Thursday, September 21, 2006

How I Give All My Google Ad Revenue To My Grandmother

(This is for Her Bad Mother, who asked her readers to write about about "a cause that you are passionate about. ")

It`s high time I explained the link on my sidebar, "I pledge to send any money I make from this blog to this organization." This month, I got my first check from Google, for $106.21. I would like to thank all the people whose c*l*i*c*k*s on those ads made this possible, and let you know where the money you helped me earn is going.

I will be sending a check for that amount to this charity -- The Rural School Project in Cambodia. In fact, it will be earmarked toward a specific school, which I funded and named after my grandmother.

I can`t tell you which one, in the interest of preserving my semi-anonymity, but you can click on links to specific schools on this page, and some of them have photos and interviews with students, teachers and local residents.

Now, before I start talking about the school, please allow me to first say a few words about my grandmother.

Many of my blog readers who know me in real life know I was very close to my mother`s mother, who lived with our family when I was growing up.

Daughter is named after her. Four days after I told my grandmother I was pregnant, I had a dream in which she said to me, "I`m sorry I won`t be around to see the new baby, but I heard from someone on the other side that it`s my time." And she pointed to a gravestone with her name and "1918-1996" written on it.

It was a sad, vivid dream, and I told Hub about it in the morning. I called my grandmother that night, just to hear her voice, but my mother said she wasn`t feeling well and had gone to bed early. The following morning, we were awakened by a call from my father saying Gramma had suffered a fatal heart attack.

That was the end of her life story, which began in New Haven, Connecticut, There, my grandmother had a pretty crappy early life, by all accounts. Her parents were Polish immigrants, and her mother died giving birth to a boy when she was 8 and her younger sister was 6. The little brother died of pneumonia at 14 months, and her father was consumed by grief. The Polish immigrant community quickly fixed him up with a new wife to take care of his girls, but she turned out to be a serious alcoholic. Then the Depression came.

Gramma told me she always dreamed of being a nurse, and if she could just have stayed in school a little longer, she thinks she would have been able to get a full scholarship to nursing school, because she said her grades were very good (I can`t imagine their being otherwise). Unfortunately, she had to leave school as soon as she was old enough to get her working papers at 14, and was never able to go back.

Instead, she worked for most of her life as a waitress. I guess she figured the next best thing to nursing was to place hot food in front of hungry people.

I could go on and on about my grandmother, and what she meant to me. She is the main reason I`m still a Catholic of sorts, despite the fact that it`s not a great fit with my secular/ feminist/relativist leanings --- and I grew up to marry a secular Buddhist (with Gramma`s blessing -- she knew a good thing when she saw it).*

Since I was in college, I`ve always sought out volunteer work with the elderly. The reason is pretty obvious: in every elderly person I meet, I see a little bit of Gramma.

After she died, it bothered me that besides Daughter, the only thing on earth with her name on it was a tombstone. So whenever I contributed any money to any causes, I did so "In memory of..." Gramma. Someday, I wanted her name to come up in a Google search, at least.

I vowed that if I ever won the lottery or otherwise got rich, I would build a medical clinic somewhere and name it after her. I know she would have liked that, because of her unfulfilled nursing dream.

Then I heard about the Rural School Project.

Cambodia keeps making the UN`s list of 50 poorest countries. Rural poverty is rampant there -- about three-quarters of the population gets by on subsistence farming. Over half of Cambodia`s population is 20 years old or younger. The country needs help right now, but it also needs forward-looking help, like teachers and schools, to train this generation to care for the next.

It now costs $14,000 to build a school (though it was somewhat less when I did it). Once it's built, you can keep on contributing to that specific school, by buying books and computers, paying teachers` salaries, etc.

Right now, my donations are relatively small, compared to my large initial outlay. But someday if we can afford it, I want to set up a nursing scholarship for students at the school that carries on my grandmother`s name.

Hub initally balked at my wanting to spend such a big chunk of our savings on something like this, since we do have three kids and a mortgage, but then I reminded him about an inheritance I`d received a few years before. No, not from Gramma -- from another old man in a nursing home I`d visited weekly for four years, when we lived in Los Angeles. Mr. Z.`s family had been wiped out in the Holocaust, and he had no living relatives except for an elderly cousin in Haifa. Mr. Z. died after we moved back to Tokyo, and....he left me $10,000. I wanted to pass this on. (Yes, I could have named the school after Mr. Z., but unlike my grandmother, he had enough cash at the end of his life to put his name on something, if that had been important to him.)

I suppose my motivation is largely selfish, since honoring my grandmother`s memory is probably not as virtuous as helping people strictly for the sake of helping them. But I`m sure the students at my grandmother`s school don`t care about my reasons -- they just care that they have computers, and no longer have to study their lessons under a leaky thatched roof.

This cause has also given me my ultimate back-up plan, should all go horribly, tragically wrong in my life. If I were ever to lose everything, Hub and the kids, what would I do? What would I live for?

Now I have a plan. I would start learning to speak Khmer, and go teach English or something at Gramma`s school.

-----------------------------

*(Gramma did once tell me, though, "If you had to marry a non-Catholic, couldn`t you at least have married a nice Jewish boy?")

12 Comments:

Blogger Johnny said...

Nice!

2:33 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

This, my dear, made me smile and cry. Your grandma must be so, so proud of you, and your great big generous heart.

5:25 PM  
Blogger Veronica Mitchell said...

I came here through HBM's link. What a lovely post. What better memorial to your grandmother could there be?

7:53 PM  
Blogger jw said...

Something wonderful to be passionate about.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous alice said...

oh!

thank you.

I can't think of much more than that at the moment, but this touched me deeply.

9:16 PM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

It is a wonderful cause. The straightfoward need and response. Sometimes I think I've known some special, dear women like your Gramma... but in truth your writing of her again I see that she was such a unique love in your life, beyond corollary making. It is a great gift you have given the world of this lady so special to you.

10:29 PM  
Blogger kuri & ping said...

You are very lucky to have had someone like that in your life. It's wonderful that her memory is going across the miles to help other people.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother and a beautiful thing for you to do. There really aren't words to explain how touching this post is.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Deanna said...

My Obachan once said something similar to me - "Just find a nice Japanese boy!" No luck, so I married the white boy and gave her two great-grandchildren, one of whom is named after her. I don't think she minds too much. ;)

10:44 AM  
Blogger Caloden said...

Of all the posts I have read on various blogs over the last year, this one is by far the most beautiful. I am absolutely awed by your effort and this wonderful school that you had built for your grandmother.

Somewhere she is smiling.

8:15 AM  
Blogger pixie sticks said...

I really love that you did (and continue to do) this for her (I'm going to start clicking on those ads every time I visit your site whether I need rodent advice or not!). My Gram was born in 1918 too, I guess I'll stop being such a wreck over losing her this week and thank God or Buddha or the universe in general for the last 10 years. Thanks for that.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

you rock. I'm clicking away.

8:06 AM  

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