As a giving circle made up of women, Mother’s Day holds special significance to the Women’s Fund of Smith County. Each year, we hold a luncheon dedicated to “the women who inspire us” in the days leading up to this special holiday. On May 4th, we will welcome our members and guests to Willow Brook Country Club for a celebration of the women in our lives who have shaped us through their care, their influence, their leadership, and their lifelong friendship.

During one of our Mother’s Day luncheons, a member and longtime leader in the local philanthropic community, Nancy Lamar, stood up to speak about something you might not see on a Mother’s Day greeting card, but a message that struck many of us. It was years ago when Nancy stood up and verbalized a feeling many of us share – that Mother’s Day can be hard. Even though quite a bit of time has passed, I still think of this moment often.

Motherhood is complicated. In the best scenarios, mothers play a crucial role in teaching children how to love through their parenting. From infancy, mothers provide love and nurture, establishing a bond that lays the foundation for the child’s emotional development. As children grow, mothers model loving behaviors such as kindness, compassion, and empathy.

But as Nancy so gently and compassionately acknowledged, motherhood doesn’t always exist inside this ideal form. Many of us have imperfect, complicated relationships with our moms; many of us lose our mothers too soon; many of us struggle to become mothers, and on this special holiday, that pain can feel amplified when it is endured quietly, alongside the bright expressions of joy and love shared so publicly by others.

At the time Nancy delivered her powerful words, I didn’t think I’d ever become a mom. Behind my smile and underneath my celebratory persona, I was heartbroken and feeling so alone in room of over 200 women. And yet Nancy’s words filled me with an immediate and powerful sense of belonging – because she let me know that I wasn’t alone.

As I looked around the room, I saw her words resonate with other women who had their own quiet struggles, and I knew then that no matter what our individual experiences were with motherhood that day, we all shared a sisterhood that expands our capacity to love and be loved, to support and strengthen others around us, and to impact our community by embracing the spirit of motherhood, no matter what it has looked like in our own lives.

When I say that I love the Women’s Fund of Smith County, I mean it. This organization has healed me in ways I didn’t know I needed. Joining together with other women who collectively share the joy and conviction of giving, means more than just improving our community – it means improving our own lives. Just as “hurt people hurt people,” healed people HEAL people.

As a member of the Women’s Fund, I have made friendships with women who are committed to empowering each other. We work together to build each other up, we are committed to putting each other in positions to lead and succeed and then we celebrate each other and what we accomplish together and as individuals. I don’t think I’m alone in being forever changed by this experience.

This supportive and encouraging environment provides the adult members of our collective giving circle the foundation and energy we need to go beyond our membership and use our philanthropic capacity as a group to transform the lives of women and children in our community – women and children we may never meet, but who need our advocacy, who need our support, and who need the transformative power of motherly love.

Science goes beyond my anecdotal evidence to prove that giving heals. One reason for this is that when we give to others, our brain releases feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These chemicals can create a sense of happiness and well-being, which can help to alleviate feelings of sadness, loneliness, or anxiety.

By helping others, we can also feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in our ability to make a positive difference in the world, which can help to build our self-esteem and sense of worth. Additionally, by being part of a community that values giving and generosity like the Women’s Fund, we can feel a sense of belonging and connection to something larger than ourselves, which can help to provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life.

This year, I encourage you to give like a mother. Give love, give acceptance, give encouragement – let your philanthropy begin with the people you are closest to. And then, begin to let that love expand to encircle others, even people you may never meet. If you have pain in your heart – grief, disappointment, sadness – you will find healing in giving.

And as Mother’s Day approaches, join me and in celebrating the women who inspire us – I know my list is long.

Zoe Lawhorn serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, a collective giving circle of more than 350 women with a mission of transforming our community by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children. For more information, visit