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One Woman, 365 Days to Do Good

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Betty Londergan went to see Julie & Julia, the delicious movie about Julia Child and blogger Julie Powell. That night, as she was falling asleep, she wondered what she would blog about for an entire year. Standing in her kitchen the next day, it hit her. "I could write about giving money away!"

Betty's dad left her a small inheritance and giving it away seemed like a great way to honour his legacy. But why donate it in one fell swoop? Why not share it with a bunch of people and organizations doing good works?

So, each day this year, Betty is giving $100 to a cause that moves her. And writing about it on her blog, WhatGives365.

Isn't that cool?

Betty's a writer. She's been a creative director in the advertising world and now freelances, so the writing part was a snap. (You'll love her blog. In addition to being moving, which you'd expect, given the subject matter, it's highly entertaining. And, as I discovered, she's quick with the quip. When we were trading emails rejoicing about Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar win, Betty wrote, "How satisfying beyond belief that must have been for Ms. Bigelow to not only be the first woman director to win, but to beat her egomaniacal ex-husband, AND to look about 1000 percent better than his new wife. A trifecta!")

So, writing, check. But blogging was a different story. Writing something new each and every day for an entire year was a daunting prospect. Beyond the research and interviews and myriad details -- and the joys of learning how to use WordPress.com -- who would she write about? "I felt I needed a plan. What if I got up one morning and had nothing to write about?" So, she made a list of a hundred organizations and wrote 30 posts before January 1st rolled around. "Just to have them in my back pocket."

As you can imagine, Betty's blog took on a life of its own. When you're doing good -- not to mention giving money away -- word travels. "I think I've used two of the posts I'd written, and never referred to the list even once. People find me."

And how. Everything from a fund-raising rally across Mongolia to people working to protect baby elephants, from social entrepreneurs inventing inexpensive devices for amputees to "a darling girl from North Carolina who has started a club to raise awareness of breast cancer".

Eighty-six down, 279 to go.

And now I've added to Betty's blog. After our interview, she said she'd like to make a donation to my charity. I chose HelpAge -- for 365 million reasons. Actually, double that. There are nearly 700 million people over 60 on our planet. And, as everyone knows, the population is getting older, fast. HelpAge is the only global network focused on the needs and rights of vulnerable older people. Getting older is tough enough -- imagine what it's like when you're also struggling to survive in Haiti or Darfur.

I introduced Betty to Marilyn Grist, Executive Director of HelpAge USA. They copied me on their email exchange, so I was able to discover that they're neighbours. What are the chances of that?

Betty blogged about HelpAge yesterday (her post is called, "One Beautiful Thing About Getting Older"). And Marilyn is going to blog about Betty and the Huffington Post community on the HelpAge sites.

At the end of our call, I asked Betty what's on the horizon. Might she write a book about her experience? (She's already written two smart, funny ones about motherhood -- she calls them tragic-comedies.) She grew silent, and I wished we were sitting together in a cafe instead of at opposite ends of a phone line so that I could see the emotions playing out across her face. "To tell you the truth, I'm so immersed in this that I can't see what's next. I'm so grateful to have this in my life -- it's incredibly rich and rewarding. All I know is that December 31st is going to be really hard."

Three hundred and sixty-five love letters to the world. Don't miss out.

•••••

New Radical update. Icebreaker, one of my picks for top New Radical gifts, just got a great plug in TIME magazine. Clever lead, worth a read.

And a New Radical moment. A friend sent me the link to this energetic OkGo video. When you're feeling like life is too, too, or you've been struggling to do good and not making much headway, remember that life is just like dominos. Lining up a million little pieces so that all that's needed is one push. Fllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllip.

•••••

Julia Moulden is on tour, talking about the New Radicals. Her new book will be published in 2011.

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