The Authentic Gift
By Kristen Seeber
Women’s Fund of Smith County
It is highly doubtful that I ever would be described as someone who lives on the edge. I am a planner and a rule follower – the person who stays inside the wake on water skis and away from the black diamonds on snow skis. Words like “normal,” “medium,” “center” and “classic” are calming to me. My mantra is “sure and steady.”
I wish I were more of a risk-taker and envy those who are. From time to time, I try to put on a brave face and push through my fears. But it’s not a journey I enjoy. Thankfully, I have people in my life who love me for me, yet at the same time give me courage to step out of my comfort zone and live a little.
Recently, that message of embracing fear and taking risks to reach our full potential was beautifully presented by Sandra Joseph, the keynote speaker at the Women’s Fund of Smith County’s annual Power of the Purse luncheon. Joseph is a history-making Broadway star. Her legendary run as Christine Daae’ in “The Phantom of the Opera” spanned ten years and more than 1,300 performances, earning her the record as the longest-running leading lady in the longest-running Broadway show of all time.
Listening to Joseph - speak from her heart and sing from her heart - turned the event into an experience, one that will stay with me for a very long time. She poignantly reminded us to unmask what matters and live with authenticity, allowing ourselves to be seen and to be vulnerable. She helped us understand, anew, the importance of being true to self. By heeding that inner voice, we then can hear more clearly the voices and truths of others. Removing our own mask often gives others permission to do the same.
When something real in us touches something real in someone else, a connection is made. A giving experience is all about connection and relationship. Homelessness has a face. Poverty has a face. Behind each need and every compelling issue there is a person, who may have lost their way. A gift from a place of authenticity offers belief that one is seen - not just where they are, but where they are meant to be.
Members of the Women’s Fund of Smith County understand the lasting impact of this type of giving. These dynamic women practice philanthropy with passion. Our individual gifts and individual voices become one through our mission. We believe that together is better. Through collective giving, we transform our community by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children. Our grants focus on faces - in areas of the arts, education, health and human services - and are awarded through a process of integrity and transparency. We give authentically to help our neighbors rise.
The virtue of genuineness cannot be denied. Its truth frees us. Sandra Joseph concluded her presentation by walking into the audience, connecting with us, looking into our eyes and singing “I’m Glad There Is You.” She heartened us to be the best versions of ourselves. It brought me back to center and from there, I can cross the wake.
Kristen Seeber serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, a giving circle of more than 300 women who collectively award high impact grants that benefit women and children in our community. Membership is open to any woman with a giving heart. Visit www.womensfundsc.org for information about mission and membership opportunities.