Even during the difficult economic times, the charitable impulse remains alive and well among many Americans. I have been struck by a number of recent stories about how “regular people” have used traditional rites of passage as a way to honor the transition while thinking of others.
The other day, I picked up Woman’s Day. As I flipped through the pages, I noticed a brief essay in the front section about how one reader celebrated the usually-dreaded 40th birthday: she asked her friends to make a donation to charity, rather than showering her with gifts. The proceeds went to one of her favorite women’s charities. Similarly, a professional colleague of mine, John Crossman, launched a formal “drive” for his 40th birthday. His gifts went to support scholarships at his beloved alma maters, the University of Florida and Florida State University.
Thankfully, this trend has even taken hold among some generous young people. The Baltimore Sun reported just last month about a young man in Maryland, Alexander Hill, who used the money he received at his Bar Mitzvah a few years before to make a donation to a a charity he embraced—Habitat for Humanity. The 16 year-old contributed an astounding $40,000!
I must confess that I participated in one of these ventures long ago, at my wedding. My ex-husband and I, although in our 20s, had both lost mothers to devastating diseases…his mother succumb to Alzheimer’s Disease, while my own mother died many years before after a devastating battle with Multiple Sclerosis. Although we were certainly not people of means (I was in graduate school and he had a history job with New York State), we asked our wedding guests to donate to the national charities established to fight these diseases. Although we never received china or toasters, we left the experience feeling like our gifts really accomplished what we hoped for on that day—a celebration of the love that existed then and a tangible way to honor the women who brought us into the world.