I have never actually stopped to fully analyze why I gave up my career as a partner in a law firm, to give all my attention to ending breast cancer. I am often asked why. And I usually shrug. I simply cannot conceive of doing anything else.
"Giving" has played a very important role in my life, from a very young age. My family fell on the low end of the economic ladder, yet we were always giving to others. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother cooking and delivering food with me and my siblings by her side, to those even less fortunate than we.
As I grew older I gave time to volunteering on non-profit boards, political campaigns and coaching younger women. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I took my experience with giving to breast cancer advocacy. I quickly realized that we did not know nearly enough about breast cancer and, in fact, in 1987 it was rarely discussed. While this affected me on a very personal level, it also made me think of all the other people in my position who deserved better information, safer and effective treatment and, ultimately, a world without breast cancer.
I was fortunate to find a group of like-minded women who founded the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC). Very quickly, I realized that I wanted to give my time and energy to fight for those affected by breast cancer in the past, present and future. The desire to give to this cause is what motivated me to leave my legal career and become a full-time advocate and President of the National Breast Cancer Coalition.
And, NBCC in turn has given me the opportunity to meet so many women (and men) whose lives motivate me to continue that work. The reason I give is because I am inspired by advocates who give countless hours of their time and selfless donors who give to NBCC to help us achieve the goal of Breast Cancer Deadline 2020: to know how to end breast cancer by January 1, 2020.
Of course, the importance of giving is not confined to ending breast cancer. There are many organizations across the country and around the world that rely on generous activists and donors. That is why NBCC is participating in #GivingTuesday, a movement to create an international day of giving to kick off a giving season. While ending breast cancer is NBCC's primary goal, it is important to acknowledge the spirit of giving, no matter what the cause -- whether it is cancer or education or hunger or civil rights.
As we start December and are bombarded with images and messages about giving gifts to our loved ones, let us be reminded of the greatest gift that we can give to others -- a better world -- for us, for our children, for our grandchildren.
Last year, #GivingTuesday resulted in a 50 percent increase in online donations for that same day compared to the prior year. More than 50 million people worldwide joined the conversation about #GivingTuesday in 2012. Imagine if we were to double our reach this year and each person just gave a few dollars to the charity of their choice. The result would be several hundred million dollars for ending breast cancer, poverty, child abuse, AIDS and other social ills.
Researchers who study happiness have reported that those who give their time and/or money to others live happier lives. So, when you give, you also give yourself the gift of happiness. I know that is true for me. Giving my time, energy and money to NBCC so that we can end breast cancer has brought me a level of joy and contentment that I could not have found in any other way.
Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday, the start of the giving season. Before we close out the year and welcome another, let's use this month to give ourselves a new and improved world for 2014. It's simple. Give. Thanks.