To me, the Holiday Season is all about giving.  It feels good to give and we give in any way we can.  We volunteer; we put countless working hours in; we give money to charities and presents to family and friends.  Overall, we are satisfied with our share of giving and we feel warm and fuzzy during this festive and welcoming shopping season.  But, there are some of us who take it a step further, beyond the warm and fuzzy part and into the vast and unjust world.  I feel the Holiday Season is a perfect time to celebrate those few who are an enlightened version of us…

Isabel Allende – a little woman with a big heart.
She manages to tackle scary, sensitive subjects that I have hidden from for most of my life – like poverty, unwanted kids, slavery and injustice in the world.  She cares about what is happening in India, Vietnam, and Africa.  Her world is all-inclusive, compassionate and hopeful.  She gives a damn.

I hadn’t heard of Isabel Allende until last summer.  I was invited to a San Antonio Area Foundation fundraiser for a new fund dedicated to supporting women and girls in need, and she was the main speaker.  Her stories really touched me, as well as many other women in the audience.  Needless to say, most of us were weeping at will when she told us a story about her trip to India.

A poor woman in India tried to give Isabel a little baby.  With astonishment, she asked her chauffeur, “Why?”  He said, “Who wants a girl anyway?”  In an audience filled with about 200 women, some of whom came from places less prosperous than the US and had been around the block several times, this phrase had a special resonance and brought a lot of anger.

Isabel made me feel like I was wasting my life and that I should pack my bags and move somewhere in India to start a school for unwanted girls… or children in general.  I could put my years of running a non-profit corporation and fundraising experience to use and really make a difference in many children’s lives.  I believe that if any of us wants to make a real difference in the world, then this is what counts; the rest of what we do is entertainment.

I did not pack my bags and go, but I believe her presence made me stronger.  I was able for the first time in my life to look into the terrible problem of Russian orphans and take an active part in finding a family for a little boy who was brought to Texas last summer for adoption.  During this process I met many families who adopted Russian children: “I wanted two but ended up taking four… because conditions were so bad and my heart could not take it,” said one of the moms.

A few weeks ago, while flipping through the channels, I saw an interview with Isabel Allende on KLRN and it felt like an old friend.  It is a challenge to go through life honorably, helping everyone you can and trying not to hurt anyone.  Isabel is a great role model for me with her big heart, tremendous creativity and bottomless love for people.

Happy Holidays to you all!