This week kicked off the Christmas season, which means there is plenty of caroling, gift-giving and good cheer to go around. But in case you need a pre-Christmas pick me up, here are five good things that happened this week:
This week, a couple in Minnesota set a new record for the highest single gift ever dropped into a Salvation Army Kettle, giving a $500,000 check. The couple asked to remain anonymous, but they told the Salvation Army that they hoped their donation would inspire others to “stretch their generosity.” They told the Salvation Army that they once had to rely on food thrown out of a local grocery store to eat, so they wanted to give back now that they could. In a statement, they said, “You get to a point in life where it’s time to take care of others, the way you were taken care of.” The couple made the donation in honor of one of their fathers, a WWI soldier who benefited from the kindness of Salvation Army volunteers during the war.
If you happen to get a parking violation in Lexington, Kentucky in the next few weeks, you can bring in nonperishable pantry items to pay it off. As part of the “food for fines” program, which began in mid-November and runs through December 18, ten canned good items can pay off $15 of a parking citation. The director of the city’s parking authority told Today that the city modeled the program after a previous initiative in Boston, where people could pay of fines with toy donations. Lexington also did the program last year, and it brought in more than 6,200 cans of food at a value of $14,500. The food will go to the four locations of God’s Pantry Food Bank, which will distribute it to families in need.
A few months ago, a photo went viral that featured a Syrian refugee trying to sell pens in the streets of Beirut to support his family. The photo tugged at the heart strings of the Internet, and sparked an Indiegogo campaign to help the 33-year-old Abdul Halim al-Attar and his two kids get a fresh start. The campaign originally aimed to raise $5,000, but it ended up raising a whopping $191,000, and al-Attar has used that family not only to support his own family, but also to create jobs for other refugees. He started a bakery, a kebab shop and restaurant that currently employ 16 refugees. He was also able to send around $25,000 back to friends and family in Syria.
Not only did my life change, but also the lives of my children and the lives of people in Syria whom I helped, he told the Associated Press.
This week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that he and his wife plan to give away 99 percent of the the money they’ve earned from Facebook—a mind-boggling $45 billion. He explained it In an open letter to the couple’s newborn daughter, Max:
As you begin the next generation of the Chan Zuckerberg family, we also begin the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to join people across the world to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation. Our initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.
We will give 99 percent of our Facebook shares—currently about $45 billion—during our lives to advance this mission. We know this is a small contribution compared to all the resources and talents of those already working on these issues. But we want to do what we can, working alongside many others.
Some critics have questioned Zuckerberg’s motives, because he chose to structure the giving initiative as a limited liability company rather than as a foundation or nonprofit. But, the billionaire wrote in a post on his Facebook page that the structuring “enables us to pursue our mission by funding nonprofit organizations, making private investments and participating in policy debates—in each case with the goal of generating a positive impact in areas of great need. Any net profits from investments will also be used to advance this mission.”
A recent event by the Caring Santa Program set up a time for kids with special needs to meet Santa in a less hectic environment than usual. The santa went out of his way to make the kids comfortable, including climbing onto the ground to meet Brayden, a 6 year old with autism who loves Santa, but was feeling shy. Brayden’s mom caught the interaction on camera, and she told the organization Autism Speaks, which was on of the partners of the event, how much it meant to her.
The whole staff (Santa included) was overly accommodating for all of our kids, really trying to get the best picture and create the best experience possible, regardless of how much time or patience was needed to do so.
Dargan is a former RELEVANT editor turned freelancer. Find her online at darganthompson.com or follow her extremely random train of thought on Twitter @darganthompson.