Ethiopian Selfie, with Friends

Making Windows and Doors Where There are None

A bona fide Bradenism is anything charity related. I’ve relayed previously about my heartfelt interface. My parents are of the species who do things for others, many others, locally, nationally, and internationally. Their doings and givings as I grew up were not always the traditional charitable kind of volunteering, as in showing up for a service day or going on a mission. They showed up by reaching out to be involved in others lives with a myriad of support mechanisms. My dad was often ‘silently’ helping in largely unknown scholarly ways, with musicians, incarcerated folk, international business entrepreneurs, or teaching a mean game of tennis to many youths. Mom was giving swimming lessons to those who’d never seen a lake or dared come near that water, speech therapy, gathering our excess clothing and toys to share, or taking on the local Girl Scouts to include the black community. Both of them doing the same with things like our public school system by trying to bring German as a language course in school (due to our German heritage and my Godmother), to their failure.

With none of their groundwork did they ever give up. To memory, none of what my parents did was ever referenced to me directly as charitable, nor pointed out in any special ways. They were people going about the everyday business of being. Sally Struthers television ads pleading help for children dying of poverty was a first memory of charity. I didn’t understand fully about non-profits until I was about sixteen to memory- the year I went to work at a Muscular Dystrophy summer camp. It all landed with a big heart thumping whack of passionate goodness. It was later in college that I was elated to realize the foundation that brought me to the purity of charity. These cornerstone’s of giving wove a tapestry I wore easily. Giving and helping seemed second nature to me, as I’d surmised it was for my parents.

Which brings us to these windows and doors. Here’s the inception for the foothold charity fastens within me. It’s all about making windows and doors where there are none. It’s salt of the earth supremacy in a twenty-four-carat society. We should all have access to windows and doors. From an American First World stance, it’s often inconceivable anyone would lack windows and doors. They represent basic access points to basic shelter. Yet, in everyone’s ‘backyard’ I promise you there are people without windows and doors. Further, I’m proposing you have a think about what life would be like without them, without the basics which could also be things like: underwear or teeth brushing or bathing (basic hygiene); food and drink (basic sustenance); medical (basic healthcare).

There is the distinction I’ll conjecture that even those such as tribes in jungles or roaming areas of our Earth have ‘windows’ which may only be viewpoints to the sky and ‘doors’ that are openings to access the wild animals with whom they freely roam. They may not wear anything, clean their teeth with local plants, eat from the land on which they live, and cure or heal from local root sources. Again, “windows and doors” here implies where there are none at all, not that they actually look or appear as many First Worlders would perceive. What is inadequate is not exclusive to remote planetary places or Third World as well. It’s our distortion of what a problem is, where it is, and how to tackle it that I seek to defy with prudent panache.

This platform of producing a possibility of promise for others lives, while living my own, is without expectation. I don’t always know if my efforts will work. I don’t wish for anything in return. I don’t always succeed and sometimes appreciation is missing. None of this exactly matters. I don’t know how to live any other way. It’s who I am and who I was nurtured to be. I am me and can’t be anything but. This philanthropy is my insulation for being allowed time in this Earthen house.

In this gratefulness of being, I’ve defaulted as a member of a giant worldwide club of other humans living the same. I’ve even intimately wedded myself to a few philanthropic rockstars (I call them figuratively) during my time. These are routinely normal people who’ve turned their lives up to ‘eleven’ on the dial of sounding off life excellence. They have so put their hearts first, others hearts first, that a full-fledged epiphany resulted in the formation of a nonprofit organization. I bow to these friends and colleagues. As, for all the good I know I do, I’ve never achieved this rank. These persons push ‘windows and doors making where there are none’ to a superior level. Their achievements are a place where we find beyond just windows and doors there are gardens growing, lights alight throughout, and higher education has a chance to become the norm, along with business building and community connectivity all governments could learn from (ahem, especially ‘my’ USofA)!

A smart example is Studio Samuel foundation. In early 2017 I was invited to join their Board of Directors. Founder and friend Tamara Horton’s genesis has educated and empowered hundreds of girls in Addis Ababa and surrounding areas in Ethiopia over its few years thus far. I invite you to spend a few minutes checking them out sometime when you might consider a cherished donation association, or maybe a worthy jewelry gift made locally from across the globe. The Ethiopian government has been supportive and they have begun further branching out beyond the capital city. Studio Samuel is giving girls in the Third World windows to see their capabilities as if they are First World or any world they want to be. Studio Samuel is erecting doors for these youth to throw open the prospects of a vast future that trickles under their skin, into their families, their communities, and then fills the world, our world. I’m of the breath that all children are our children. Treat every one of them like your own and we have the potential for true new world order in the positive sense I think we’d all prefer.

