Inspired by Betty Londergan's What Gives 365 and the Bible (not necessarily in that order!), I'm giving away $250 a week in 2011.

This is where I'm recording that journey, and I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Yet again, it all comes together. I was late with the blog this week -- forgot about it completely in the busyness of yesterday -- but then writing it today worked out to be even better.

My intention was for this week's donation to go to the Broadbent Institute, a new think tank dedicated to social democracy. Not exactly a cause suggested by others (it is the 4th Friday of the month after all), but by Jack Layton's death this week. (His family asked that donations in his honour be directed towards strengthening the work of the Institute). As we were unpacking boxes this afternoon, I uncharacteristically turned on the television, looking for some Saturday afternoon distraction, and stumbled upon the live feed of Jack Layton's funeral. Not only did it jog my memory about doing the blog, but it affirmed this week's choice and gave me the privilege of basking in Jack Layton's presence one final time.

For my dear readers not in Canada (or living under a rock), Jack Layton was a determined and inspiring social democratic politician, the leader of Canada's official Opposition, elected to that post just in May 2011. You can read about his legacy here and watch his diverse funeral service (complete with a eulogy by Stephen Lewis and the Parachute Club singing 'Rise Up') here. I feel as though I can't write any more here than has already been written about him in tribute. I will say that I was blindsided by how hard his death has shaken me -- someone he'd never met or influenced directly. How much more so the countless others whose lives he touched more personally! The sketch of his face as the full page cover story in the Globe and Mail took my breath away unexpectedly in the grocery store. (I couldn't find a link to it on-line, but love the photo of this impromptu memorial in chalk at Nathan Phillips Square.)

It seems most fitting today therefore to fill this space not with my words, but with his. So it is my honour to reprint an excerpt from Jack Layton's final letter to Canadians, crafted with great care less than 48 hours before his death:

Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mrs. Chris

A few weeks back, I wrote about a couple of teenage guys I know who were heading away on trips to Aboriginal communities in Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Today I want to tell you about one of their leaders who took them there, to God's River, Manitoba.

"Mrs. Chris" is a local hero in our house. If you ask any of my girls to name someone outside of our family that they love, and/or that they know loves them, and/or that they know prays for them, they would say Mrs. Chris, in a heartbeat.

It's a precious thing to have role models and mentors just a bit farther along in the journey than you are. Mrs. Chris has three girls like me, but hers are doing exciting things like graduating and moving out -- milestones I'm not at all ready for, so I'm grateful Chris is blazing that trail for me. She's encouraged me to live intentionally and to invest lavishly in young people. She's lived faithfully through multiple losses and we've travelled that road together. Her girls have set godly, beautiful examples for us. They've led us in worship. She is committed to serving her community and particularly to the women and children in it. She's quite simply a lovely person.

Last night, as I sat savouring the last night at the cottage for this season, thinking about the busy day that lay ahead of me today, it didn't completely surprise me to get an encouraging note from Chris, saying hello and asking if there were ways she could lighten our load this weekend. So thoughtful. We're in the process of moving out of Mrs. Chris'physical community, but we know that we will continue to stay well connected in other important ways.

So as I sit here in the chaos of packing, soaking up the history and memories in these walls for one of the last times, it's fitting that Mrs. Chris would be the inspiring individual who came to mind this week. The donation will go towards her expenses in God's River, and I look forward to hearing how she was a blessing to folks there as she is so consistently to folks here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

James Bond, the Kramdens and Helping Local Kids

It's local week, and this week's donation is being made in honour of a couple who helped to make us feel more 'local' when we moved to Guelph. When we met them in the neighbourhood, they began including us on their guest list -- and wow, do they ever throw great parties! Last weekend was a black tie 007 Casino Royale night in honour of David's 50th birthday, complete with a red carpet, bright lights, fancy hors d'oeuvres and gambling tables (with chips worth pretend money -- just my speed).

What does all of this have to do with giving? Well, I've just RSVP'd for these friends' next gathering -- on September 10, they are hosting a fundraiser for the Children's Foundation of Guelph/Wellington -- a night of live music at their home, featuring the Kramdens. I'll be topping up that admission fee for this week's donation.

As David's invitation emphasized, he has confidence that a full 90% of the money raised goes directly to programs to support kids in our community, in three main ways:

1. Christmas hampers
2. Getting kids involved in sports
3. Breakfast programs in elementary schools

I'd anticipated that one of Just Giving It's December donations would go toward a Christmas hamper, but once again I've had the pleasure of watching things come together differently than I'd expected, and this seems to be just the right time. I'm sure something else inspiring will come to my attention for December. In the meantime, I'm delighted to continue to support the Children's Foundation and I've marked the Kramdens' concert on my calendar for September 10. No tuxes or roulette this time, but lots of local fun and local giving. Thanks for continuing to welcome us to the neighbourhood, friends, and for helping to make it a more generous place!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Guelph Teens Reach Lesotho

I've been privileged this week to receive copies of e-mail messages from Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik, impetus behind the million-dollar fundraising campaign Bracelet of Hope. She is currently travelling in Lesotho with 12 high school students from Guelph, Ontario -- they've been preparing for 18 months for the journey (and have even been mentioned in the Huffington Post!). Here is an excerpt from today's note from Anne-Marie:

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, accused of sabotage by the oppressive South African Regime of the time.  His stay at Robben Island just off the coast of Cape town was most difficult.  During the 17 years he spent in a small cell on the island, he missed contact with children the most.  None of the inmates could have any access or contact with children.

I found this odd when I first heard of it.  Why would the lack of contact with children have such a profound effect on a middle-aged man?  Today as I walked the dusty roads of Leribe, I understood what Mr. Mandela meant.  In Lesotho, there are children everywhere.  A cinder block house is tolerable only for sleep and shelter.  The beautiful mountains of Lesotho draw everyone out into the streets and the fields.  Children are everywhere, playing, walking and laughing.  They are a constant source of light and joy.  Most of the children here are so deprived of the basic necessities of life.  They are poorly clothed.  They lack nutritious food.  Many are orphaned...You simply cannot move about in Lesotho and not be surrounded by the joy and laughter of children...the constant presence and sound of children elevates even the darkest mood.  I understand what you missed Mr. Mandela.

Reach Lesotho is a program of the Upper Grand District School Board, part of an innovative two-year high school course in human rights. A film crew is travelling with the students and their mentors, making a documentary that will be screened on World AIDS Day.

The team has to raise $100,000 to cover the costs of the trip. To do so, they launched the 280 x 280 challenge. Each dollar donated represents 100,000 HIV - infected people in Africa.

I have travelled to some of the places in Africa most devastated by AIDS. I have seen fresh graves. Met grandmothers carrying for dozens of orphaned grandchildren. Sat at the bedside of young mothers on the verge of death. I am so inspired by Bracelet of Hope's commitment to seeing one African country AIDS free, and to their involvement of young people in making that happen.

I would love to be on this team. I would love for my children to be on this team. For now, I will content myself with enjoying Anne-Marie's messages and increasing this week's donation to $280 to meet the challenge. And I'll be heading to Harbourfront on December 1 to watch I Have Hope with my kids.