Community & Giving

When talking about community and philanthropy, my father would tell us a story about the Jordan River. The Jordan flows along the border shared by Syria, Jordan and Israel. Along the way, it feeds both the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias) and the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee returns the favor and sends water back to the Jordan River, enabling both to be vibrant bodies of water. The Dead Sea, however, takes water from the Jordan River, but gives nothing in return. As a result, the Dead Sea is stagnant and has no natural outlets.

While flora and fauna thrive in the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea is unable to sustain life. And while many people believe that the Dead Sea’s unique composition and salty water provide healing and health benefits, my father’s message is philosophical in nature. Simply, he encouraged people to be like the Sea of Galilee – to give back to the world that gives us so much.

This message has been on my mind quite a bit lately for two reasons.

First and foremost, is my husband, Mark. The past few weeks have been the most difficult in my life. Losing a loved one is a physiologic experience that compels you to look at the world differently, to see with new clarity and to re-evaluate your role and contributions.  Everything my husband did, he did to benefit others. As a surgeon, he gave the gift of life. As a father, brother and husband, he gave the gift of love. As a philanthropist, he gave time, money and support.  And like the Sea of Galilee, the people and communities that Mark nourished have responded to his death with overwhelming generosity to the charities and organizations that carry out the very important work that he so highly valued. His legacy and memory will live on beautifully, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Another reason my father’s message has been on my mind is the 2010 United Way campaign which recently came to a close. As you may know, I was privileged to chair the Washtenaw County campaign, as well as participate in our University of Michigan campaign, which was co-chaired by Doug Strong and Paul Courant. It is my pleasure to reveal that both campaigns exceeded expectations despite tough economic times. In fact, this year, the University of Michigan community raised a record-breaking $1.2 million, with 41 percent coming from UMHS! That is the largest UMHS contribution to date. The Washtenaw County campaign raised $5.3 million. Thank you for such an impressive achievement and extraordinary display of generosity!

We strengthen ourselves and our communities through acts of goodwill, volunteerism and charity. As we head into 2011, I encourage each and every one of you to find a way to give back. Maybe you can take an hour or two each month to volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen. Maybe you can find time to participate in an educational program that helps underprivileged kids realize their potential and pursue their dreams. Or maybe there is an organization that has helped you or someone you love, and you are currently in a position to make a donation.

As former first lady Barbara Bush once said, “Some people give time, some money, some their skills and connections, some literally give their life’s blood. But everyone has something to give.”

Thank you for being such a generous and wonderful community. I look forward to great achievements in 2011.