Those are not my words. Those are the words of Ian Lawson Van Toch. He used to say that to challenge his friends. Ian was a student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario who had just graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Computing. He was about to begin graduate studies in Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto when he died tragically in 2007. Ian had been interning in the field of cancer research when he died of heart disease at 22. He had found his passion, to help find the cure for cancer.
I never knew Ian, but I met his father, John two years ago on a bike ride. As we rode along the bike path next to the river in Montreal, John told me about his son and the Ian Lawson Van Toch Cancer Informatics Fund that was established to continue his legacy. The Team Ian Ride, a cycling event from Kingston to Montreal that has raised over $130,000 so far, helps to support this fund. The ultimate goal of the fund is to provide opportunities for other young scientists like Ian to experience the same thrill of discovering their passion as Ian did and to help them launch their careers in the field of cancer informatics.
I had wanted to do the Team Ian Ride since I met John and he told me about it, but last year I had committed to the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer and I was not sure I could raise the funds to do both. This year I was only planning to do the Enbridge Ride and I was asked again if I would like to participate in Ian’s Ride, I hesitated again and then said, “YES!”
I said yes because I realized that not doing it because I had to raise another $1000 was a lame excuse. I said yes because I saw the difference that our fundraising for Enbridge had made and that I could help to contribute to the $60,000 that Ian’s Ride is targeting this year. I said yes because I love to be with people who have a similar vision of life that I do; where there is nothing that is impossible and giving and caring are core values. I said yes because I was touched by the story of Ian and what that boy wanted to do and the passion that his family had to carry that dream on.
I met the rest of the family, Jane, Ian’s mother and Andrea, Ian’s sister, last weekend. The Team was out spinning on a street corner in front of one of the sponsors of the Team Ian Ride, the Royal Bank of Canada, where we collected donations. We asked and begged, we rode our bikes, we made bubbles for kids, we told the story of why we were doing this, we stopped passerby’s and people in cars stopped at red lights, we laughed and then at the end of it all I almost cried. Almost because there is great joy in what we are doing, but there is some sadness in this story.
When I first met Jane, our conversation was more about passing off the donations and thanking her for an egg salad sandwich. Then at the end as we were packing up I stopped Jane and asked her how it was to do this, and did it help with her loss. As the crew around us cleaned up we talked and I thought I would hear about what it was to have lost her son but what I heard was the strength and hope she has found in what they are doing together as a family to raise money so that other kids may not only help in the search for a cure for cancer, but that they may find their passion in life as Ian had done. I heard what an outgoing and kind and caring kid Ian was but I also saw a determination in Jane to carry on his legacy, the same determination that I first heard from John when I met him.
I am honoured to be taking part in this ride with 27 others and a team of volunteers who understand not only why this is important but also what small grass roots organizations can do and how their generosity may affect change. It shows me that we need to be ready to be generous and caring in all that we do. It shows me once again, that when we have the opportunity to give, we will, and in giving there is hope for a better future.
If you would like to sponsor me and donate to the Team Ian Ride: Click Here
Tomorrow I will get on my bike and ride to Quebec City to raise money for cancer care and research. I am riding with a few thousand others in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. It is like so many big charity events that we see these days where we need to raise a minimum amount to participate and through corporate donations and individual sponsorship large amounts of money are raised. This event takes place in four provinces in Canada and raises millions. It is called charity. But I don’t want to write about charity, I want to write about generosity.
Charity is being moved to give and generosity is being moved to change.
This is not the first time I am doing this ride, I did this ride last year when I joined a team called, Hope & Gratitude. The team was started by a man named Rob Callard, a cancer survivor himself. I joined the team because I lost a very close friend to cancer and my friend had done a ride and somehow it seemed fitting to do this.
Rob had made a post on FaceBook asking if anyone wanted to join and I remember reading the post and wanting to but not sure I could. I didn’t have a bike, I hadn’t really ridden a bike since I had a Peugeot 10 speed 30 years ago, and on top of that I had to raise $2500 to participate. What was making me hesitate though wasn’t any of that.
In Being Generous, One Becomes Generous.
What is it that makes most of us uncomfortable when we are presented with the opportunity to give, to being generous? As people, we are asked to give on a daily basis and in a charity situation we are being asked to make a difference in our communities, to overcome our fears and to make change. In this process we are forced to push ourselves beyond what we may think we are capable of doing. Yet true generosity is generative, it allows for change, for opportunity and it may go so far as being transformative. It goes far beyond charity.
