Archive for October, 2011

3 Reasons Why I’m Sponsoring a Child in Brazil

Flying back from my brother’s home in September was emotional. He was 4 weeks (out of 6) into intensive chemo and radiation, confused, weak, and scared about the future. His wife and I were working around the clock to care for him–and his two kids who were just starting kindergarten and pre-school.

It was hard to leave at that moment, especially to return to my rather foreign life in New York. I was a part of his family more than ever now, and they needed all the help they could get.

(Two 1/2 months earlier, Bill had been diagnosed with a stage 4 brain cancer, just a few weeks after his 36th birthday.)

My brother, Bill, one week after diagnosis, with his family. July 2011

On that September trip, I had gotten close to my 5-yr old nephew, Alex, and my 3-yr old niece, Sammie. I had gotten to know my sister-in-law in a way that only people thrown together into crisis can. I had one of the most intense—and in an odd way, satisfying—experiences of family I’d ever had.

I worried about leaving them at this moment, yet I needed to get back home to keep my own life going.  If my life fell apart—emotionally, financially, or otherwise—I wouldn’t be much good to anyone.

On my poignant plane ride back, thinking so much about family, I also felt lucky to be in a position to help. My brother’s airline (he’s a pilot) was flying me out to the west coast of Canada and back. My job as an editor was giving me the time off. I was able-bodied and I had a enough savings to afford miss a paycheck.

Still, I also felt the temptation to retreat into worry, sadness, and self-pity. Nothing compared to my younger—and only—brother getting stage 4 cancer.

Yet instead of descending into self-indulgence, something else, completely surprising, happened.

On the plane’s head-set TV,  an advertisement came on for an organization that sponsors children and their communities in impoverished parts of the world. Usually I leave that kind of work to other humanitarians. But that morning I felt an instant connection to those children. I deeply understood what it would mean for them to have some extra help.

In fact, for the price of a sandwich every week I could get a child a visit to a doctor, help her (or him) grow a garden, or even buy her textbooks or help her go to school for the first time. Thinking about it made me cry all over again.

I thought about it back at home and I investigated the organization. I waffled and I wavered. But the feeling that I needed to do this persisted.

So here are the three reasons why I decided to sponsor Ana Souza Silva, age 7, of northeastern Brazil.

Ana, 7

1. There is almost no price on giving ($10 a week? nothing), but there is a huge price to not receiving. To give to someone who needs help is an honor and a privilege.

2. I am Ana; Ana is me. We are connected. The act of giving is the understanding that our lives are, ultimately, bound together. It’s the, “there but for the grace of God go I” idea.

3. I’ve felt a special connection with Brazil for several years, and it’s a country I will most likely visit again. The fact that I might meet Ana one day makes giving her money all the more real, and all the more meaningful. (I’ve already started the paperwork!)

4. (I know I said three, but there are more!) It’s really, really easy. It’s the easiest way I know to give thanks for the privilege of my own life. It *is* the embodiment of “thanksgiving.” Why wait for the date in November before I embrace this commitment to living?

5. It’s almost hard to describe how exciting and moving it is to give a little money to Ana each week. It chokes me up every time.

Maybe this holiday season you might also give to a needy child or a needy family. It really feels amazing. I chose to work through World Vision. They are a Christian organization, but they get great reports. Happy November!

Adding “Namaste” to Bachelorette Parties

As reported in the New York Times today, more young brides are adding fitness to their bachelorette parties. And that includes yoga.

Are you surprised?

What surprises me (constantly, sigh) is the endless creative ways that entrepreneurs organize yoga for busy brides-to-be. Writes the Times:

It’s not just New Yorkers: The Los Angeles-based company Yoga for Weddings (slogan: “Bringing the Deep Breath to the Big Day”) offers private 90-minute classes, with a focus on “heart-opening poses” like the Cobra, for brides-to-be and their pals in nine United States cities (cost: $500). Innerlight Center for Yoga and Meditation in Middletown, R.I., started offering $200-an-hour bachelorette parties last year; already demand this year has tripled, said Kim Chandler, the center’s director.

That’s a lot of cash for a little namaste with your girlfriends…. but it’s about priorities.

I’m guessing smart companies know that a few sweaty down dogs with your closest lady friends might work out better in the long run than a big drunken glitter-covered mess that you don’t remember well even the next morning.

Photo c/o the New York Times

Be a Part-Time Vegetarian

Can’t quite give up meat? Me neither.

But since my brother’s diagnosis with Stage IV brain cancer this summer, I’ve become a lot more interested in all things concerning health. Diet is a key. And, sadly, meat is a huge concern.

Yesterday, the Huffington Post came out with a great idea: be a part-time vegetarian.

That means, have a few days a week when you don’t eat any meat or dairy products. Eat less meat and dairy overall and you will decrease your chances of getting cancer. (This has been proven with massive research–I’m not talking nicey hippie ideas here, I’m talking NIH and Cornell-funded multi-year research studies).

You will also decrease the terrible impact that cattle and dairy farming–as well as other forms of meat & fish farming–are having on the planet.  Again, this is not some utopian vision of “I’m Ok, You’re OK.” Notice how warm it is today? Eighty degrees in mid-October?

To start, you could follow the Environmental Working Group’s campaign for Meatless Mondays.