A new twist on birthday giving

A good story must be shared. On Wednesday, the front page of the Oregonian ran a story about Barbara Cooke who decided, last April,  on her 60th birthday  to celebrate in an unusual way. It reminded me of Matt Strong whom I wrote about on my blog a year or so ago.

Barbara is a wise women. She knows that helping others  makes her happy. She decided to share her birthday and offer this wisdom with others. Barbara came up with the idea to gift her guests in honor of her birthday. Each of the 24 guests received an envelope with three $20 bills. Her guests were told to, “make it grow and give it away.” There were no limitations put on their choices. They could do what they wanted with it and it could be used locally, nationally or internationally.

Barbara invested in her friends. Her initial outlay for this gift was $1,400. In the end, the investment in her friends reaped benefits none of them could have imagined. Most of her guests were able to make their money grow. Two of the couples pooled their money together to raise money for a school in Portland that helps children who are deaf. Their initial $120 wasn’t nearly enough to buy the two hearing aids they had hoped to give to the school, so they hosted a backyard party, selling potted plants and raised over $2,000. A donor matched their gift turning their initial $120 into over $4,000. Enough to buy the two hearing aids and begin a scholarship as well.

Another women wanted to help a residential care facility where her son lived. She hoped to raise enough money to buy linens for new residents to the facility. She was uncomfortable asking for money but found a way to invite people to join her with her request for the linens. In the end, she raised $715 enough to buy 14 sets of linens.

When the group recently gathered, they were delighted to share their stories. They were also amazed at the outcome of Barbara’s initial gift of $1,400, which grew beyond their wildest imagination. In all their efforts raised $23,265. Barbara couldn’t be happier with her birthday idea.

In Judaism, we have a saying that mitzvah goreret mitzvah. When one person does a mitzvah it affects another who may also in turn do a mitzvah. Perhaps Barbara doesn’t know what a mitzvah is but she certainly does know how to affect others. She has with her actions and her investment received a priceless gift. One that perhaps others will be inspired by too.