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Ben Nadel at CFUNITED 2009 (Lansdowne, VA) with: Aaron West
Ben Nadel at CFUNITED 2009 (Lansdowne, VA) with: Aaron West ( @awest )

In The Spirit Of B. Virdot - A Small Gift For A Few Families In Need

Published in Comments (37)

Over the weekend, I watched a piece on CBS Sunday Morning news that brought me to tears. In it, Rita Braver covered a story about a benefactor from the Great Depression who gave small gifts to families in need such that even in the worst of times, those families would be able to give their kids a "merry and joyous Christmas." As Ted Gup - grandson of this benefactor - explains, "It wasn't going to reverse the momentum of the Great Depression; but it could reverse the feeling of isolation and abandonment for these familes."

Right now, I can't do too much; but, I know that I can do something. As I am getting ready to pay my quarterly taxes, I am happy to have found out that I have saved about a thousand dollars too much. In the spirit of B. Virdot and my love of the holiday season and all that is romantic, I want to share my unexpected abundance with a few families in need.

I will give out ten $100 Amazon gift cards ( see update below ) to families that specifically cannot provide their children with presents this year. I have no idea how I will select those families; but if you are in need or know someone in need, please tell me your story: Please make the subject line read: "B. Virdot".

I will make my selection on Dec 10th such that plenty of time will be left to order gifts for the youngsters.

May we all have a joyous and wonderful holiday season!

IMPORTANT UPDATE: As Joe Kelly rightly pointed out, not everyone has computers or can even make use of an Amazon gift card. I had just thought of that one because I live online (it's what I do). We can just as easily do a Target or Walmart gift card or even something like an American Express gift credit card for ultimate flexability. The medium of delivery should not be the thing that stops this from happening - you help me find people and we'll make this happen!!

IMPORTANT UPDATE: After I posted this entry, not only was I flattered by people's kind words, I was also thrilled that some people wanted to climb up on this margic carpet ride. Somehow, it reminds me of the movie Scrooged with Bill Murray. If you've not seen it... what's up with that? Watch it immediately :) Anyway, in it, Bill Murray's character has an epiphany about the Christmas season:

Scrooged With Bill Murray.

I'm not crazy. It's Christmas Eve. It's the one night when we all act a little nicer. We...we smile a little easier. We...we...share a little more. For a couple of hours we are the people we always hoped we would be. It's really a miracle because it happens every Christmas Eve. And if you waste that miracle, you're gonna regret it. I know.

You have to do something. You have to take a chance and get involved. There are people that don't have enough to eat and who are cold. You can go and greet these people. Take an old blanket out to them or make a sandwich and say, "Here."

I get it now. And if you give, then it can happen, the miracle can happen to you. Not just the poor and hungry, Everybody's gotta have this miracle! It can happen tonight for you all! If you believe in this pure thing, the miracle will happen and you'll want it again tomorrow! You won't say, "Christmas is once a year and it's a fraud." It's not!

It can happen every day! You've just got to want that feeling! You'll want it every day! It can happen to you! I believe in it now. I believe it's gonna happen to me, now. I'm ready for it! And it's great. It's a good feeling. It's better than I've felt in a long time.

I bring this scene up because Murray's character was deeply touched by the spirit of the season, just as I have been deeply touched by people's kind words and their desire to help. I wanted to give special thanks to the following people who have asked to participate in this act of giving:

Anthony Webb - Gift Card Donor

Anthony Webb - ColdFusion Developer.Anthony lives in Idaho with his wife and 3 boys. He has been a ColdFusion developer since version 4 and has built and sold several successful companies over the course of his career. Recently, he sold IMified to Voxeo/Tropo and now concentrates on running a consulting group that specializes in Web and Mobile solutions. Anthony loves the ColdFusion community and aims to become a more vocal community member through Twitter (@anthonywebb) and other community-based outlets.

Thanks Anthony! We'll have to get a good thumbs-up photo together soon!

Darren Walker - Financial Donor

Darren Walker - ColdFusion, Flex, .NET, Java Developer.Playfully referred to as New Zealand's fourth favorite comedy ColdFusion folk web developer, Darren Walker is a web application developer with over 10 years of programming experience. Whether it's in ColdFusion, Java, .NET, FLEX, ActionScript, or Javascript, Darren has the right tools to meet your technical demands. Darren discusses his web adventures on Twitter (@bayornet) and his blog. He will also be presenting at the upcoming Scotch On The Rocks conference in Scotland.

