These 2 essays on the power of giving will get you pumped to go out and make a difference.

There are plenty of good reasons to give time or money to your favorite nonprofit.

Some people do it for the tax write-offs. (Hey, whatever works!)

Others do it because it makes them feel all warm and tingly. The Wall Street Journal recently cited a study that found "donating to charity may actually improve a giver’s physical and emotional well being."

But the best stories of giving, the ones that move us the most, are the ones that start and end with a pure, selfless desire to make the world a better place.

92nd Street Y, a cultural nonprofit in New York, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently ran an essay contest called #MyGivingStory to find out more about why people give back.

Here are the two winning entries, as written by Kenan Rahmani and Jenny Mosier, respectively.

Kenan Rahmani gives to help Syrian refugee children build a better future.

Photo by Karam Foundation, used with permission.

Kenan Rahmani's winning essay:

"A couple months ago, the world was moved by a photograph of a young lifeless Syrian child washed up on a Turkish beach.

The death of this boy, Alan Kurdi, was just one out of thousands of stories of Syrian children who have been killed in the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Millions of Syrian children have forgotten what it is like to be a child, to go to school, to look forward to the future with hope. Karam Foundation helps remind these kids — and the world — that Syrian refugee children are #NotInvisible. Through a variety of education programs and direct assistance to families in dire need, Karam restores hope to the world's most vulnerable.

Since 2012, I have been donating to Karam Foundation (a Chicago-based nonprofit), which helped over 322,000 Syrians and 72,000 children in 2014 alone.

But two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see firsthand the difference that Karam makes, by volunteering on one of the organization's Innovative Education missions in southern Turkey, just a few miles from the Syrian border at the Ruwwad Syrian Refugee School. 40 volunteer mentors and experts from around the world joined, among them dentists, doctors, psycho-social workers, artists, journalists, and even a culinary arts mentor!

These children have seen the worst of this world. Many of them had been rescued from their homes after they were bombed by Syrian government barrel bombs. Some of them had recently fled the horrors of ISIS. Many had lost fathers, mothers, or brothers and sisters. All of them had lost their homes. Despite the ugliness they have witnessed, they yearned to learn, to play, and to smile. They were just as innocent and enthusiastic as any child I have ever met, yet the trauma of the Syrian war was impossible to ignore.

Photo by Karam Foundation used with permission

My co-mentor and I prepared a week-long Student Council workshop for the high-school students to give them an experience in democracy, a concept they had only heard about while growing up under a dictatorship. At first we sensed cynicism from the kids as we discussed basic tenets of democracy and encouraged students to nominate themselves for office, but as they started to design campaign posters and work on their speeches, we noticed how invested they became in the process. By the last day, the excitement filled every classroom as the students debated and held elections. A brilliant young woman, Wafa, from the 12th grade became the first President of the Ruwwad Student Council.

During this time, other mentors taught the school's 750 children cooking, journalism, filmmaking, self-defense, computer programming, and philosophy. They were examined by dentists and eye doctors, many for the first time in their lives. They painted the grim halls of their school with colorful flowers, instructed by a muralist from South Africa. By our last day of the mission, the school and the students had been transformed, and so had each of the volunteers who had travelled with us.

As Syrian refugees are rejected and shunned in many countries, with politicians equating refugees with the terrorism they fled, Karam seeks to empower refugees instead. Karam has chosen to invest in Syria's youth. Karam gives them the tools of mentorship and innovative education so these kids become global citizens equipped to succeed and create opportunities to build a better future for themselves, their communities, and their country.

This Giving Tuesday, I hope people around the world will choose to support Syrian refugees who have suffered unimaginable loss but still believe in building a hopeful future. Karam Foundation changes lives every single day. I witnessed for myself how lives can be transformed, and futures built, when dedicated individuals put humanity above everything else.

That's what inspires me to give."

Jenny Mosier gives to keep the memory of her son, Michael, alive.

Photo by Jenny Mosier, used with permission.

Jenny Mosier's winning essay:

"It was the week after my son turned six years old and also started kindergarten that we knew something was wrong.

My son, Michael, had always been a healthy, energetic little boy who loved sports and learning. On August 25, 2014, he boarded the bus for his first day of kindergarten, and he turned six years old just two days later. Life was really good, and with Michael's little sister Lila (then 2.5 years old), our family felt happy and complete.

Suddenly, at the end of that week, Michael began complaining of double vision. We would learn on September 4, 2014, that he had an inoperable pediatric brain tumor called DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), with a median survival of nine months from diagnosis and essentially a zero percent survival rate. With hopes that he would be the miracle, he underwent 30 radiation treatments, followed by chemotherapy, but unfortunately Michael continued to deteriorate.

