On August 10th I came across a little “human interest” article on the Opinion Pages of the New York Times, via their website. Since then, the story has become exponentially larger, in the viral way that these things happen in today’s electronic world. The story has been picked up by others, including The Catholic Reporter and TampaBay.com, and there are numerous electronic reproductions, pointers, and offshoots, including as of today The Moments Project. I think you should know about it.
Rachel Beckwith was 9 years old when she died on July 23rd of this year. She was, by all accounts, a stunning light in a world that seems to carry precious little good news these days, and at her age a bastion of maturity in a time when “adults” daily seem bent on acting like schoolyard bullies. As Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times wrote in his August 10th article, Rachel’s Last Fund-Raiser, she has a lot to teach the generation of “geezers” – of which I am one – who worry about the younger generation’s work ethic, their seeming addiction to electronic toys and media, and their apparent stubborn refusal to think the sky is falling.
It seems that Rachel had heard that there are children in the world who don’t have clean water, and she was aghast. She learned this at her church, which was raising funds for a charity called Charity:Water, which raises money to build wells in developing countries. For her 9th birthday, she decided not to accept presents but instead asked anyone who might have done so to take the money that would have bought her gift, and instead donate $9 to the charity. She didn’t quite reach her goal of $300 by her birthday.
Tragically, Rachel was fatally injured in an automobile accident a little over a month after her birthday. Those around her began to donate on her page at the charity, in her memory. As of Mr. Kristof’s editorial, over $850,000 had been raised. As of the moment that I write this sentence, $1,185,515. I gave this morning – just $9, in honor of Rachel’s original wish, though others have given more. Should you chose, you too can donate at Rachel’s 9th Birthday Page. Because operating funds are privately funded, 100% of your donation goes to infrastructure to actually build the wells.
This is a great story, and it is heartwarming in a time when that is sorely needed. But even raising over $1 million is not the most important part of the story. What’s truly remarkable is that Rachel is not alone, not by a long shot. Charity:Water itself was started by a young man when he was 30. My son Gregory, now 13, several years ago on – coincidentally enough – his own 9th birthday, elected to forego presents and asked his friends to bring the gift money they would have spent which, instead, they pooled to make a donation to The Heiffer Project, charity that caught his fancy that provides animals to help poor villages build sustainable resources.
My generation is in danger of leaving the world a financial ruin for our children and grandchildren, and that breaks my heart some days; worse, some days I think it might break my spirit. What keeps me going is recognizing how often I see young people – admittedly sometimes in between playing mindless online games – grasp the most important aspect of instanteous worldwide communication in a planet continuously bathed in electronic communication; namely that our community has expanded to encircle the globe, and that, ultimately we are all in this together.
All of us. Every one.
And because we are all in this together, and because our voice can – in fact, does – travel instantaneously to every corner of the globe, we have the potential to do exponential good.
I earnestly hope we don’t leave the world a total mess for these generations, but if we do we need to look no further than Rachel to see that we will leave that mess in the hands of children who might well be much better equipped to fix it.
Les Kertay, The Moments Project