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A Philanthropic Birthday-Take Two

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12/09/2011

A Philanthropic Birthday-Take Two photox

So I'm totally afraid of being that annoying mommy writer who only writes about her kids and then I looked at the last few things I've written and found that I already am that person. How did this happen? I have so many other things to talk about. Don't I?

Being a stay at home mom for a full year now, I have to say that the struggle to find purpose in my life does center around raising happy and healthy children. It is literally the first thing written on my to-do list, so that I know that even if I don't get to anything else, I am still being a productive person in the world. But finding a purpose in my life goes far beyond those two little ones. I have had this nagging little whine in my head for as long as I can remember: what are you doing with your life, anyway?

When I worked in the Jewish nonprofit world, I had a purpose every day: raising money to help people in need. I went to work and thought about the Jewish community and the larger community that needed food, housing, health care, education, you name it. Working in a philanthropic field kept me in touch with a larger purpose.

Now I'm way more self-centered. I think about my family, my daughters. I think about my artwork and the new business I launched this fall. I think about going to yoga, sometimes actually going to yoga. I practice my cello. I think about how I became this mommy writer and how the hell did I let that happen?

And then I wrote this really boring post about how I'm starting a tradition on my daughters' birthday next week (again about the kids, really?) of donating $18 in each of their names to a different nonprofit each year. Eventually they will be able to choose the charities they contribute to and hopefully this will instill in them a love of helping others, or at least a habit of doing so. Believe me, it was really boring.

But it did get me thinking about philanthropy and how giving  even in a small way  is something that enriches life and offers a sense of purpose. Turns out I've been doing that all year - giving to different causes and volunteering when possible. Teaching the value of philanthropy to my children is just another way of giving back, part of the larger purpose of my life. Hey, maybe there are a couple of purposes out there.

I'll spare you the boring post and just give a couple of shout outs: 1) to my friend Rachel, from whom I am stealing the birthday giving idea; and 2) to the JUF Chanukah Coat Club, which received the very first donation in the names of Violet and Autumn Hinkley-Wolfman. They were born on the first night of Chanukah two years ago, so really the choice was easy. I hope that when they look back at the first page in their birthday donation scrapbook they will feel proud about helping to keep other children warm this winter.

And now I'm going to think about all the other things floating around in my head, so that maybe next time I will write about social change, or affordable health care, or the environment. You know, the stuff that matters, like your kids.

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