We are what we give


By Carey and Trevor McLaughlin


Every time my daughter Claire goes to Golisano Children’s Hospital for an appointment, x-ray, etc., she proudly tells the staff, doctors and nurses that she knows Tom Golisano.  Saying that she knows Tom Golisano is a bit of a stretch, but she did meet him.  Claire and her Special Olympics gymnastics team were invited to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the Golisano Training Center at Nazareth College a couple years ago. Special Olympics utilizes Golisano Training Center for training and events, and Nazareth students training to be nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists work with the athletes.  The facility was specifically designed to be inclusive and it is one of a kind in the nation.  Mr. Golisano’s contributions to our community are not just limited to these two examples, but they are the two that immediately come to my mind because they have a direct and positive impact on my daughter.


To be able to give the amount of money that Tom Golisano does, most people would have to win a big lottery jackpot.  When the lottery jackpot climbs to the triple digits, my husband and I buy a few tickets and then we have fun playing the game of “if we won, where would we donate money?”  GiGi’s Playhouse tops our list.  Have we hit the jackpot yet?  To quote Harvey Milk, “No, but God knows we keep trying.”  We have, however, hit the jackpot in so many other ways in our lives. We certainly have hit the jackpot with GiGi’s Playhouse Rochester.  We are so fortunate that our community has GiGi’s to help our loved ones with Developmental Disabilities.  GiGi’s gives us so much and I only wish that I could give back to GiGi’s as much as they give to my daughter.

Tom Golisano’s generosity has had an amazing impact on the Rochester community and on those with developmental disabilities.  We need more generous people like Tom Golisano in the world.  But, not all of us have millions (billions?) to give to our community.  Nobody I know has won the lottery and is able to donate in this way. In fact, sometimes, we are just barely making ends meet.  However, giving is not just a “go big or go home” kind of situation and everyone has something to give.

My Dad always was really good at breaking things down into steps when I had a hard time getting started on something.  Whether it was a research paper in high school or learning to manage my finances just out of college, he always broke things down in a way that made things seem more manageable.  “Even smaller” he would tell me until I could manage the task.

So, when you think that you have nothing to give, break it down.  Even smaller.  No, even smaller.  So that, first, you give to yourself.  Then, even if you are just simply giving a smile to the checkout person at the grocery store or a thank you wave to the car that lets you into traffic, you are giving something.  This is how we change the world.

Winston Churchill famously said: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”  I urge you to give something to this world, no matter how small, no matter how much smaller you have to break it down until you can give something.  You’ll be amazed at what you get in return. If you need inspiration, perhaps you can find it in Louise Edlen, a 93-year-old woman who waved to the passing school bus every day for five years straight.  Or Rodney Smith, a man who cuts lawns for free for the elderly, veterans, the disabled, and single moms and has inspired other young men to do the same.

So many are depleted right now.  Depleted financially, emotionally, spiritually.  But give what you can and hopefully you will find that you get back so much more in return. If you have the financial means to give money, then do that.  If you can give your time, then do that. But if money and time are not possibilities, think even smaller.  And if all you have to give each day is a smile or kind words, I urge you to give that.  Help change the world.

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