I went to a charity event last month, and it got me to thinking about the concept of "charity".
When you get to be 62, your childhood does begin to fade. But I have a pretty good memory of my formative years. One thing I DON’T remember being discussed in my house was the concept of charity. Now my Mom and Dad were fine people (and loving parents), but the level of communication growing up was just different than it was when I became the head of my growing family. I really don’t know whether they were charitable people or not - mostly because it was just not something that I remember having been discussed.
So it was only natural that when we started our family, charity was not high on the list of things we "taught" our kids. I know Carol had her "causes" she contributed to (I saw the cancelled checks), but it just wasn't one of the things on our "teachable" list.
Fast forward to the above mentioned charity event - how the hell did I end up there?!?! Well it turns out that my oldest son Justin became involved in a wonderful charity called Little Smiles about 8 years ago through some colleagues at his office. Here is a link to the Little Smiles Website:
It is a great charity that focuses on making the lives of very sick kids a little more "normal" by being a behind the scenes “blank checkbook", and then allowing the caregivers (nurses, social workers, etc. that work with the children every day) to be the ones to deliver the items; whether it be an iPad or a trip to Disney World - or even just sponsoring a pizza party. Justin went from being on the Board of Directors to Treasurer - and is now the President of the Philadelphia Chapter. Suffice to say “I am very proud of him!”
They have a few fundraisers each year - The Stars Ball being the major event. The Grass Family always supports each other, so several years ago I began sponsoring a table at The Stars Ball for The Grass Family, so that all 10 of us could sit together during dinner and throughout the evening. As proud as I am of my son and DIL (Kate deserves credit here as she also contributes her time to Little Smiles), I am equally proud of how Justin's 3 brothers (and their partners) have always wanted to attend these events, and I felt it best to pay for the table as they are all starting their families and lives. One of my favorite things in life is taking my family out to dinner, and while they always offer... it has always been understood that Dad picks up the check. This "dinner" is no different.
Here are a few pics from the event, and even a picture of "our" table.
A quick story to interject a little levity to a serious blog...
About 3 years ago we were all at the Stars Ball and it was time for Carol and I to leave. We were looking for Justin to say goodbye, but couldn't find him. Carol had left her program on the table, and wanted to take it home as a memento - as she had all of the signatures from the Red Carpet Walk that always opens each Stars Ball. They theme the night around the glitz of Hollywood, and the event opens with the 10 special kids being honored that night with them walking down the red carpet and signing programs for the "adoring fans". I found her after retrieving her program, and as we were getting ready to head for the door - we spotted Justin across the room. I caught his attention and waved goodbye (with the program still in my hand). Carol turned to me and said: "Do you realize you just bid $1600 for that painting being auctioned off?" I didn't care for the painting (and had already contributed enough for one night) so luckily someone bid $1700 in time! It's a true story, and needless to say I now keep my hands in my pockets during this portion of the evening.
Getting back to early December…
For several years now, I try to send a "little something" to my accounts around Christmas - in appreciation for their business and loyalty over the years. This year I did something a little different that is spelled out in the card below, which I mailed to all of my accounts mid-December (along with a flyer giving some additional information on the charity I chose).
From the Desk of Howard Grass...
Who is in my “Sphere of Business?” one might ask. It certainly has nothing to do with how much volume we do together – there were many stores on my list who I’ve known for years, have always treated me with respect, and with whom I do NO business with currently. They are just as important of a member of the list as my biggest account!
The emails, texts, and phone calls I did receive were so lovely, and the consensus is that most people liked my idea. In fairness, it really wasn't my idea at all, but something Carol suggested one day when I asked her what she thought I should send my stores this season. We discussed it for a few days and I eventually came over to her way of thinking - and I’m glad I did.
Philosophers have been debating the difference between selfishness and selflessness for centuries - and they are really not opposites as first consideration may suggest. The bottom line is that I have become someone who was exposed to charity much later in life from my son of all people, and I am the better man for it. When I do make a contribution to a worthy cause, I do it partially for how good it makes me feel. The added bonus is the good it does in the world.... whether it is improving the life of a sick child, or buying enough desks in Africa to get a full classroom of children "off the ground".
When you grow up in a family with 4 sons, you hope that they learn a little something from their father, but you really can't "force it". I do admit that it feels good to hear them mutter something to their kids that I said used to say to them. Even more rewarding is to be able to have watched them grow into men (I almost always still refer to them as “my 4 boys”) who have so much character and compassion. This blog just happened to be about something I learned from Justin… but I could easily write a blog about something “special” I’ve learned from each of them.
Today however I feel like a more complete man, having learned the concept of “charity” from my son Justin – and for that I feel truly blessed.
In closing... "We can all use a little charity in our lives!"