Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Finest Gift




Crab-like I crawl out of my airplane seat and shake my legs in hopes that some feeling will return. Carefully, I pick my way past the sleeping passengers to the foot wide space between the two cabins. My friend and reader, Leslie, who had flown long-haul flights on Pan-Am, had reminded me to look out at the stars for they would shine so bright and yes, I could see that they were indeed glittering beacons of the holiday season calling to me...and yet...it is four and a half hours into the flight and we are suspended over the middle of the ocean. Half of my heart is reaching towards the tearful smiles that I shared with my family in parting and the other is longing for the joyful one that will be on Remi's face as I descend the escalator in Marseille to welcome me home. Love lies in both directions and it is keeping me warm.

In this quiet space, thoughts sift like snow. 

I sip water from a plastic cup, shivering as the ice cubes clink against my teeth. I try to stretch into a bit of yoga as inconspicuously as possible. There is so much time to think. Wonderful memories of my visit to the United States play on repeat, all filled with such kindness and generosity of spirit. Actually, I realize, that is what struck me the most on this particular trip. The willingness to give. From my Mom's quick pecks to Ellen DeGeneres' instant life-changers to Middle School cheerleaders dancing in front of the grocery store for the Salvation Army on a Saturday afternoon. 

All the essence of wonderful.


That is why I was so thrilled when Julie Mautner from The Provence Post contacted me a few weeks back asking if I was interested in contributing to a project for charity that she was working on. I immediately said yes for if Julie was involved, I knew it had to be very worthwhile. 


Previously, during a road trip to Montpellier for a blogger's lunch, she had mentioned Passports with Purpose, a grass-roots charity initiative formed to both bring together the travel blogging community and help those in need. Amongst other goals, they had raised $30,000 to build a school in Cambodia and over $64,000 to build an entire village in India! This year, Passports with a Purpose is hoping to raise $100,000 for the fantastic organization Water.org (co-founded by actor Matt Damon) in order to build five wells for two communities in Haiti, where many areas have still not recovered from the devastating earthquake in 2010. 



Each travel blogger that is participating in the fundraiser has offered a prize and Julie's is truly exceptional, not to mention that it is the most valuable of the bunch with a total worth of $4700! I almost think that you have to be from Provence to understand how incredible it is for she has created a week here of unforgettable experiences. No one can say no to Julie and no one did. This is your chance to experience la crème de la crème of Provence, including a stay at one of the luxury villas in "Provence Paradise" outside of St. Remy, meals at the most exclusive restaurants of the region, wine tasting in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a market visit in Aix-en-Provence, massages and more. For my part, I  will be delighted to take the winner and their guests on my three-hour "Get Lost With Me" walking tour through the heart of Arles. Remi is donating a small print to be chosen by the winner from the Nature & Cultures collection, which includes many lovely photographs of Provence. To discover the details of how to "Win a Glorious Week in Provence" and to learn more about the involved groups, please see Julie's post here. It goes without saying that Remi and I are both extremely proud to be participating in such fine company for such a worthy cause. 


What is especially wonderful is that it only costs a $10 donation to enter for each prize. To do so click here and enter as many times as you like! Julie's week is in the "Other" category but there is a lot on offer, including clothing, electronics, dinners and hotel stays all over the world. For those of you here in France, just think of what a phenomenal gift you could offer to friends and family if you win--I know that I will be trying my best! And for those who do not have $10 to spare (and I understand what that feels like), would you consider posting about this event on Facebook and Twitter? Because here is the catch, there is only ONE WEEK left to enter! December 11th will be here before you know it.


While I could have told you about this a little bit earlier (and would not have been in such a jet-lagged state to do so), I wanted to wait until today as this is my contribution to the By Invitation Only International Blog party. You see, I want as many people to hear about this wonderful project as possible. This month's theme is "Christmas" and while the initial directive was to either describe one of your favorites from the past or present your version of a perfect fantasy, I chose to focus on the additional question of "What one tangible gift would you give?"


