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What Fighting Can Teach You About Philanthropy

Feb 27, 2012 by Anne Lieberman  | 

I am the program associate for Asia at AJWS. I am also an amateur Muay Thai fighter. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Muay Thai, it is a Thai martial art similar to kickboxing except you can use your knees and elbows to strike.  When I’m training for a fight, I train for two to three hours a day, six days a week. Training that intensely can take a toll on your body, so I regularly visit an acupuncturist for my aches, pains and overall sanity.

My acupuncturist is amazing. He has a quiet, direct wisdom that immediately touches you. Often in our sessions, we talk about balance. We talk about how to be powerful and aggressive in the ring and the importance of experiencing life with joy, humility and calm outside of it. We talk about being thankful for each day I have to do Muay Thai and how I will understand the day when I can no longer train, when the sport I love so much will slowly fade into the background.

“I think you should wake up every day and think of five things that you’re thankful for,” my acupuncturist said. “It can be anything. Just think about it.”

So I did think about it. But I decided instead of thinking, I would write. I would make a list. I would add to that list daily whenever I felt an urge of thankfulness (which, I quickly realized, is a lot). I decided the list could be serious or funny or ridiculous. Most of all, I wanted it to be real. What do I really care about?

I also decided I would review that list weekly to see if I repeated anything or if there were any trends. And sure enough, there are. Community, relationships (family, friends), food, environment, education and overall well-being were big themes for me.

Here’s a snapshot of my list:

What I’m Thankful For (in no particular order…)
My family
My friends
My health
My job
My bed
My ability to walk
My ability to see
My ability to hear
Public Transportation
My nieces
Blue sky
My lungs
My coat
Chok Sabai fight team
My ability to read
Hot water
Sick days
My education
Smart conversation
Bodega breakfast sandwiches
Old friends
New Friends
Being Jewish
Sweet Potatoes
Quiet Moments
Random acts of kindness
Public Radio

As you know, Where Do You Give?  launched in 2011 asking us to examine where we give and why. The longer my list gets, the more I think about where I should be giving based on what I’m thankful for, based on what I can no longer take for granted. This list (which is pages long) has helped me articulate my priorities and develop a giving plan for this year.

Based on my list, here are some places I’ve decided to donate to in 2012:

Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE), because LGBT elders deserve the same access to care and services that my grandparents had.

Right Rides, because women and LGBTQ individuals deserve a safe ride home, free of gender-based violence and sexual assault.

The Bronx African American History Project, because we will never know where we’re going unless we know where we’ve been, and this amazing oral history project tells the untold story of the Bronx.

The Manchester Craftsmans Guild MCG Youth & Arts Program, based in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, because they provide innovative programs in arts education (including a free afterschool program for teens from Pittsburgh Public Schools, which I participated in).

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank because I am so lucky that I have never gone hungry.

Planned Parenthood, because they play an crucial role as an advocate and service provider for women around the country.

• The Muay Thai Preservation Project because Muay Thai has forever changed my life and everyone deserves to experience it.

Muay Thai teaches me about myself every single day. It’s taught me discipline, humility, respect, resilience, and love. Today, it taught me about philanthropy.

Anne Lieberman

Anne Lieberman joined AJWS in May 2011 as the program associate for Asia. Anne coordinates AJWS’s grantmaking in Asia and manages AJWS’s grants in India’s Tamil Nadu region and Indonesia. Anne returned from Thailand in November 2010 after being awarded a Fulbright to conduct research on women in Muay Thai boxing, Thailand’s national sport. Anne is originally from Pittsburgh, PA and holds a B.A. from Fordham University in African and African American studies and women’s studies.

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