Thanks Darren! Looking forward to hanging out with you in Edinburgh.

Reader Comments


I gotta say it is a great thing, what you are doing. As someone, who's family grew up on things like what you are doing and what the state offered, it is an amazing thing to see it happening. Thanks brother, and God bless.


It takes a selfless nature, something that's rather rare, to do such acts of benevolence.

Chivalry may be dying, but this proves it is not yet dead. Much respect to them.


You are a more spiritual being than I suspect you give yourself credit for. And the beautiful thing is that any outlay on your behalf will be equally rewarded, and therein lies the surprise.

I made a commitment this year that whenever a charity rang selling raffle tickets or products (I guess you get those calls in Australia) I would buy them without thought. Two things have happened:

1. The number of calls has reduced markedly (go figure!).

2. Good things have been happening - not that I can directly attribute this to the giving, but I think what goes around comes around.

You go Ben!



what the hell does this have to do with programming?
Seriously, what a fabulous gesture, thanks for helping align my Christmas attitude correctly Ben.
You are like a little Bill wait...


Ben, this is quite possibly the most heartfelt, altruistic thing I have ever seen in the CF community for a very, very long time. That goes to Anthony Webb too, for paying it forward. You a role models to cherish!


Having worked with some poor families and kids of poor families, most do not have Internet access or email accounts and even have trouble paying their monthly cell phone bill, which has voice and SMS only. Things we take for granted. I'm not sure some, at least here in the Dallas area, would know what to do with an Amazon card. I might suggest a Wal-Mart/Target card or maybe a local grocery chain gift card, would, instead, be more appreciated and easier to use. This is a great way to share joy. Thanks for spreading the spirit of giving!



Thank you so much for the kind words and thoughts. I hope that we can all have an awesome holiday season. I know I've already been rocking out the Christmas tunes (thank goodness for GrooveShark).


You make a really fantastic point. It never even occurred to me that people didn't have computers. Not to see that it doesn't make total sense - I'm just so immersed in that world (I live and work on my computer), it simply didn't occur to me that others wouldn't. I've never been one with an inherently large amount of empathy.

I can definitely get down with a Walmart or a Target card. Of course, we could go even more general and just do something like an American Express Gift Card - I see they sell those online and in my local drug stores as well.

I'll update the blog entry to reflect this.

But this still begs the next question - getting in touch with people!


I don't know if I can say this in any better fashion then has already been said but that's an amazingly king act. I think this world could use a lot more people with that same attitude that you have Ben.


Ben, you clearly have lots of empathy! Simply doing this is clear evidence of that. Don't beat yourself up for having blind spots in your empathy.

Thanks, Joe, for helping a fabulous geek see the details.

I'm thinking about the "finding people" part. Are you thinking locally or more broadly?


This is a fantastic idea! In terms of figuring out how to find the people, unless you're just wanting to keep it to friends/family of the CF Community, I would suggest checking with a local church/rescue mission/orphanage. They've probably got a list a mile long of people needing help, so you can pick some random names, put on your Santa hat and get to work! ;)


Just had to follow up on such important impetus. Places that my friends and groups have participated are the Salvation Army, homeless shelters - their are local church based organizations that support the homeless and poor, women's shelters and Toys for Tots(fun). My personal favorites (local to me) are Mission Arlington ( and the Hoffen Foundation ( founded by my friend! Most all will take donations online. I'll bet there are similar organizations local to each of you. Or you could donate to my favorites!

Thanks again Ben!


Just awesome. As for finding families, you might try contacting a local homeless shelter. I imagine families staying there might be short on gifts.
Btw, the good thing about Target, Walmart AND Amazon gift cards is that they could be used for gifts *or* groceries. :)


So far, you guys have been great in helping me find some families in need. Last night, however, I saw this commercial on TV for JC Penney's Angel Adoption program:

It helps you find children in your area in need of Christmas gifts.

This fills me with confidence; whatever we can't find between ourselves, I can always fulfill the rest of the promise through their Angel program.



Would you like any more $$/gift cards added to the pool or would you rather we did our own thing vis a vis donating? I would love to help out, but I'm happy to donate on my own if you'd rather keep this to the size it is now. :)

Happy Hanukkah!



I don't think there's any need for the funds to actually change hands. But if you want to join in the merriness of giving, I'd be happy to add headshot / bio to the end of the blog post (see recent updates).