In my travels, I have seen the power of water in both its presence and absence. It is the stuff that we are made of and none of us can survive without it. So please, will you consider helping to give the Gift of Life? I believe in us. I believe in the power of generosity. We can make a difference. Let's end the year by sharing the best of who we are. 

Photo ©Remi Benali

Julie's Post with all of the details of this incredible trip!
To donate to Passports with Purpose
An excellent short video about the program, sponsored by Expedia
Blog on why Haiti needs help with Water.org video
Passports with Purpose on Facebook
Passports with Purpose on Twitter

Please spread the word!

I have included some unpublished photos that I have taken here in Provence to tempt you. And yes, if one of you take away this amazing prize, I promise to bring Ben along for the tour and will toast you with a glass of wine (or two) at the end...



To read the other entries for this month's By Invitation Only, please see the lovely Marsha's Splenderosa, here.





43 comments:

  1. Heather, I am so happy you posted on this subject. I am well acquainted with Matt Damon's work with water projects throughout the 3rd world countries.
    Haiti is close to home, and we know how very much is still needed. I will go visit the website and bid on a few things. Beautiful thought for Christmas, all of us need to reach deep and think of those less fortunate and then do something. Thankfully, you have. I'll put this up on my FB & blog post as well. Merry Christmas, darling....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Marsha! I am so proud to be a part of this. Even if my donation is tiny--it's just my time! :) Thank you for welcoming this kind of off-subject post for the BIO party!! And I will be wishing you a Merry Christmas all month long...xo,
      h

      Delete
  2. Heather, from what I know of Ben, a three-hour tour of Arles with Ben would be a fabulous ''gift'' on its own!! Your post is just lovely--no surprise there--and I can't thank you enough for bringing this wonderful fundraiser to the attention of your readers. When putting together the Week in Provence prize package, I simply thought of what I would love the trip to include if I were the winner...et voila! Knowing how much this money is needed in Haiti--can you imagine life without access to clean water?--made pulling it together a joy. Here's hoping all your readers will be inspired by your post and rush right over the Passports with Purpose page to start madly clicking DONATE! Many, many thanks...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Julie, you are so beyond amazing!!! I looked through all of the other prizes and this goes above and beyond--I KNOW how hard you must have worked to make this happen! One lucky winner is going to be so thrilled and hopefully A TON of money will be raised in the meantime...!!

      Delete
  3. A lovely post Heather ... and the perfect gift for Christmas... I am off to visit Passports with Purpose now... So glad you are home safe and sound... xv

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Merci Madame Archer, there might be some other things to interest you--I do believe there is also a stay in Paris! ;)

      Delete
  4. What a splendiferous and imaginative way to help give what is indeed the very gift of life: water. I'll pop over to visit Passports with a Purpose, too.

    On another note, it is a gift indeed that you are safely home again, and that your trip was just what you needed. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh absolutely, V. You would have loved it too--just a lot of happiness and good eats, good times!
      Bisous!!!

      Delete
  5. What a wonderful initiative. A week in Provence sounds so sublime. I promise to visit Julie's post tomorrow. (I am rather drowsy tonight). The photos you shared today are beautiful. There are so many corners of the world that are calling out to me to discover and explore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Loree--a lot of these photos were favorites that didn't quite make up a blog entry so I was happy to put them to use today. And please DO take a look over at PWP--maybe next year you can organize a trip to Malta? I know I would definitely bid on that!!

      Delete
  6. It is indeed the "giving" season, and what a wonderful thought to use your invitation only post to do this.

    Reading you, as always, is pure pleasure. And this, such an important point - how easy it is to give in some way, even if not monetarily. How much good we can accomplish, and how good we feel in doing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely. You know all about this D--you help folks all the time in your writing and are giving of yourself in all you do.

