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What I Love with Trudy Dujardin, FASID, LEED AP

All My Children


Every year at this time, I share the story of a special charity that I support. Someone once said that “Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts,” and I believe that’s true. It’s important to me to make the holiday season about how we can help one another in a dark and cold time of year.



This year, I’d like to tell you about my children. I am blessed with a family of stepchildren and grandchildren, all of whom I love dearly, but there is another family I hold in my heart. I have supported ChildFund International for years, and am now on my fourth sponsored child: a boy, Nikhil, in India. He has the same birthday as my stepson, Nick, September 10–that feels right to me. A connection from his family in India to my family here.



Here’s how it works: you select a child to sponsor on the ChildFund website, and they connect you with pictures of your child, and news of their progress. You learn about the geography of their country, the community structure and their social beliefs. You can write letters to your child, and they will write to you. Beyond material assistance, a bond is formed with a little person in need.



When my last sponsored child turned 19, finished school, and began working with his uncle, I was asked to take on a special case. This family was so poor that they couldn’t afford the father’s diabetes medication. He was unable to work, so the family had no income at all. The first photos of Nikhil broke my heart.



He was so thin, and shy, and fearful. All big eyes, looking frightened. Just a few years later, the letters, report cards, drawings, and photos show so much improvement! He stands tall and happy–even smiling! Nikhil and I correspond and I send photos of my family. His social worker sends me photos of the supplies he purchases for himself and his family with our birthday and holiday gifts. He’s so thoughtful–always a sari for Mom and work pants for Dad, and chocolates to share with his friends.



It’s been years now, and Nikhil is growing up, too. I’m always sad when I have to let them move on, but there’s always a new life to work with.



I usually sponsor a child from age 5 or so to 18 or 19. Chandra was my first, and Nikhil won’t be my last. They are all emblazoned in my memory.



“It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.”–W.T. Ellis


Watch a short video about ChildFund here. 


Simple Giving

happy new year 2015 with christmas hat on sandy beach with wave - holiday concept

Each year, when the family is gathered together, we talk about our plans for the holidays. In recent years, inspired by how a friend and his family in Switzerland found a deeper meaning in Christmas,we have agreed to celebrate in a simpler way.

Skyline view of the old city center of Bern, Switzerland (an Unesco World Heritage Site) during a winter twilight. Some snow visible on the rooftops of the buildings. Between the houses, the spires of the most imposing churches of the city can be spotted, as well as the dome of the Switzerland's Parliament House. HDR Image.

My friend and his family live in a tiny storybook village. I’ve been there, and it’s magic. Their new way of celebrating began when their son, Theo, came home one Christmas Eve from college and told the family that he had heard the local village butcher was going out of business, and closing that night. As a family, they totaled up the cash value of their presents, and decided to return them. Instead, they brought the cash amount to the butcher and his wife in an envelope that very night. Their business was saved. They all cried with joy.


And so it goes. Instead of the rush to buy gifts and spend money for things we don’t truly need, we focus on giving from our hearts. There are so many creative options! Last year, some people read aloud from passages or poetry that are favorites.

My aunt gave blankets to the Sioux Native Americans to help them get through the winter. One person crafted a lovely handmade ornament for our tree, others made donations to Greenpeace, or did acts of kindness, such as visiting shut-ins. We all shared our stories at the table, and it was a very uplifting and joyful time. Noisy, too!


We do like to keep the tradition of giving gifts to the children, as a symbol of the gifts of the Magi to the Christ child in the manger. As they grow up, we’ll explain the significance of this. So our little Luke, Vidal, and Richard Thomas will all have gifts. That’s half the fun–watching them open things so joyfully!

Frank and I are gifting a live pig to a family through our favorite charity, Heifer International. Hopefully, he’ll be on his way soon. Livestock gives the village the gift of independence, and the piglets are shared in the village to spread the abundance.

heifer pig

We’ll also share photos of our “adopted” child in India, a little boy named Nik (just like my stepson, Nick!) through Childfund International. Not only does he share Nick’s name, but they share a birthday: September 10th! His father is so ill with diabetes that he can no longer support the family. Now they have money for insulin, and clothes for Nik so he can attend school. I’ll even show the family Nik’s report card.

childfund international

Watch a Childfund International video here. 

I chose the title of this post to be the same as the name of a wonderful book by Jennifer Iacovelli, the author of Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day

Simple_Giving_coverfinal copy

Jennifer began a blog, Another Jennifer, in February 2010, to explore the topic of philanthropy and what it meant. As a fundraiser for a non-profit organization for several years, she was getting frustrated with her progress in raising money to support good works, and urging legislators not to cut public funding.


Jennifer Iacovelli

Her book, Simple Giving, takes her blog one step farther. She hopes to inspire readers to do more giving in ways that are meaningful. Giving doesn’t always mean writing a check. It can be taking the time to write to your legislator about an issue important to you, or bringing doughnuts to your local fire department. You might check on an elderly neighbor, or just write a thank you note to someone who has done something for you.

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

–Henry James

In addition to Jennifer’s simple suggestions for daily acts of kindness, she shares some ideas for charitable giving to organizations you might not have heard about before. There’s Nearby Registry, a website that allows you to shop for unique gifts from local shops and nonprofits. Or To The Market, an online marketplace that showcases handmade goods created by survivors of abuse, conflict, and disease.


Molly Bears makes weighted teddy bears –so they feel like you’re holding an infant–for families who have experienced any form of infant loss, free of charge. Climate Counts holds companies accountable for their influence on climate change. Ark Project Now is based on the movie Evan Almighty, when Steve Carell’s character asks Morgan Freeman, who plays the role of God, “How can we change the world?”

And Morgan Freeman replies, “One act of random kindness at a time,” and writes the abbreviation, A-R-K, into the sand with a stick.

Lovely young brother and sister write words in the sand together

One person can make a difference; one person can change the world. Let me know what you choose to write in the sand, and how you’ll bring hope to people who may have lost theirs.  I’ll share it here, and on my Facebook page.

Happy Holidays.

Word "Hope" handwritten in sand at beach.