There are many special ways American adults celebrate a milestone birthday, from jumping out of a plane to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to taking a luxury cruise. For West Hartford native Max Klau, the “big four-o” is something more: an opportunity to use a personal anniversary to inspire others for the greater good.
“When I turned 39 last December, I knew I wanted to do something to honor this upcoming milestone,” says Klau, who lives in Massachusetts. “I thought about inviting people to contribute to one of the many causes I care deeply about, but that didn’t quite feel right. I realized that the cause I really care most passionately about is helping others to connect with their own deepest sense of purpose, mission, and service to others. My dream is to create a world in which more and more people live lives illuminated by purpose and inspired by service to others.”
Klau created the “40 x 40 x 40 Challenge,” appealing via Facebook to friends, family, and beyond to contribute $40 each to a cause or organization. In this way, he hopes to instigate at least $40,000 worth of fundraising by his birthday on Dec. 23. Each contributor reports the donation on Klau’s Facebook page, and reveals as much or as little detail as desired.
The idea, Klau says, is to step away from one’s daily life long enough to think about a cause that resonates, then turn thought into action. He suggests two further “bonus” actions: “Take a full 40 seconds to pause and really, deeply appreciate the importance of the cause that just received your donation, and connect with how it feels to act from a place of purpose and service to something you believe in. Then, if you’re willing, share the link to this challenge with your friends.”
So far the effort has resulted in some $4,500, and spawned other creative ideas.
“I expected the challenge to be a one-time, inspiring journey to connect with something that matters,” Klau says. “But there were very immediate responses from a couple of folks craving some sort of structure for giving. Some people have several causes they care about and didn’t know how to give, and chose the challenge as their framework. One couple with two kids told me that they’ve been struggling with how to bring a focus on tzedakah into their family and now, every week, they all have a conversation about who to give to. Others told me that they would now give monthly to one cause or another.”
Klau says that his charitable work is inspired by his parents, Bobby and David Klau of Simsbury, who have long been engaged in Jewish community service throughout greater Hartford. After graduating from college, Klau volunteered with four Jewish service organizations, including Otzma, Panim el Panim, Livnot U’Lehibanot, and AJWS, where he served twice as a group leader. He is now on the staff of City Year, a national service organization based in 21 U.S. cities, London, and Johannesburg, that works to keep kids in high school.
In addition to connecting others with tikkun olam, Klau may have discovered the best birthday gift of all. “I always feel like I get more than I give when I focus on serving others,” he says.
To learn more about the “40 x 40 x 40 Challenge:” www.facebook.com/max.klau.