      Delete
  7. Dear Heather,
    It is so refreshing to read a post that is truly the meaning of Christmas. It really isn't about self indulgence but about helping others that are not as fortunate.
    A beautiful 'By Invitation' post and I hope that you have touched a few hearts. Much love. XXXX

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree Jackie--and obviously so do you--here is hoping that your charity lunch was a HUGE success yesterday!
      Gros Bisous,
      H

      Delete
  8. Heather I have google+'d you and will go and explore the Passports with Purpose site as well - cheers and although I am glad you are home and back on the blogging hustings I hope you had, and it sounds like you did a great break with your family back in the USofA!! Cheers!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers to you Wyn for the google+! And yes, I had a simply fantastic time in the States and will be sharing more about it soon...

      Delete
  9. Heather, I've shared your post on Facebook, and I will also put something up more directly about Passports with Purpose. Beautiful photographs, so un- Christmasy that capture the true meaning of the season beautifully. And, oh yes, I'm making a donation and putting my name in too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh HOORAY! Now, if YOU win, forget about the tour and we'll just open up the champagne (just kidding Julie!)...heehee. So great talking to you on Tday!! And thank you friend for passing on the word!!!
      xoxoxo

      Delete
  10. I just donated - I hope I win, so that I'll HAVE to come over to Provence for another visit! I agree with Jacqueline - so wonderful that your Christmas post was about giving! I'm on board!! I'm giving thanks right now, that I got to spend so much quality time with my beautiful, talented sister! Thank you for another wonderful post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sister, you are so awesome, this brought tears to my eyes!!! That you donated, what you said, all of it. I know that I give thanks for you every single day for being such a wonderful Sister. I love youuuu!!!!!

      Delete
  11. Hi Heather, happy to know you're back home in Provence safe and sound. You're amazing that on you're first post back, it's all about this worthy cause and the needs of those who are less fortunate than us. You're a Lady with a great heart. I will be heading over to the Passport with a Purpose page to make a donation.

    XO
    Amelia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Amelia. I think that you are a pretty special lady as well! And hooray for the donation!! I would be so excited if you won!!! Sending a warm hug your way,
      H

      Delete
  12. Heather, I've read a number of posts this week about the Passports effort but none written as beautifully as yours. Your writing is a gift. And what a wonderful Provence Package to add to the list of wonderful donations! Glad you had a safe journey home - both directions and both homes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Jackie! Are you going to bid? I thought I saw another prize in your neck of the woods too!!

      Delete
  13. What a kind and generous way to spread the word Heather, I shall pop over to Julie's blog and read up a bit. I hope you had a wonderful visit in Ann Arbor, we should try to meet up next time you make the trip, but I am not familiar with the store you mentioned but I can rectify that soon enough! I was just reading about the red dust and it made me think of my walking boots when I came home from France. They were so dusty but I didn't want to clean them because it would remove all the white dust in the grooves of the sole from Paris, Versailles, and St. Remy. I did as they needed it but I didn't scrub too hard. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, I love that Sande. And really understand--I felt that away when coming back from my first trip from Africa. We both are romantics through and through!! And you don't know of Hollander's?!? Oh my, someone will need to accompany you with the smelling salts I believe...

      And yes, I would love to meet next time! We were so close on our day in Detroit, I thought of you. Just a hop over the bridge...
      xo,
      H

      Delete
  14. Oh Heather I am glad you are home safe and sound and reunited with your honeys although I know you will miss your loved one's across the pond.

    A beautiful post as always and very poignant, it's so easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas which lurks too far beneath the consumerism. I am going to check out Passports with a purpose after I finish this comment.

    And Mrs, you talk about my photography getting better! Your Photographs are magnificent and yes you will be visiting next year so we can practice together plus I need some yoga tips.