So great to see people really taking the idea of what Christmas really should be about to heart! I have a number of special things I try to do each year around Christmas, one of my favorites is donating animals to third world poor families through World Vision. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving! Not only does an animal like a goat provide milk, cheese etc. year round, as more people in a community receive them, they are able to breed them and sell them to make money (and provide animals to their own neighbors, etc.) One gift can multiple easily into many! You don't get the satisfaction of knowing exactly who received it, but I love knowing that I may have truly changed someone's life for the better. We spend *so* much money on each other typically when we already have so much more stuff than we could ever even use, Christmas has come to mean so much more to me now that I makes plans to give more of what I can to others that truly need it.


@Mary Jo,

Not JUST Christmas; we gave animals to family/friends for Hanukkah last year through! Loosely interpreted, the spirit of Hanukkah is fighting against odds for what one believes in and for the ability to celebrate fully - definitely in line with giving at this time of year! NOT loosely translated, Kwanzaa is about giving back, so it's also very appropriate! :)


Thanks. I've got it covered.


@Wendy -I definitely give throughout the year as well, but always try to save something extra especially for Christmas as well. Thanks for the info on these other holidays, it's nice to see that so many other religions/cultures have holidays on giving back as well.

I have mixed feelings about giving to charity on behalf of other people. It doesn't seem quite right to do *unless* that donation is given to a charity that has particular meaning to that person. For my niece and nephew for instance, who lost their mom to cancer, I might donate to breast cancer research in their name. I don't want someone to think I just was looking for a way to make my gift to them tax deductible. ;-) It all depends on your family and what traditions they follow, I suppose.


@Ben - hey, instead of people sending you money, how about they just post or email with how much they decided to donate on their and keep a running total?


Ben et al,

Love the idea; concerned about the execution. I'm concerned you might get some extremely sad story -- that's not true.

But, this has been weighing on my life recently as well. We spent a lot of money on updating our house (which, in a way, is charity by 'stimulating the economy'). I don't like to just give somebody something. On the other hand, about this time two years ago, I was making minimum wage, and know how hard it was to have anything more than, well, the minimum.

When we see beggars on the street, we don't give them money. For all I know, they'll misuse it. I'll gladly give them a can opener and cans of food.

In short, due to people abusing the "woe is me" story, we have a harder time because we can't tell who's truthful and who's just lazy/abusing the system.

All that said, I do want to search out local charities and donate some time to them in 2011. Then, once I can see for myself that no more than, say, 8-9% of my donation is spent for administrative overhead, I'll support them more frequently.



I've struggled with this myself. In fact, I remember when I was about 15 years old seeing my first street beggar (hey, I'm from Idaho) in SanDiego down near the pier. My father gave him 50 bucks. I told my dad, "you must be an idiot", he's gonna go get drunk on your dime!

My father said: "That's his test" to which I replied "what do you mean, 'his' test??" he continued, "He may very well go do something irresponsible with that money, and he may not, we'll never know. But MY test is what I do with that which I have been blessed, and I intend to pass MY test"

That experience had an impact on me. At the end of the day I think you try to exercise vigilance in who/how you help. But the larger question is "did you pass YOUR test". It's near impossible to know the impact you have, the trick is to follow your own internal compass to do something to make a difference, however small or great it may be.


@Mary Jo,

I shy away from putting any totals up only because people give as they can; I don't like drawing any comparisons.


Thanks for the link... and, I hope you got some good POI info as well ;)


Trust is always an issue when you can't meet people face to face. But, I'm hoping that by talking to "my" community, there's already enough filtering taking place. Plus, I don't want to over-think it.


Thanks again to everyone who has emailed me with information! You have been most excellent! I shall be trying to get all of the cards out by this evening.


@Ben - goodness, I didn't mean to put up *individual* totals, just thought it'd be neat to post how much *total* your readers contribute to someone needy as a result of reading your blog. But you are right in one respect, that some might not feel comfortable emailing such information.

I believe in love. I believe in compassion. I believe in human rights. I believe that we can afford to give more of these gifts to the world around us because it costs us nothing to be decent and kind and understanding. And, I want you to know that when you land on this site, you are accepted for who you are, no matter how you identify, what truths you live, or whatever kind of goofy shit makes you feel alive! Rock on with your bad self!
Ben Nadel