As a small boy growing up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Marc Gold felt a powerful need to have a meaningful life and to make a real impact on people’s lives. In 1990, he visited India and met a Tibetan woman in the Himalayas who had two terrible ear infections. When he took her to the doctor he discovered that her life could be saved for the cost of $1.00, the price of an antibiotic. Another $40 for a hearing aid restored her hearing. He was shocked that something so important could be accomplished with such small funds. He didn’t realize it at that time, but the 100 Friends Project was born.
Soon thereafter he began raising money by sending a letter to 100 people, asking them to donate any amount possible. When he returned to India in 1992, he had more than $2,200 in donations, with the goal of distributing it as directly and intelligently as possible. Today, with over 4000 donors, he has touched over 50 000 lives in more than 50 countries including India, Tibet, Thailand, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Kenya, Costa Rica, Mexico and Indonesia.
Marc’s 100 Friends Project is a yearly effort to reach out to people who are desperately poor. Every year he raises as much money as possible can from his circle of contacts and friends. Then he goes to slums and poor villages in third-world countries seeking the neediest people he can find, and distribute the funds as honestly, effectively, intelligently, and creatively as possible. There is no particular target group – although he does make a special attempt to help women and children. He pays for all his own travel expenses, and most of the rest goes directly into hands of the needy.
This story explains Marc’s work: As a man walked a desolate beach one cold, gray morning he began to see another figure, far in the distance. Slowly the two approached each other, and he could make out a local native who kept leaning down, picking something up and throwing it out into the water. Time and again he hurled things into the ocean. As the distance between them continued to narrow, the man could see that the native was picking up starfish that had been washed upon the beach and, one at a time, was throwing them back into the water. Puzzled, the man approached the native and asked what he was doing. “I’m throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see, it’s low tide right now and all of these starfish have been washed up onto the shore. If I don’t throw them back into the sea, they’ll die up here from lack of oxygen.” “But there must be thousands of starfish on this beach,” the man replied. “You can’t possibly get to all of them. There are just too many. And this same thing is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this coast. Can’t you see that you can’t possibly make a difference?” The local native smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea he replied, “Made a difference to that one!”
Every one of us is just one person: we all have dreams, hopes, trials, cares, and responsibilities in this life. We may feel there is just too much to be done and we have too little to give. We’re usually short of everything, especially time and money. When we leave this earthly shore, there will still be “millions of starfish stranded on the beach.” Maybe we can’t change the whole world, but there isn’t one of us who can’t help change one person’s whole world… one day at a time and one person at a time. Mother Teresa said: “Never give up helping others. We can do no great things; only small things with great love. Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
Marc Gold was recently in Oak Park speaking at the HipMum.com launch party held at Sugarcup Trading. HipMum has partnered with 100 Friends and provides the opportunity to make a direct impact on the lives of women and children around the world.