    XXX

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, the thought of yoga class at your lovely home sounds woooonderful! Just not first thing in the morning. Something tells me that would not be a good idea. And yes, I want you to help me learn how to shift focus!! Jennifer in Monaco, whom you would love, showed me in two seconds but it was too fast! And just what fun would we have? Oooh, something to think about...if you are serious and I believe you are!!!
      Bisous, bisous, bisous.
      PS. I am more and more certain that especially for those of us that don't have kids, Christmas is not about the consumerism.

      Delete
  15. Beautiful post and photos.
    The Blogger community amazes me more every day. What a wonderful way to utilize this medium to reach out for help, there's so much needed in this world.
    The prizes are very appealing but the cause is compelling.
    I would love to win a trip to anywhere, especially Provence, but I think that by helping others we are already receiving very much.
    Off to Julie's blog!
    Good to hear you made it back safe and happy.
    Sylvia S.

    PS You know my blog is new and I don't have followers but still I will post the info...just in case someone stops by.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please do, Sylvia! I think that you have more folks reading than you know. :) I know I will be back to my regular blog touring now that I am home!

      Delete
  16. Wonderful! Wonderful post. As always such a pleasure to read you Heather. It looks like Remi got himself a very talented competition right at home. Images are incredibly beautiful. And welcome home.
    I'm going to check out the links.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Merci Nat! But what Remi does is a whoooole other level!! I am so proud of him--and lucky to have him for a teacher!! :) I think that I have missed your most recent post, yes? Will take a looksee...Bisous!

      Delete
  17. Welcome home, Heather. I'm so glad you made it back to Remi and Ben safely! Such a wonderful theme and subject you chose for your Christmas post. I think a walk with you and Ben, and a photo from Remi, would tempt just about anyone! What a wonderful way to encourage support of this great cause. XOXO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is Julie that has done the amazing work, Jeanne but I know that you would love absolutely all of this prize! Right up your elegant allée!

      Delete
  18. Hello Heather

    Welcome home and your visit sounded fabulous.

    I am delighted to read of this post and this great cause. I have made a donation

    Many, many thanks for all the good you do.

    Helen xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh hooray!! My wonderful Helen, if you win I will take you out to the most beautiful corners of Provence for you to paint them! Then I will sit back with an open bottle of wine and take in the view while you create your beautiful pieces! ;)
      Yes, I had a lovely visit--was only disappointed that the flight back zoomed directly across so that I didn't get to see the coast of Ireland at sunrise!!
      xo,
      H

      Delete
  19. Welcome home, Heather! Passports for Purpose sounds like a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season and the prize is incredible, especially including your tour (love the name of it!) and Remi's photo :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was taken in Mali, Ann and you can't see it but there are two tiny girls both holding my free hand--that is why I am smiling so hard...

      Delete
  20. Welcome home!

    Just read through your trip posts. Lovely. Lovely. Lovely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks TG. I still have a lot more to wade through in the photo department!

      Delete
  21. Dear Heather, I'm just back from a trip of my own and had such difficulty trying to get a comment to stick, so glad to finally be able to do so now from home. Your Provence photos are absolutely beautiful and I loved your description of being mid-ocean with your heart pulled in two directions - so familiar and so well expressed. This is truly the best gift, and I have made a donation at Passports with Purpose. Many thanks for a fantastic post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, thank you so very, very much Karen. For everything! For your beautiful blog, for your heartfelt comment and for making a donation. It is a wonderful cause. Hoping your jet-lag is not as wobbly as mine!

      Delete
  22. Dear Heather...you touch my heart with your writing!! Love it! Will have a look at it on twitter as well! Such a wonderful post,thank you!

    Sending love and loads of Christmas Cheer for a fab Chrstmas!

    Huge Hugs

    Veronica
    xx

    ReplyDelete

Your responses are what makes this blog so special to me. I love hearing from you. Thank you for visiting!

*Anonymous comments are no longer accepted and those left on posts two days after publication or more will be published after moderation. So not to worry, they will arrive and again, I appreciate them all so very much...Merci!*