I grew up in a family where giving and charity were done quietly and without the need for recognition. After working for so many years in an industry where profit and recognition was the norm I was shown a different vision, where the idea of your name on a hospital wing or in the newspaper became the goal. There seemed to have to be a reward for any giving done and somehow that did not seem right to me. Yet I saw the benefits of what power and influence could do to raise money. In the end, it was always at the grass roots level that I saw true generosity.
Generous acts, will allow for generous responses.
This year to raise money there haven been spin-a-thons and bake sales, movie nights and workout events, and then just plain old asking for donations, in person, by e-mail and of course on Facebook. This year our team Hope & Gratitude has over 20 riders many of which I will only meet tomorrow. I enlisted one friend to ride with me last year and two more this year. What I have seen and heard from them and from the other riders in our training rides is always the same. They are amazed at the response from those they asked to sponsor them, they have been touched by the stories of those who were lost to cancer, and they were sometimes uncomfortable by the show of gratitude for what they are doing. They loved the hugs and thank-you’s that were bestowed on them and yet all that anyone has done is to be generous.
People give what they can to charity; we are generous with what is important to us.
There is one thing that I have learned in all my years of charity, we all want to give. I believe that it is innate in ourselves; we just need to be given the chance. That is what charity allows for, if we truly understand what it is to be generous.
In the end, the Enbridge Ride we will do tomorrow will raise millions of dollars and it will make a difference and allow much needed funding for research and patient care, but what we all achieved through our generous acts has no measure. The friend that was allowed to tell her story of losing her sister and sharing her loss, the child that baked cookies to help her mother raise $20, the co-worker that helped plan a mini fundraising event, the gift of knowing that we allowed someone to give has no value.
When we give because we want to make a difference we allow for the possibility to make change and our actions will have far greater consequences than any money donated to charity. It is not that money does not matter; it is to remember to put love into our giving. I say that generosity is not really optional and we must not do it now and then. It is when we do it on a daily basis that we will see it’s transformative power. I repeat: How will you be generous today?
If you would like to support my ride to benefit the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, click here.
Last year on this date I posted I Dare You – click here to view the post, and I asked you and myself: What do you want to do?
The big picture answer.
I asked: If you were given the opportunity to do something that you have always wanted to do what would it be?
The only requirement was that it could not be about you, that you had to look beyond yourself and your own goals to a bigger vision.
If you look back over the year of 2012, did you do it?
I have always thought that unless I was out there saving the world in some way that my life had no meaning. So I tried that and I took a few years off and I did a lot of volunteer work. Did I save the world? No, as you can see it is still as messed up as before. Perhaps as my days were concentrated on working for a cause I felt better about myself but is that not just my perception? Is there not a way to take that same idea of giving and bring it in to our everyday lives no matter what we do?
At first glance it may not seem that easy to do, but if I look back over this past year I can see how I started to look at things differently. I run my own business and I am not out there saving the world in any way. We sell skin care products and perfume. But we have a choice in how we do that and I have a choice in how I work with my team, as well as our vendors and anyone I come in to contact with each day.
What is Generosity?
Generosity is about not only giving but also about generating. It is a creative act rather than a handout, an attitude or ethos rather than an exchange between someone who has too much and someone who has too little. From Being Generous Lucinda Vardey & John Dalla Costa
I love this quote because it reminds me that each day I have an opportunity to be generous. That I can look beyond my needs and wants to those I live with, work with and interact with and decide what my attitude will be and how I will give to them in whatever I do. I find that very hard. I don’t seem to be programmed to give naturally, I have to work at it. It may not always seem that way to those that know me, but it is constant work. I have to think about what the goals and passions are for those I work with to see if I can help them reach those goals. It means not taking for granted my friends and family and pushing myself to see them as people. For it is often those closest to us we seem to forget are people too.
What will I choose?
It is automatic and easy for me to make each day about financial goals and profit, but I have a choice if I want to do that. I can look beyond the obvious to what I may do to give back to my team, our customers and the vendors that we work with and in turn to the community that surrounds us.
As another year comes to an end, I look back with gratitude for all that I have learned and the people that are in my life. Each one of them has taught me something. Some of them made me angry and resentful. Those people are the ones that often taught me the most, if I was willing to let them. The ones that gave me love and friendship helped buffer me from the others, allowed me to turn to them for help, and allowed me in the end to give and be generous.
I see now that my dare was not something to be done once a year as we turn from one year to the next. It is a dare to be taken each day upon rising. The possibilities seem endless if we were all to take that dare to do what we have always wanted to do each day, one day at a time.
What do you think?
I dare you.