Much of my life has been dedicated to selfish pursuits.
Gambling. Making money. Pursuing opportunity. Drinking fine wine. Enjoying leisure.
I don’t like to admit this, but it’s true.
Age and wisdom aren’t necessarily linked. There are no guarantees that as one gets further from the beginning and closer to the end some great enlightenment awaits us with open arms. But I do believe compassion is an evolutionary by-product of getting older.
I was lucky to marry someone better than myself 26 years ago. She made me do things I initially didn’t want to do and didn’t like to do. Over time, I came to not only appreciate these forced distractions. I began to value them as an absolute necessity.
Charity isn’t something I’ve written much about. I don’t believe giving of either one’s time or money should be publicized by those who do good deeds. Calling attention to oneself for volunteering or making a donation strikes me as a tainted benevolence. Yes, it’s a good thing. But the motives are suspect. I realize not everyone will agree with me and that spotlighting acts of kindness can promote even more giving. I totally get that.
With that disclaimer, I’ll share two deeds with you now — one big and one small.
The bigger act of charity was entirely Marieta’s idea. It was an accident, really. I can’t elaborate too much on the particulars because there are some risks. If too many details were divulged on social media, I could kill the golden goose of charity. So, I will be intentionally vague for reasons hopefully understood.
Last week, Marieta and I delivered our 150th shipment of produce (fruits and vegetables) to those less fortunate here in Las Vegas. Sometime in 2012, Marieta established a connection with a supplier who was about to throw out boxes filled with “old” food — like carrots, corn, potatoes, celery, etc. — which were about to expire. By law, they had to trash the stuff before its expiration dates. Rather than toss away perfectly healthy food, Marieta went out of her way to establish a network of contacts which got the fruits and vegetables to a countless number of needy families, including a local shelter. About once a week, we deliver 6-10 boxes to various people who do good work for hungry people. Sometimes, the people come to our house and pick the boxes up after Marieta has gathered them. This isn’t a sacrifice for me. Marieta does all the work.
Before anyone accuses me of false modesty, let me make it clear my generosity has its limitations. A few years ago, I wrote about my dear friends Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher and the sacrifices they make during the holidays. Every Christmas morning, going back many consecutive years, Linda and Jan drive downtown and set up a table where they give away boxes of clothing to homeless people. They arrive at 6 am. This past Christmas, it was 34 degrees outside at that hour. My reaction is — I love Linda and Jan and love what they do. But I’d rather be at home in a warm bed. Call me a dog.
I tell this story about giving away the boxes of food because it happened entirely by accident. We didn’t wake up one day and decide to start helping people. It kinda’ just happened.
Here’s a picture of the back of the car I took some time ago which shows the typical “shipment.”
The smaller act of charity was also an accident. Here’s what happened.
I woke up yesterday morning and was greeted by one of those annoying pop ups on Facebook which asked me if I wanted to set up something called a “birthday fundraiser.”
I almost deleted this on the spot but then got to thinking. Birthdays don’t thrill me (not with #56 approaching). I don’t send birthday greetings to anyone. It’s just another day to me. I don’t care.
However, every February 6th — I receive hundreds of birthday wishes, all by friends and family and associates who mean well. I do appreciate these kind thoughts. I really do. I just don’t fancy the ritual and routine of it all. If I could delete this invasion of privacy, I probably would.
So, I decided to use the Facebook prompt and set up a “fundraiser.” I presumed that in lieu of the usual birthday balloons which kinda’ scream — “hey, look at me!” — instead all that attention would go to the charity I picked.
I’m a cynic. I’ve bashed countless “charities.” I am suspicious by nature. But another accident happened to me about 15 years ago while I was working a major poker event in Tunica, near Memphis. I got to visit the local St. Jude Children’s Hospital. That was a life changing experience that brings a tear to my eye as I write this sentence constructed upon that faint memory of a cold January 2001 day. I learned that everything at St. Jude is free. The children are given every available treatment. The families are even housed free of charge. Meals are provided. This was the charity founded by the great entertainer Danny Thomas, now chaired by his daughter, Marlo Thomas (best known as “That Girl!”). I don’t believe in god. I don’t believe in saints. But I believe St. Jude does god-like miracles for people who could sure use a miracle.
That’s why I picked St. Jude. [Note: Contrary to its name and the late Danny Thomas’ strong Catholic faith, St. Jude is not affiliated with any religious organization.]
So, I hit the “approve” button and expected the post to appear on February 6th.
Well, of course it hit the page instantly.
Annoyed by this, I tried to go back and delete it. How ridiculous this all seemed. Me posting a request for money nearly two weeks before my birthday. I was mad, actually.
Then, before I could delete the page, I noticed someone had already hit the link and sent in $20. John W. L. Berry might not know it, but his quick reflexes was another “accident” of good fortune. Oh well, cat’s out of the bag. They are already donating. What have I done?
I set the fundraising bar modestly low. Not wanting to making some major campaign out of this, I figured a couple of hundred dollars would be a nice nest egg of a donation — each and every penny going straight to St. Jude. Well, it’s been 24 hours now, and so far 14 nice people have made a donation. Here’s the very thoughtful people who sent a donation in to St. Jude:
Earl Burton, Ken Kubey, Marissa Chien, Larry Greenfield, Tom Booker, Michael Hunter, Matthew Moring, John W.L. Berry, John Butremovic, Bruce Frank, Dave Tuley, Jennifer Winter, Brad Willis, and Ross Poppel
The $200 fundraising goal was obliterated within the first hour. Now, another 11 days remain to raise a few extra dollars. Every little bit counts. See the link to the “accidental” Facebook page below.
This all got me to thinking about what the sum of $200 raised means to just one family at St. Jude. It likely means housing and feeding them for a day, with a little left over to spare. Just a day. It’s small. But’s it big.
Sure, we need more big acts of charity. But we also need small acts of charity, which are easier and can be done with little or no sacrifice. A parting thought — if there are enough small acts, it can even become a big act.
Here’s a link to the the accidental Facebook page I created should you wish to give a small donation to this wonderful charity that helps so many children and their families. CLICK HERE