I have been thinking a lot lately about how I am a much better person because of the company I keep.
On her tv show, Ellen DeGeneres is giving away “Stimulus” money for people in tough times right now and as I nominated my friend Nikki, I had trouble describing her deservedness within the maximum allotted word count- Olympic athlete who advocates for Right to Play and Team Darfur, fundraiser for DV victims, humanitarian work in Sri Lanka and Kenya, public interest immigration lawyer helping victims of discrimination abroad gain asylum into the U.S… I mean, how was I even supposed to work in her magnificent height?!
And there is Mira who runs the Virginia chapter of a national nonprofit fighting for the rights and awareness of people with mental health issues; Meredith who ran a post 9/11 nonprofit and now raises money for the Y; John creating an online and real-life forum for arts and culture education; Mike, Kate, Tosha, Matt and their Peace Corps service; my Americorps and Teach for America friends; Mike running for office in Virginia while Jonathan already serves the state of New York; Kate and Abbie who spends their days navigating the complex heartbreaks of children who come from less-than-desirable homes; Margaret who tuned me in to PTSD; Kaya the budding environmentalist; Joe ministering to every kind of pain and hope; the art chasers at any cost and the many friends who spend their out of work hours raising money for charities by running marathons, tris, doing walkathons or planning elaborate events, writing checks and the hundreds of things I don’t even know about that the people in my circle do every day to make someone else’s life better.
My family also makes me a doer and a giver by association. Dad and Michele who spend an inordinate amount of time guiding their Little Brother and Little Sisters to a more hopeful life, while Michele also trained to be a court advocate for children. Micah who is on his fourth year running a golf tournament with all funds going to Big Brothers/Big Sisters. And mom… when she’s not trying to sell a house or plan a trip, she is inevitably off somewhere volunteering with at-risk pregnant teens, forming and selling dating companies and writing books with friends about women living their best lives after 50.
Also in perfect time for the things many of us will think about this Mother’s Day, Laura has just released her children’s book six years in the making: Free to Dream. Laura was our neighbor in Brooklyn and gave us our dream wedding in Jamaica with her ukulele skills and voice. I knew she was working on this book, but the result has blown me away. I think you’ll want to pick up a copy yourself- for a young person you know or just as a reminder to yourself that we tell kids they can be anything they want to be. I still believe in that concept and so there is hope for me that I will one day join the ranks of the people in my life that choose to serve and improve, over amassing wealth. In the meantime, if you have a kid in the next few decades, you know what I am giving as a present.