On August 24, Michael had been jumping across trampolines with his friends for his birthday party, and just weeks later, he had lost the ability to walk on his own and relied on a wheelchair. Over a period of months, his body weight doubled due to the steroids necessary to reduce the inflammation in his brain. He lost the functioning of the left side of his body, and over time he would also be unable to speak, chew, swallow, and then finally breathe. Michael passed away just 8.5 months later on May 17, 2015.

His story is tragic, but also unfortunately representative of what kids facing DIPG have to confront.

The way that my son approached his illness, however, was anything but ordinary. While his body failed him bit-by-bit every single day, his mind remained intact, and he fought with every ounce of his being. Michael continued to go to school whenever possible, and he met each day with determination. Michael became known for his checklists. Each morning, he sat down with his father and wrote a list of everything he would accomplish that day, and despite his exhaustion from the treatments he endured, he would not go to sleep unless the list was completed. He inspired thousands across the world — from more than 60 countries — to donate money for pediatric brain cancer research, resulting in him earning the award as the top fundraiser in one of the largest brain cancer events in the country.

Michael is without a doubt the strongest person I have known.

Photo by Jenny Mosier, used with permission.

I give to Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation not just to honor my son — though of course that is a part of it — but to carry on the fight that he began. I give because hundreds of children each year are diagnosed with DIPG, and they deserve HOPE. They deserve people fighting for them, and that is now what I do every day.

Our family has given and will always give financially, and I have also resigned from my job as a lawyer to dedicate myself full time to this cause. We will fight to find a cure to DIPG because we want the next family sitting in a waiting room with their normally healthy child — who finds out they have DIPG — to have options to save their child's life.

We will complete the final item on Michael's checklist: Defeat DIPG."

Cheers to Jenny and Kenan, two excellent humans who are showing the rest of us how it's done.

We should all take a little time this holiday season to find our own reason for giving back. Maybe, like Jenny, the answer will be right in front of us. Or maybe we'll have to look a little harder.

Either way, after reading these incredible stories, it's hard not to be inspired to go out and make a difference.

A woman is shocked to learn that her name means something totally different in Australia.

Devyn Hales, 22, from California, recently moved to Sydney, Australia, on a one-year working visa and quickly learned that her name wouldn’t work Down Under. It all started when a group of men made fun of her on St. Patrick’s Day.

After she introduced herself as Devyn, the men laughed at her. "They burst out laughing, and when I asked them why, they told me devon is processed lunch meat,” she told The Daily Mail. It's similar to baloney, so I introduce myself as Dev now,” she said in a viral TikTok video with over 1.7 million views.

For those who have never been to Australia, Devon is a processed meat product usually cut into slices and served on sandwiches. It is usually made up of pork, basic spices and a binder. Devon is affordable because people buy it in bulk and it’s often fed to children. Australians also enjoy eating it fried, like spam. It is also known by other names such as fritz, circle meat, Berlina and polony, depending on where one lives on the continent. It's like in America, where people refer to cola as pop, soda, or Coke, depending on where they live in the country.

So, one can easily see why a young woman wouldn’t want to refer to herself as a processed meat product that can be likened to boloney or spam. "Wow, love that for us," another woman named Devyn wrote in the comments. “Tell me the name thing isn't true,” a woman called Devon added.


#fypシ #australia #americaninaustralia #sydney #aussie

Besides changing her name, Dev shared some other differences between living in Australia and her home country.

“So everyone wears slides. I feel like I'm the only one with 'thongs'—flip-flops—that have the little thing in the middle of your big toe. Everyone wears slides,” she said. Everyone wears shorts that go down to your knees and that's a big thing here.”

Dev also noted that there are a lot of guys in Australia named Lachlan, Felix and Jack.

She was also thrown off by the sound of the plentiful magpies in Australia. According to Dev, they sound a lot like crying children with throat infections. “The birds threw me off,” she said before making an impression that many people in the comments thought was close to perfect. "The birds is so spot on," Jess wrote. "The birds, I will truly never get used to it," Marissa added.

One issue that many Americans face when moving to Australia is that it is more expensive than the United States. However, many Americans who move to Australia love the work-life balance. Brooke Laven, a brand strategist in the fitness industry who moved there from the U.S., says that Aussies have the “perfect work-life balance” and that they are “hard-working” but “know where to draw the line.”

Despite the initial cultural shocks, Devyn is embracing her new life in Australia with a positive outlook. “The coffee is a lot better in Australia, too,” she added with a smile, inspiring others to see the bright side of cultural differences.

Image created from @maymaybarclay Twitter page.

The courage to speak up to join in the fun.

Meet Mason Brian Barclay, a teen and self-described "very homosexual male." He recently wanted to attend a sleepover at his "new best friend" Houston's house, because teens are gonna teen. But he's a boy, and everyone knows boys aren't allowed to attend girls' sleepovers, because of cooties/patriarchal norms.