Besides, what’s with these world hierarchies: First World, Second World, or Third World. What about the fact that we’re genuinely only one world. These separation labels have never ever produced anything positive. Economically speaking, I understand an explanation was manufactured long ago. But, for a moment, think if that instance had instead procured a more mindful based characterization.

What if this one world didn’t divide. How about this one world making windows and doors for all under its roof. Why not? The wise adage summons: Give someone a fish and they have food for a day, but teach someone to fish and they have food for life. Good living is about a good life. Living a good life I think prospers via the whole. While it’s engaging for you to excel, it’s unforgettable when those around you, your team, community, family or friends excel also. The reverb is palpable. These are what I liken as moments of windows and doors being knocked clear of their hinges by the vibrant sounds of heavenly music pumping through your house (body or true home alike)! On a pedestal (or soapbox) I’ll theorize that when we all win we all win. Shouldn’t that be the only way we focus on living?

Watching the Olympics this week, I later listened to a personal motivation heroine of mine Lindsey Vonn speak about her Bronze medal with some defeat. She was referring to not winning. While I cannot assume to comprehend all her emotions at this final Olympic run for her, and her touching hope to bring home gold in honor of her grandfather she lost, I was shocked she wasn’t doing a Happy Feet penguin dance for ‘winning’ the Bronze. I mean, that is still an Olympic medal! I know she was jumbled in thoughts, kicked ass on the slopes with other greats, and otherwise still goes down in my inspiration history book for attaining so many triumphs. I use her tale to impart how I think culturally we’re all caught in this web of perfection indefinitely until we construct anew. We have to chose to admire all levels of the win. We need to choose the value of humanity over self-indulgence. To be clear, this isn’t giving up all self ‘stuff’ (care, love, goods, services). This is keeping oneself in healthy standing while taking good stock of supporting those around us. Charity through and through.

I’ve never been without windows and doors, aside from maybe accounting for that European summer study when I was twenty and my best friend Joann and I got stuck in Venice Italy due to strikes and slept on the benches due to lack of funds. Even then, I seem to recollect a roof overhead. ‘Never’, at my ripe age forty-eight, is a huge number of hallowed years. Often, I speculate about life on the other side of that coin. It keeps me satiated with humble pie. That, in conjunction with a newer phrase of my last few years I’ve used to reevaluate myself or situations when I’m getting ‘too big for my britches’ (as us Southerners say) with my thinking or witnessing ‘woe is me’ flashes in the life frying pan: “1% problems”. This nitty-gritty nuance is calculated to snap me away from whatever I’m judging as lack or any omission in life by comparing it hypothetically in my head to the Third World- i.e. I hardly lack or am without anything I surely need (I am the 1% herein) in relation to anything Third World. So, I ought to shut up and deal! We are so caught up in our wants we are missing the meaning… our meaning… our worth. The cost to us can be a drastic deficit.

In the last few months, I was introduced to Lynne Twist’s audiobook Unleashing the Soul of Money. Overcome with resonance, I’ve listened to this over and again. It’s not just that Lynne’s voice is like velvet caressing water, it’s the impact of all her life experience and therefore her conclusions about money. The underpinnings of where we’ve permitted ourselves to get carried away with unscrupulous behaviors are well defined. She precisely rewrites the soul of money for me. She deeply hit ‘home’ with me when presenting an argument for where we’ve lost our values by stating the storage industry statistics (us crowding our extra in these tiny ‘homes’) compared to citizens building homes for the homeless. Talk about windows and door making the worst ways! Full circle.

Tomorrow, I get to sit down for the first time with our entire Studio Samuel Board of Directors team to map the rest of 2018 and future windows and doors composing. My bushy-tailed Chutzpah is in prime order. We’re looking to not only actualize new windows and doors but as with innumerable charities, we’re seeking tools, innovations, ingenuity, loads of connectivity and boundless reinforcements to keep the ones we’ve already positioned from being closed or demolished. Such is the life of building and making things and dreams come true. One risks perpetual lack of resources, repairs or setbacks, but equally reinforces improvement. I’m bulging at my very seams for the gorgeous look in the eyes of those who benefit from the new windows and doors.

Look around to see where you might revel in making windows and doors where there are none.

P.s. Her Path is a short film (less than 3 minutes) about the impact of making windows and doors where there are none. (And a shameless plug for a noteworthy role where I was so appreciative to receive a credit as Creative Director.)

LOVER of life. Especially people, places, philanthropy and photography.

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