• Leiah Bowden

Giving it Away: Relief for My '80s Self


A while ago, reading a colleague's email, I thought, "Wow! What a great idea! I could do that!" Today I completed my project, and I can see my '80s self sinking back into her comfy chair with relief.


I posted on my facebook page that I've created a series of greeting cards on zazzle that I call "Relief" to support my friend, Janet Caliri, in her healing. All proceeds from sales through September will go to her. This is the idea that came to me when our mutual friend and business networking group colleague, Susan Shloss sent out an email announcing that she would be teaching a teleclass the proceeds of which would all go to Janet. How marvelous, I thought, and immediately realized I wanted to and could do the same thing. Now -- what could I do?


I wanted to make it easy for a lot of people to participate in the community of helpers, so it had to be something affordable that I thought people would be happy to buy. And so the greeting cards, after an initial experiment with creating a small book of my photos, seemed the best idea. We'll see how it goes.


But back to why this idea appeals to me so, beyond being able to help someone through my creativity.

This project is an example of a business model that would have tugged at my heart but gone unembraced in the '80s, when I was on the board of a women's business organization in Albany, New York. We were pushing to be successful, to make money, and to combine our efforts in mutual support wherever we could, but giving things away wasn't something we thought we could or should do. Of course many of us contributed, as I and thousands of others did and still do, to fundraising efforts by non-profits we support. But at that time, I had never heard of someone creating a project that might have been a simple money-making business effort as a means of helping someone else in a time of need.

In those days there was a lot of talk about how women didn't have to mimic the top-down management style and competitive stance of men in business. Truthfully, my former husband was one of many men I knew who weren't comfortable in the cut-throat model, either. They suffered along with women trying to be like the big, successful men. We made an effort, but in fact, many women had learned traditional business techniques too well. They were not open, inclusive and accessible. They didn't share.


Fast forward to now. I met Susan Shloss in a meeting of women entrepreneures ( I know this isn't supposed to have an e at the end but it's a gender-specific French word and we're talking about women.) convened by two visionary and energetic women, Aimée Lyndon-Adams and Karen Renee Halseth. As part of their business, they facilitate Developing Alliances for Extraordinary Women, monthly networking gatherings in which women share their -- our -- talents, wisdom, expertise and financial wherewithal. At every meeting, Aimée speaks about how rising from the old, patriarchal paradigm of limits and closely-kept secrets of success into a new paradigm of open-hearted, open-handed generosity buoys us all and builds a better world. In our meetings and in our every-day dealings with each other, we help each other succeed in every way possible. We bring our personal values to our work, because we know that we are not two separate beings, but one integrated person who doesn't stop feeling when the work day begins.


What a relief! What a blessing to the soul! I can be in the marketplace and look forward to meeting others whose products and services may, in fact, be so similar to mine that we may call each other competitors, yet look forward to helping them succeed. It feels good to be generous. The soul says, "Thank you!" And when the soul says "Thank you!" the world opens up because that is how the soul expresses gratitude.


ILLUSTRATION BY LOUISA CANNELL, from https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/women-helping-women-jennifer-dasilva


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