So he behaved more maturely than most adults, and crafted a long text message to Houston's mom, Mrs. Shelton, in which he politely asked for permission to attend Houston's sleepover.

"I think the common meaning behind only allowing the same sex to share sleepovers is due to the typical interest in the opposite sex, when, in this case, I do not like the opposite sex," he explained in the text.

Mrs. Shelton's response was so good that Mason tweeted it out and it went viral:

"Hmm. Well my husband is hot. Should I worry?" she responded.


Evidently Mason found Mrs. Shelton's text hilarious. So does Twitter.

And others are just wondering if the sleepover is on, or not??

Others need to know if Houston's dad lives up to the hype:

This article originally appeared on 11.26.18

Pop Culture

SNL sketch about George Washington's dream for America hailed an 'instant classic'

"People will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

Seriously, what were our forefathers thinking with our measuring system?

Ever stop to think how bizarre it is that the United States is one of the only countries to not use the metric system? Or how it uses the word “football” to describe a sport that, unlike fútbol, barely uses the feet at all?

What must our forefathers have been thinking as they were creating this brave new world?

Wonder no further. All this and more is explored in a recent Saturday Night Live sketch that folks are hailing as an “instant classic.”

The hilarious clip takes place during the American Revolution, where George Washington rallies his troops with an impassioned speech about his future hopes for their fledgling country…all the while poking fun at America’s nonsensical measurements and language rules.

Like seriously, liters and milliliters for soda, wine and alcohol but gallons, pints, and quarters for milk and paint? And no “u” after “o” in words like “armor” and “color” but “glamour” is okay?

The inherent humor in the scene is only amplified by comedian and host Nate Bargatze’s understated, deadpan delivery of Washington. Bargatze had quite a few hits during his hosting stint—including an opening monologue that acted as a mini comedy set—but this performance takes the cake.


All in all, people have been applauding the sketch, noting that it harkened back to what “SNL” does best, having fun with the simple things.

Here’s what folks are saying:

“This skit is an instant classic. I think people will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

“Dear SNL, whoever wrote this sketch, PLEASE let them write many many MANY more!”

“Instantly one of my favorite SNL sketches of all time!!!”

“I’m not lying when I say I have watched this sketch about 10 times and laughed just as hard every time.”

“This may be my favorite sketch ever. This is absolutely brilliant.”

There’s more where that came from. Catch even more of Bargatze’s “SNL” episode here.

This article originally appeared on 10.30.23


What to do when you're the child of an alcoholic

My dad was an addict, and growing up with him taught me a lot.

Photo with permission from writer Ashley Tieperman.

Ashley Tieperman and her father.

There was never just one moment in my family when we “found out" that my dad was an addict.

I think I always knew, but I never saw him actually drinking. Usually, he downed a fifth of vodka before he came home from work or hid tiny bottles in the garage and bathroom cabinets.

My name is Ashley, and I am the child of an addict. As a kid, I cried when our family dinner reservation shrunk from four to three after a man with glassy eyes stumbled through the door. I didn't guzzle the vodka, but I felt the heartbreak of missed birthdays. I feel like I should weigh 500 pounds from all the “I'm sorry" chocolate donuts. I had to grow up quicker, but it made me into the person I am today.

addiction, coping, 12 step programs, recovery

Me and my dad.

Photo with permission from writer Ashley Tieperman.

I spent many years shouting into journals about why this was happening to me. But this is the thing that no one will tell you about loving someone who has an addiction: it will force you to see the world through different eyes.

Here are some things I've learned:

1. When your family's yelling about burnt toast, they're probably also yelling about something else.

My family yelled about everything — and nothing — to avoid the messy stuff. We all handled my dad's addiction differently. My brother devoured sports. My mom took bubble baths. I slammed doors and slammed boyfriends for not understanding my family's secrets.

Regardless of the preferred coping mechanism, everyone feels pain differently.

2. Your "knight in shining armor" can't fix this.

Boyfriends became my great escape when I was young. But when I expected them to rescue me from the pain I grew up with, it never worked out. No matter how strapping they looked galloping in on those white horses, they couldn't save me or fix anything.

In the end, I realized that I had to find healing on my own before I could build a strong relationship.

3. “Don't tell anyone" is a normal phase.

When my dad punched holes in the wall, my mom covered them up with artwork. I wanted to rip the artwork down to expose all the holes, especially as a bratty teenager. But eventually I realized that it wasn't my choice. My parents had bills to pay and jobs to keep. I've learned it's common to cover up for dysfunction in your family, especially when it feels like the world expects perfection.

