Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Gordon Hirabayashi (1918 - 2012)

This week, we will look at extraordinary people who defy overwhelming forces against all odds.

Gordon Hirabayashi was one of only three Japanese citizens who defied the Japanese internment policies in order to fight the policies in the Supreme Court.  He served a 3 month prison sentence for ignoring curfew for Japanese Americans, and then a year for refusing to be drafted into the armed forces.
“Surprisingly, even though I lost, I did not abandon my beliefs and my values,” he said. “And I never look at my case as just my own, or just as a Japanese-American case. It is an American case, with principles that affect the fundamental human rights of all Americans.”
He passed away this week at age 93.  Thank you for your courage, Dr. Hirabayashi.  Thank you.

New York Times


Friday, December 23, 2011

Layaway Angels and Random Acts of Kindness

"Layaway angels" this year started at a Michigan Kmart, but have cropped up all over the USA.  One report estimates 1000 layaway accounts credited by anonymous donors, totalling $400,000 this season at Sears/Kmart alone.

Woman pays over $1600 in deliquent water bills about to be turned off in Iowa City so they wouldn't have to go through the holidays without water.  (Source:  article no longer available.)

Gold and diamonds have been dropped into Salvation Army kettles.

Anonymous donor saves gym which gives free memberships to low-income obese women.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy

The Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy, founded in 2006, is a motley crew of people who—once a year—gather in cities across the nation and tell stories about giving. To be a creative philanthropist, one must simply give (which is a great and you should do this). To be in the Secret Society, one must be gifted $100 by a CP Agent, give that money away in the best and most creative way one sees fit, and convene at the top secret annual meeting to tell one's story of philanthropic adventure. Trust us, it's amazing.
Following in the footsteps of Larry Stewart, some people have formalized the process and found regular comraderie and fun in giving creatively.  Doing sweet things anonymously for your fellow human being now has a name:  creative microphilanthropy.  

The message is simple and universal.  Leave a quarter in the vending machine refund slot.  Tape a dollar to a bag of cranberries in the store with an encouraging message.  Send people anonymous letters thanking them.  You don't have to be rich to make someone's day.  Anyone and everyone can do this.

Official website

San Francisco Gate:  Giving away umbrellas is harder than you would think

New York Times

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Larry Stewart (1948 - 2007)

Larry Stewart seemed to have had bad luck financially most of his life.  He was born very poor, raised by grandparents on welfare in a home with no indoor plumbing.  As a young adult, he had bad luck with jobs, being fired one time after another.  Homeless, he walked into a diner one day after not having eaten in two days.  He ordered breakfast, then pretended he had lost his wallet.  At that point, the diner owner, Ted Horn, did something so extraordinary, he changed Larry's life.

Ted put a $20 bill in Larry's hand and said, "You must have dropped this."

Larry promised to pay it forward if he ever were able.  After several more financial failures and job losses, he actually hit it big starting a cable and long distance telephone business.  He became a millionnaire and donated an estimated $1.3 million to various charities.

But the philanthropy he was best known for was as the "Secret Santa" of Kansas City.  He would walk into places like thrift shops and coin laundries and hand out money.  Usually $100 bills.  And he liked to do it especially at Christmas time.  He kept his identity anonymous until he was going to be outed by a tabloid.  By that time, he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Before he died, he trained four others to take over as Secret Santas.  He also looked up the diner guy who inspired him and gave out money together.  Secret Santa philanthropy was born, grandfathered by a diner proprietor named Ted Horn.

Dick Kazan with Larry Stewart


Secret Santas

It is near Christmas, so it is Secret Santa week.  We will look at random acts of kindness, not necessarily limited to Christmas, but often occurring during the holiday season.  In a dog-eat-dog world of mean cynicism, kindness is simply extraordinary.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Richard Francis Burton (1821 - 1890)

Richard Francis Burton is one of the most famous polyglots, speaking as many as 29 European, Asian, and African languages.  He traveled extensively throughout Asia, Africa, and Americas, including making the Haj to Mecca in disguise as a Muslim.  Amongst his credits are translating One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights), bringing the Kama Sutra to publication, and being the first European to see Lake Tanganyika.



Sir Richard Francis Burton