On Thursday, June 23rd, more than a half a world away from the Jing Yu Xi Wang Migrant School, about 75 kind and generous people gathered to help me make good on the promise I made to Director Wang over three months ago. For those who read my blog back in March, you may remember that I committed to “do my best” to raise enough money to pay for the remaining six air conditioners required to equip the school.
I have to admit that I had my doubts about being able to raise $3000 from those who had never seen the school, had never met the children there, had never heard of Lotus Education and who possibly had no personal ties with China. I have never been involved in any fundraising. And, even though I was a salesman for many years, I have a real fear of asking anyone for money.
Two things kept me focused: First, my promise to Director Wang who had shown me such kindness while I was at the school and second, the words of one of the students. She told me, “Teacher, you are in our Chinese hearts now and we will take care of you”. At the time, she was only referring to protecting me from dishonest taxi drivers. Not so dramatic. Nonetheless, that one sentence has driven my desire to ‘take care of’ those wonderful kids who welcomed me while I was there.
So, in mid-April, armed with missionary zeal, I started planning “something”. I didn’t know what that “something” was, but I was planning it. I talked to friends, neighbors, colleagues and customers who all said, “That sounds like a good cause! Let me know when you figure out what you are going to do”. I had no clue. I won’t go into the details, but some of my first ideas were anemic at best. Then, one day, I mentioned the fundraiser to a family friend, Sarah, who is a professional fundraiser for one of the local child protection agencies. Everything started to come together almost immediately. She gave me clear direction and identified which of my plans were irreparably crazy and needed to be dropped post haste.
Sarah kindly offered her home, which is larger than ours (and considerably cleaner because my children do not live with her). She designed the invitations, edited my long-winded introduction, created email invites, enlisted her children and their friends to stuff envelopes and created spreadsheets with the invitee’s email and snail mail addresses…and the list goes on. I was dumbfounded.
The neighborhood Chinese restaurant generously agreed to donate the food and one of my customers agreed to donate the drinks. I got in touch with the local Confucius Institute and the Kansas City Chinese American Association. Their members responded with enthusiastic support. They provided entertainment in the form of food and traditional Chinese dance and song. The President of the KCCAA, CJ Wei co-sponsored the event in the name of his organization.
I claim credit for the idea about the silent auction. I have always admired the beauty of Chinese art and culture and over the years I purchased several antiques and culturally representative items which I have cherished. I felt the time had finally come to give those things a purpose. Other wonderful items were donated by members of the Chinese Community, local businesses, and other generous friends. Two bright acrylic paintings were donated by an up-and-coming Chinese-American artist who has appeared in the press and has had shows at well-known galleries, Marissa Hitt. Marissa is a fine, well-spoken young lady who will tell you all about her very unique images. Both of her paintings sold at the auction. Oh, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Marissa is six and a half (yes, 6yrs and a half).
The weather was beautiful for the event. Guests were able to view the silent auction, watch a continuous slide show of the school and take from the buffet. Outside, guests could sit eat and socialize. It was a very multicultural crowd.
I spoke for a few minutes about the school, the wonderful people of Lotus and expressed my deepest gratitude to those who had given of their time and resources. It was humbling to see how so many people had come together, half a world away, just to express love and support for children they have never met.
The dancers were beautiful, the singers were wonderful and, when the donations were added up, we had not only met the $3000 goal, we had exceeded it by over $700. I will use this word again: humbling.
The next day, I received a call from my chiropractor who had made a generous donation, even though I had forgotten to invite him until the day of the event. I thanked him again, but he said that he had even better news. The acupuncturist with whom he shares an office (whom I did not know and did not invite) had been telling one of her patients about the fundraiser and the school. At the end of the session, her patient left a donation for $1000. This was truly an expression of selfless compassion.
In the meantime, other donations have come in and we have exceeded the $5000 mark. I am not only pleased to be able to repay my debt of gratitude to the children of the Jing Yu Xi Wang School, I am also proud of my own community for their generosity and compassion. What a wonderful thing.
One of Confucius’ disciples once asked him: “What is your wish?” The answer was: “That the elderly will have peace, that friends will be true and that children will be cared for and cherished”