4. Friends probably won't get it, but you'll need them anyway.

Bulldozed by broken promises, I remember collapsing on a friend's couch from the crippling pain of unmet expectations. I hyperventilated. Things felt uncontrollable and hopeless. My friend rubbed my back and just listened.

These are the kinds of friends I will keep forever, the ones who crawled down into the dark places with me and didn't make me get back up until I was ready.

5. You can't fix addiction, but you can help.

When I was a teenager, I called a family meeting. I started by playing a Switchfoot song: “This is your life. Are you who you want to be?"

Let's skip to the punchline: It didn't work.

It wasn't just me. Nothing anyone did worked. My dad had to lose a lot — mostly himself — before he hit that place they call “rock bottom." And, in all honesty, I hate that label because “rock bottom" isn't just a one-and-done kind of place.

What can you do while you wait for someone to actually want to get help? Sometimes, you just wait. And you hope. And you pray. And you love. And you mostly just wait.

6. Recovery is awkward.

When a counselor gave me scripted lines to follow if my dad relapsed, I wanted to shred those “1-2-3 easy steps" into a million pieces.

For me, there was nothing easy about my dad's recovery. My whole family had to learn steps to a new dance when my dad went into recovery. The healing dance felt like shuffling and awkwardly stepping on toes. It was uncomfortable; new words, like trust and respect, take time to sink in. And that awkwardness is also OK.

7. I still can't talk about addiction in the past tense.

Nothing about an addict's life happens linearly. I learned that early on. My dad cycled through 12-step programs again and again, to the point where I just wanted to hurl whenever anyone tried to talk about it. And then we finally reached a point where it felt like recovery stuck.

But even now, I'll never say, “My dad used to deal with addiction." My whole family continues to wrestle with the highs and lows of life with an addict every single day.

8. Happy hours and wedding receptions aren't easy to attend.

My family will also probably never clink glasses of red wine or stock the fridge full of beer. I'm convinced happy hours and wedding receptions will get easier, but they might not. People get offended when my dad orders a Diet Coke instead of their fine whisky.

Plus, there's the paranoia factor. Surrounded by flowing liquor, I hate watching my dad crawl out of his skin, tempted to look “normal" and tackle small talk with people we barely know. I've learned that this fear will probably last for a while, and it's because I care.

9. If you close your eyes, the world doesn't just “get prettier."

With constant fear of the unknown, sometimes our world is not a pretty place. I remember watching the breaking news on 9/11 and feeling the terror of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers as if I was there.

My dad numbed the anxiety of these dark days with vodka, but this didn't paint a prettier world for him when he woke up the next day. I've dealt with the fear of the unknown with the help of boys, booze, and bad dancing on pool tables. Life hurts for everyone, and I think we all have to decide how we're going to handle the darkness.

10. Rip off the sign on your back that reads: “KICK ME. MY LIFE SUCKS."

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I see only my broken journey. In some twisted way, I'm comforted by the dysfunction because it's kept me company for so long. It's easy to let the shadow of my family's past follow me around and choose to drown in the darkness.

But every day, I'm learning to turn on the light. I have to write the next chapter in my recovery story, but I can't climb that mountain with all this crap weighing me down.

11. It's OK to forgive, too.

Some people have given me sucky advice about how I should write an anthem on daddy bashing, or how to hit the delete button on the things that shaped my story.

Instead, my dad and I are both learning to celebrate the little things, like the day that he could change my flat tire. On that day, I didn't have to wonder if he was too drunk to come help me.

I can't forget all the dark nights of my childhood.

But I've learned that for my own well-being, I can't harbor bitterness until I explode.

Instead, I can love my dad, day by day, and learn to trust in the New Dad — the one with clearer eyes and a full heart. The one who rescues me when I call.

This article was written by Ashley Tieperman and originally appeared on 04.27.16

Recent polls suggest that Republicans and Democrats have slightly different tastes that have nothing to do with politics.

If you like cats, The Beatles, and Starbucks, you tend to vote Democrat. If you're into Toby Keith, Budweiser, and Dunkin' Donuts, you tend to vote Republican.

But an interesting new quiz claims to be 98 percent effective at determining people's political affiliations by asking questions that have zero to do with politics.

Click here to take the quiz.

So how does it work? (Don't read the answer if you haven't taken the quiz yet.)

According to ChartsMe, recent studies have found that people who were more prone to disgust are more conservative. This leads them to more closely align with the Republican Party.

Some scientists believe it's ancestral and that the adverse reactions to conditions we'd label “disgusting" were used to protect primitive ancestors from contamination and disease. This way a person wouldn't confuse drinking water with dirty pond scum. But if the test told you that you're a Republican, you probably won't accept that explanation because studies show you probably don't believe in evolution.

Click here to take the quiz.

This article originally appeared on 08.09.18