Spring is newsletter time in non-profit land, and I am the chief writer/editor/lay-er out-er of ours.  Today I interviewed one of our supporters for a donor spotlight piece.


Last time I did this I profiled a major donor.  In developmentese, that means a rich person who writes us big checks.  This time I am using a guy who sends us $25 a month, every single month.


I called him at home, where he was babysitting his granddaughter.  He told me how he got involved with our organization while doing a construction job on our back deck in the 90’s.  He told me how he spent his breaks talking with our residents, and that he bought a Yahtzee set for a woman who lived in our facility because she’d told him she loved the game.  He got choked up when he told me that she died shortly afterward.   


Turns out he’s a disabled Vietnam vet on a fixed income.  Most people who give have a list of organizations they support, but he sends money only to us. 


Why us? I asked him.


“AIDS patients are the lepers of the 21st century,” he said.  “People still think it’s a gay thing.  They don’t know—don’t want to know it’s a world-wide pandemic.” 


He went on, “I want my life to mean something.  I’m turning 65 years old this year, and I don’t think I’m there yet.  People don’t realize that the residents there are our brothers and sisters.  They don’t understand that we’re all interconnected.”


“I just want my life to be meaningful,” he said again.


I know how he feels.  That “why am I here on this earth” question plagues us all.  Whole religions have been invented to relieve people of the existential discomfort posed by this question. 


Would my life be less meaningful if I quit working for the do-gooder organization and got a soulless corporate job?  Or would it be more meaningful because I would earn enough money to keep my kids in private school?  Wait, that’s a whole ‘nother philosophical question.  I’ll talk about that another day. 


This man raised his kids, helps care for his grandchildren, served his country, and shares his limited resources with people in need.  That sounds meaningful enough to me.







  1. reminds me a quote by MLK jr on greatness… he says,
    “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

  2. This guy is a mensch.  And if your job makes you feel happy and fulfilled, then that gets passed along to your kids and is more important than making more money and sending them to private school.

  3. Great interview!
    Getting a soulless corporate job has a certain nobility if you’re doing it for the benefit of your kids.  But it sounds like you’d be making a heckuva personal sacrifice.  Also, it would cost that non-profit its best writer/editor/chief bottle washer/etc.

  4. All I can say is I’m glad I don’t have to choose between a do-gooder existance writing grants and things for a non-profit that helps kids with mental health issues, and providing what I think is the best environment for my own kids.  I know all your kids really need to be sucessful in life is you.  You inspire enrich and challenge them in a way that no school will ever match.  You guide and influence them in every day and every way, and whatschool they go to will never have the kind of impact that a caring, smart and loving mother like you has.
    Chin up, and don’t worry about the school the kids go to.  They will rise above whatever challenges present themselves.  They are after all, yours.

  5. How could working at a soulless corporate job so you could make more money and put your kids in the snobby school be more meaningful?  Trust me, it would not be more meaningful.  On the other hand, it would give you the opportunity to buy a whole new shoe wardrobe and get massages at fancy salons and tip 25% at expensive restaurants.  Also, your children would learn to distinguish between the “right” people and the “wrong” people, a handy skill.

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