Life in General

Charity without Cheering.

Rainbows are all around us. Good people come in every shape and color.


For years, as a semi-celebrity, I attended many charity events. Some of them, I wasn’t even sure what  cause was being supported until I arrived, having been invited by whatever-sho- I-was-on’s publicist. What always hurt my heart was the way that so many of the celebs attended these events to get their picture taken for publicity, drink and party, and go home with a gift bag full of expensive gifts. I recall one event in particular, a black tie affair, where there were donation cards at each place setting. I was with my then husband and other cast members of his show. When we stood to leave, I noticed that I was the only person who had even picked up the card. The rest of them had left them discarded as they headed out to the nearest bar, while the head of the charity was still speaking, no less. 

I understand that publicity and public awareness are important for a charity, and therefore celebrity attendance is helpful, but as the director of the Desi Geestman Foundation, my task with every event we throw is to keep the cost down and get that money to the kids and their families. Celebrities will actually ask how many photographers are coming and what’s in the gift bag. I always tell them that the gift bag is a small thing when children are suffering and parents are losing their children. That usually sobers them a bit. Of course, many celebrities do a great deal of very real charity work and giving and I honor them for it. 

This morning I took my daughter to our favorite thrift store, it’s a big affair that benefits AIDs charities. It is raining here now, very hard, and this is not only unusual, but especially hard on those who survive on the streets. I was perusing the linens section when I noticed the manager helping a woman who was obviously homeless. The manager was helping her to find a few warm blankets, because the ones she and her husband had were all soaking wet. I was truly touched at the way the manager was obviously concerned that the woman get the blankets that would be the best for her, and she gave them to her free of charge. 

Later, as we drove away, safe and warm in my car, I saw the homeless woman and her husband, pushing a grocery cart covered in a blue tarp through the driving rain. They stopped on the corner to hug each other reassuringly, then paused again to speak to another homeless man in a park. They handed him something that looked like a half a sandwich wrapped in plastic, shook hands and went on. 

To where? I do not know. But what struck me about both of those exchanges were the fact that they were done without pomp, without glory, without reward or even notice. There was no red-carpet, no celebrity picture in the paper offering congratulations to some famous rich person who can easily afford to give far more than they do, nothing. Just giving where it means the most. 

I think the sandwich struck my heart the deepest, because these people were most likely giving up their own food to help a fellow person in dire straights. It really touched me. All too often we disregard the actions of people who live on the fringe because we find them distasteful or it makes us uncomfortable to have to look at all the sorrow in the world just outside our door. 

But not everyone. There are those among us who always give, even if they have very little for themselves, and they do it because it is who they are, not what they want people to see. If you have one dollar and you give someone a quarter, I think there is a special place in heaven for you. If you are worth 100 billion, (the walmart family) and don’t pay your workers a decent wage, then all your fancy charity galas mean nothing except an excuse to wear fancy clothes and pretend that you are moral. 

I want to share a native american story. A grandfather was explaining the nature of the human ego to his grandchildren. “There are two wolves inside of you,” he said, “One of them is greedy and angry and bitter, the other is kind and good and generous. And they fight against each other.” 

One of the children looked up at the wise grandfather and asked, “But which one wins?” 

The grandfather said, “The one that you feed.” 

So maybe, just maybe, today, give up your angry political views and fears, let go of thinking that your religion is the only name for God, and just feed the kindly wolf. Smile, care, give, forgive, stop judging, try not to be afraid.

And kudos to the givers who have little, for they are the richest. 

Shari, Friday February 28th, 2014. 


Life in General

Could You Be More Selfish? Please?



I have a busy day today, but the thing I look forward to the most is our monthly meeting of the board of directors for the Desi Geestman Foundation. 13 years ago a determined group of people started this foundation in honor of a little girl who fought the brave fight for two years. During her long and often painful treatments, she and her family saw the very real needs of other families suffering through the cancer journey at City of Hope and it was her fervent wish to help those children and their families. 

And so, we do. Desi’s loving spirit lives on through the many volunteers and devoted supporters of the charity that bears her name. We focus on the needs of the family, whatever they may be. Our greatest asset is Desi’s mom, Ileana, who gives emotional support tirelessly to all the people we touch. We have had families traveling four hours on a bus to get their child to chemotherapy so we found cars to donate to them. So many families have single parents who cannot quit their jobs to be with the child going through treatments, because they have other children to support. So we help with child care, gas and grocery cards, rent or utilities payments, even last minute birthday parties for kids too sick to leave the hospital. And sadly, still too often, we help with the massive, always shocking, costs of funerals. 

And sometimes, we help a young person realize a dream they’ve had, giving them time with their friends and family. This beautiful young lady is one of those. And I am so proud and happy to share this photo of her realized goal of visiting Stonehenge with all of you. 

I’m a busy mom, and my days are pretty much filled up with writing, working, carpools, housework, yard work, and production meetings, but somehow, when I find time for this cause, I feel so much less pressured. I feel that my day was well spent. 

A recent University of Pennsylvania study showed that “people who spend precious minutes on a charitable cause feel they have had more time to themselves at the end of the day than those who performed a non-altruistic task.” The theory goes that squeezing in a good deed makes people feel good and creates a sense of usefulness, which puts other time demands in perspective. 

So be self-serving! Do it for yourself. I can’t think of a more rewarding way to end my day than helping at the helm of an amazingly positive force. All my other concerns sort of melt into a white noise of unimportance. The other members of the board are people who inspire me so much. The Director is a past CEO of City of Hope, Dr. Miser. He has spent a lifetime helping others and giving selflessly. He and his wife have adopted 11 children with severe special needs.Talk about perspective. He live in England now, but flies in to head up our meetings and help out at the hospital. Dr. Anderson, one of the other members, is a doctor at City of Hope who works everyday striving to heal these children. 

Me? I’m just an actress, writer, mom, who sees the needs around her and does what she can in a small way to tackle a huge problem. When I see the gratitude on the faces of the parents, I know that every day, hour and minute I spend with this cause is time well spent.

I’ll be honest, I do it for me. And my life is so much richer for it. My children too, have always helped out and are so much more aware of life and it’s trials. They are more grateful for what they have and more compassionate people. 

So get out there and do something for yourself! Improve your day, make your minutes count!! You can go to to find a way to help out in your own community, or you might want to check us out at 

I guess what I’m trying to say is…Be More Selfish!!

Shari, November 7, 2012