What a crazy past few weeks it has been! Opportunity knocks whenever it chooses, and even though it was the beginning of the holidays, not normally the best time for big changes, here I sit, the new kid on the block, the new Fundraising Manager at A Woman’s Place (AWP). And honestly grateful every second, that opportunity knocked when it did, but, whew! Getting through Thanksgiving, having three kids off from school, buying, wrapping (and hiding!) gifts for all, making sure everything looked “Merry & Bright” while trying to put your best foot forward at a new job, take it all in, AND be effective, well, tall order to say the least.
Last year my aunt gave me a Mary Engelbreit days of the year calendar for Christmas. I was not thrilled at the time, but now I sit, with a bulletin board full of quotes at my left shoulder, and one of my favorites being this one>
So I smile, and remind myself of all the other working moms out there, making sure they get it all together for their kids, and their families, and are up just as late as I have been to be sure it all falls into place. I am also not the only mom out there who has a new job, and hopefully not the only one out there enjoying it as much. I explained to my two older boys (I have three of them, 14, 7, & 2) what it is that I do at this new job. They have known for a few years now that Mom is a “fundraiser” and that I throw REALLY great parties for my job, but I don’t think there has been any deeper understanding of what I am doing, and certainly not why.
It’s interesting to give thought to how you explain domestic violence to kids, what you want to say, or not say, about why I would be raising money for this cause. So, I did explain to them what I do, but the bigger part of our conversation was WHY I do it, how important it is, and how everyone must play their own part. They were shocked that such a thing existed. They were grateful for the relationship they see their father and I having, but they were also moved, you could see it in their faces, that I would be involved in trying to put an end to something so terrible, and that THEY had the potential to do something about it too. I told them the story about 9 year-old Marielle, and how she told her birthday party guests to bring donations for AWP to her party instead of gifts for her. I think my boys were astonished that someone their age would think of such a thing, and that they too had this ability (though admittedly my 7 year old was more concerned that I would MAKE him do this, than the thought of how generous of him it would be). I am a big believer in being honest with them, no need for sugar coating, and I keep things age appropriate of course. My 14 year old got many more details than my 7 year old did, and I think they get it. I am proud of them for that. And I think they are proud of me, it’s a nice feeling.
Fast forward to Christmas day, family gathered, eating, drinking, exchanging way too many meaningless gifts (boy that sounds bad!), and I start talking about how next year we should stop with all of these gifts that we struggle to buy for one another because none of us is really in need of the stuff we are giving one another, and I suggested that we give to a charity instead, any one that suits us individually (I will press for it to be AWP as the holidays draw closer next year, rest assured!). Some were on board, others not so much. I shared how different groups, businesses, and organizations have donated to AWP this year, that one local office even came to our administration building (where I am located), cleaned and organized for us all day, in lieu of holding their own office party and Pollyanna. It had really moved me, yet as I told my family, no one really seemed to understand the value of it. How selfless it was of this group, how meaningful it was to the staff of AWP that others would come and do for us, while we are trying to do for others. I found myself getting frustrated that these adults, whom I loved dearly, were not getting it, that they were not in awe of the philanthropy I was describing, as my children had been just a few days before. It made me sad, then it made me mad, and I ended up walking out of the room. But it also made me realize this was just a snapshot of society as a whole. There are people out there who really get it, they feel it, believe in it, live it. Helping others is just part of their make-up. And for others, it’s not that they don’t care, or don’t want to help, but they will go about it in entirely different ways than someone like myself, and hopefully my children, will. In my new role here at AWP, it was sort of an important “aha moment” for me to have. I will encounter those who will bend over backwards to help an organization like AWP in any way that they can (these folks make my job a dream!). I will come across individuals who offer support by writing a check (boy do I appreciate those check writers!). I will also meet or speak with those who are not interested, who have other things they are focused on, and I need to accept that. I need to put my best foot forward, as I have tried to do from day one here, and know that I may not be able to sway everyone to feel as passionately about ending domestic violence as I do, but if I can educate, and open the eyes of as many as possible, as I did with my children; if I can inform those who I meet, talk with, email with, why what we do is so important and how they can help, I think I will feel like I have done a good thing and I am so excited about that! Looking over my shoulder again, I see this one (one of the last) from my days of the year calendar>
I wish I had gotten another days of the year calendar for 2014, inspite of last year’s response! If you are reading this, I wish you a Happy New Year, and I hope that our paths will cross in the coming months. There are still a few more days left of 2013 for you to give (tax deductible!) and become, or continue to be, an AWP supporter. And of course there is always that New Year’s Resolution to “be a giver” in 2014!
Merry Merry! Happy Happy!
Rachel Semple Eichem