living room, all the while mocking and searching for the very worst tree on the lot.  Yet, celebrating generosity was certainly evident yesterday as Jennie, and many in the Lancaster community, watched and dreamed of the possibilities for the next year as the tally board grew.

My family, slowly and quietly, has become involved.  They've found their own paths and do so without seeking recognition.  It's a tradition that goes back many generations, and not one that my husband and I have ever told our kids to do  - it has just happened.

"We're going to be doing the Walk for Alzheimer's that day", "I have a Tommy Foundation meeting". "I'll be sleeping in a tent/conversion van that night" (to raise money and awareness for Homes of Hope).  There are children supported through Compassion and World Vision in our lives, scholarships and educational foundations that we support, and many meetings we attend serving on various committees.  Our kids have crawled under bridges in Atlanta to talk to the homeless, have done demolition and rebuilding projects in West Virginia, and used their talents to produce videos for projects in which they believe.

Oh, and the Matriarch of Generosity encourages this involvement through her own actions. My mother has been involved in community support and giving as long as I can remember.  We have pictures of her speaking at the dedication of a community garden in memory of Martin Luther King that she worked on to help to heal and bring together the people of our town after his assassination, which is probably my earliest memory of her volunteerism.  Her specific philanthropic and volunteer efforts are far too numerous to mention, but it is evident to me that her actions have produced a tradition of generosity for future generations.

This past summer, her tax situation changed and she found herself with "extra money."

So she wrote letters.  A heartfelt letter to each of her grandchildren, outlining what she appreciated most about them.  She included a check, and asked that they tithe off of that gift and report back at some point.  Over the course of the next few months, I got tearful, "I am so proud...." updates as each of my kids chose their own areas to support.  (An underprivileged family in Chicago has winter coats, children in Harrisburg went back to school with new clothes, shoes and backpacks, and ALS had one less bucket of water wasted).

My mother celebrates accomplishment and generosity.  It has become a family tradition.
As has the coveted "center space" on the shelf of pictures of grandchildren in her living room.

This week, I received a cc of an email sent to my eldest son from his grandmother after the publication of an article for work:

Scott – I can’t tell you how impressed I am! Well, actually, I can.

I am SO IMPRESSED by your professional writing that I have moved your picture on my grandchildren shelf to the center space. I am cc-ing Juliette, whose picture replaced Sarah’s when she took care of (her severely disabled brother)  this summer, then got elected to president of student council, and – finally – was named Homecoming Queen. Her reign has been long and justly deserved, but it’s your turn now!

Love,
UmMom

PS On second thought, I’m cc-ing all grandchildren in hopeful anticipation of re-energized competition for center space!

Scott's response:

I would like to thank everyone who made this possible... and to all other relatives in pursuit of the prestige of the Center Space.... BRING IT ON!

Clearly our family doesn't take itself too seriously.  And that's exactly the way it should be in this season of gratitude -- and every other season.  Because, for our family, our tradition is one of service.