Posts tagged: giving
December 15, 2013

The Measure of My Powers, 2014

This post was contributed by Katy McColl.


I stole that title from an MFK Fisher memoir, in which nearly every chapter is titled, The Measure of My Powers. The best thing about the book, in my opinion, is the epigraph:

“To be happy, you must have taken the measure of your powers, tasted the fruits of your passion, and learned your place in the world.”

Sarah hasn’t come out and said so, but we’ve been feeling unusually powerless this year because our mom is sick.

Our mom’s a farmer’s daughter who grew up riding her bike, reading Nancy Drew novels, and teaching herself to sew upstairs in her bedroom in a 19th century house on an 18th century farm. High times were celebrated with spaghetti and juice glasses of beer (kids included!); low times meant the family survived on the cream-topped milk straight from their cows. College advising? Not so much. I hate to see you waste all your babysitting money applying and end up disappointed… said my grandmother, without acknowledging that insulating yourself from disappointment often staves off greatness, too.

Then in 1967, Procter & Gamble awarded my mother a 4-year scholarship to Smith College—petty cash and book money included! And just like that, she changed her fate. “Did you hear about the farmer’s daughter,” the owner of a feed store 20 miles away asked my grandfather, marveling. Imagine the pride he must have felt in saying she was his.

Imagine the pride I feel now that she’s mine, too. Among other things, she introduced Great Books to our elementary school and raised four children—encouraging us to dream big and mess up as often as necessary. A full year into chemo, my beloved mom can’t walk, but she spends her days running an organization dedicated to ending child poverty.

So the best I can do from my sometimes powerless perch is to invest in the next generation of problem solvers. Women like Shirley Lemus, who grew up in a remote Guatemalan village and was ostracized by relatives for not dropping out of school to support the family. She’s gone on to work with Nobel-Peace-Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus to offer microcredit, healthcare, and other life-changing opportunities for the poor. She won a gifted and talented scholarship from Guatemala’s prestigious UFM university—where everyone studies economics and everyone learns how to be an entrepreneur. The school’s run on a shoestring—they’re quite proud of that—but scholarships are offered to the poorest, smartest, and most motivated students in the country. Including women intent on making the jump from the 3rd world to the 1st world—and dedicating their lives to helping other women make that jump, too.

I’m going to make a donation to the ITA Scholarship (Spanish for gifted and talented).

If you’d like to join me, I’d be very touched. More than that, actually—I’ll double your donation myself. (Just make a note of your gift in the comments section so I can be sure to match it.) Because I want us all to feel the measure of our powers grow exponentially from here on out.


p.s. I vetted this myself, but you can also read more about the scholars here, if you like.

January 18, 2012

Bits and Bobs

  • One of my projects for the new year is to give my cubicle a makeover. If I can’t manage to get together all the ingredients myself, I’m loving these terrarium kits on Etsy.

  • Have you ever taken an e-course? Have you wanted to? I’m taking Susannah Conway’s Unravelling course and loving it, and my mind’s been percolating away at what a Pink of Perfection e-course would look like. Would you be interested? What would you want to see covered? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

  • I’ve been searching for a Cathrineholm teapot, and this might be a perfect stand-in until I find the perfect one. (How much do you love that the name of this Etsy store is During Quiet Time?)
  • Do you know of a charity that helps provide low-income girls and young women with access to tutors, mentors, college scholarship money, and other resources that help level the educational playing field? Please tell me–Pink of Perfection wants to give them money!

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.

— Lao-Tzu

December 16, 2010

A Tradition of Giving


To people who are very actively involved in helping people who have less year round, the sudden holiday emphasis on reaching out to those in need is, I bet, obnoxious. I’m sorry to say I’m not one of the year-round do-gooders, and I’d wager that I’m not the only one who wishes she had a giving tradition that was a regular part of her life. But I’ve felt overwhelmed by the options. Sometimes, it’s hard to know who to help.

I assisted a yoga class at a middle school for autistic kids for awhile. I went through the application and background check to be a Girl Scout volunteer and then they never called me. (If it were appropriate to put a frowny face emoticon here, I would.) Should we sign up to help at a soup kitchen, become a Big Sister, drop in sporadically at a senior center, walk dogs at a shelter? What form of volunteering will best fit into our schedules and feel like the best use of our time and talents? The answer is probably that we should just do something, anything. But I think many of us are so eager to feel that we are making a difference––in a way that resonates with us with meaning––that we’re hesitant to just sign up for anything. If we’re going to make a commitment to something, we want it to be the right thing.

I’ve bopped from this to that, food pantries and animal shelters, but in the past year I realized the best way for me to give back would be continuing the biggest help I ever got. In those tender pre-adolescent and teenage years, there was a lot of tumult in my life, a lot of change, a lot of unpredictability. But there were also a lot of teachers and babysitters and one particularly awesome Big Sister along the way who taught me, without being cheesy or overt about it, that who I was was awesome, that I could be and do anything I imagined, that there was a wide world out there for me to adventure in.

I talked earlier about my word for 2011 being full. Articulate what you want, and man, it has a way of just flooding in. I’ve been working harder, writing more, cooking more, seeing my friends in ways that feels so good. All that is great, perfect even, but there’s one more thing that needs to fall into place for my sense of fullness in the new year: the right tradition of giving.

How do you guys give back in your lives, in ways both organized and unstructured? What has it brought into your life or changed about your perspective? And do any of you share that feeling of wanting to give, but not knowing what’s the best thing for you?

Photo: Longfellow quote letterpress card by Etsy seller letterary press