Jean Chatzky, the “Today” show financial editor who spoke at Monday’s Women Helping Women luncheon, calls it “karma kickback.” Give money away in lean times. And feel grateful for your job in these high unemployment times.
“Gratitude is the antidote to materialism,” Chatzky said. “Materialism is obsessing on what you desire. Gratitude is appreciating what you already have.”
Gratitude – and giving – were in abundance at the Spokane Convention Center luncheon. Despite the rocky financial times, 1,800 women and men attended. For the first time in the luncheon’s 17-year history, the donation ask was increased from $100 to $125. Both attendance and donations were down slightly from the 2008 luncheon, at which $300,000 was raised. The preliminary total for Monday’s luncheon was $238,682, though the final total will be higher as donations continue to come in.
“The average gift was $140, which was phenomenal, because we asked them to step up to $125. Everyone stretched,” said Trish McFarland, board president for Women Helping Women.
A lot happened in the economy between last year’s luncheon and this year’s. The nation’s unemployment rate, for instance, “surged” to 5.5 percent in May 2008. It’s now 8.9 percent.
Chatzky, whose books urge people to take creative career risks, acknowledged that in 2009, she’s recommending men and women keep their day jobs.
“Start learning to love what you are doing,” she said. “Forge connections with your boss and other people around you. Fake it until you make it. Pretend that you feel satisfied. Tell yourself you had a good day. Walk through the corridors with a smile on your face. Your work is going to be more intriguing if you act like you’re having fun.”
She urged luncheon-goers to adopt the vocabulary of gratitude by using these words: “gift,” “lucky,” “fortunate,” “blessed,” “thankful.”
Amber Stamps, 30, didn’t have to fake her gratitude. For the second year in a row, she was awarded a Vivian Winston scholarship. Stamps uses it for college tuition. Winston, who co-founded Women Helping Women in the early 1990s, died March 20 at age 97.
Stamps, who has a 14-year-old daughter, is finishing an associate’s degree and will attend Washington State University in the fall. She plans to become an accountant. “I am grateful to be at this table with these wonderful women,” she said. “I’m amazed that people give so much.”
In an interview before the luncheon, Chatzky said the economic downturn has been a great leveler. “In New York, you have the secret shoppers. They hide their bags. Even if you are spending money, it’s not the time to show you are spending it.”
She recommended that when people spend, they do it locally.
“Pay attention to local charities. Think close to home,” she said. “We all have local merchants and restaurants we support in good times, but it’s important that we support them in bad times, too.”