Microsoft providing $3.5 million in tsunami relief


I had a hard time sleeping last night. OK, I did have a couple glasses of wine (watching Cal lose to Texas Tech will do that to you) and that sometimes makes it hard to sleep. I go to sleep with the TV on at night…otherwise, I hear sounds and make myself worry about things I don’t need to worry about. Last night, I had CNN on and I was up and down for the better part of the night thinking about what is going on in Asia. I had to stop looking at the TV screen.

When I came in to work this AM, I had an e-mail from Steve Ballmer in my inbox. OK, so he sent it to all of us, but still. Microsoft is providing $3.5 million in tsunami relief (including our matching gifts program, which matches charitable donations by employees dollar for dollar up to $12K per employee). I can’t tell you how proud I am to work here sometimes.

Do you ever see something on TV, a little clip or picture, that just has a huge impact on you? It is hard not to be touched by what you see going on in Asia, but there’s one clip I saw on CNN that has really made me think a lot. A man, I believe in Sri Lanka, was asking the reporter “where are the Americans?”. I just really hope that the assistance we give as a country is not given in the spirit that we are doing so because we are the so-called “leaders of the free world” or some other self-imposed title. I worry that as Americans, everything we touch is left with our cultural fingerprints all over it. I’m encouraged by organizations that work to ensure that, while aid is given, respect for local culture is preserved. I think that as Americans, our desire to help comes from a place of goodness but it sometimes gets messed up in the translation. It’s really hard to sit back and feel like any money we are giving to an organization is enough. But those organizations are the ones who know how to assist those affected by this tragedy in the most appropriate way, providing those people with the support they need to bury and mourn their dead, to preserve their culture and traditions and to start to rebuild their infrastructure. I want to know that we are assisting because we have so much and because it’s the right thing to do, not because we are trying to prove something.

Anyway, I wasn’t planning on blogging about this again today, but I’m having a hard time not thinking about it. A couple of my blog readers (Ian and Pradeep) have mentioned having family and/or friends in areas affected by the tsunami. I can’t imagine. I just can’t stop thinking about this.

Comments (30)

  1. Gabe Halsmer says:

    :: I worry that as Americans, everything we touch is

    :: left with our cultural fingerprints all over it.

    Wow, you have more time on your hands then I do.

    Don’t you have anything more important to worry about?

    :: I think that as Americans, our desire to help comes

    :: from a place of goodness

    I too wonder where this desire comes from. I, however,

    am much more cynical about its origins.

    :: I want to know that we are assisting because we have so

    :: much and because it’s the right thing to do, not because

    :: we are trying to prove something.

    Let me get this straight, we should help out others because

    we have more then others?

    Its my understanding that you can only aquire things in this

    world by one of four means…

    * luck

    * hardwork (i.e. persistenace, not getting discouraged)

    * talent (i.e. competance)

    * amorality (breaking laws, stealing, etc.)

    Conversely anyone who considers himself a failure can

    attribute it to opposite qualities…

    * ill-fortune

    * laziness

    * incompetance

    * morality (trusted everyone and was vicitimized by the dishonesty of other men)

    Now you’ve made the point that we in America have more

    things then people in Sri Lanka (at least right at the moment

    anyway). And because of this discrepency, we should shift

    our things to Sri Lanka?

    Why? What goal are you trying to serve? The redistribute

    of luck?

    If that’s your intentions, wouldn’t it best be served by taking

    the money of every lottery winner in America this week, and

    giving there money to Sri Lanka? I mean, certainly we don’t

    want to punish people for being hard-working or talented.

    We shouldn’t redistribute something if it was gained through

    these admirable qualities. But if you gain something through

    pure luck, shouldn’t a JUST society redistribute that to those

    who are less lucky?

  2. Heather says:

    I have plenty to worry about. Being thoughtful about others in the world should not have to be the result of having too much time on one’s hands. We could all stand to spend a little more time thinking about others.

    My point was that giving should come from goodness and compassion. Yes, we should help others because we have more than them…absolutely. The goal am I trying to serve? Being good to others. Sharing what I have. Lessening someone’s burden. I’m sure that it’s horribly flawed of me to aspire to such things. And I am sure you are going to tell my why, Gabe. Seems that I am not the only one with time on hands, yeah?

  3. somethings inside that let us move and take action for others,

    who affected by this disaster, not to say that they are from the same nation.

    think and feel as if we were them in that situation.

    give and help sufferers without thinking that who they are,

    or they’re good guy or bad guy, …

    in Thailand, we call this quality of mind as Num-jai.

  4. KC says:

    If Mr. Halsmer doesn’t want to distribute the result of his hardwork and competence to the less fortunate, then let him keep his money in his pocket. If others want to help out of goodness and compassion, that does not make them fools. I’m tired of people like this who automatically assume that someone born into poverty in a poor country without a lot of resources is automatically a failure and automatically lazy. Perhaps if he lived for a while in these countries and watched how hard people work to feed their children, he would change his mind. But I doubt it. We all know his success in life has nothing to do with being born in the richest country in the world, having access to the best schools and limitless opportunities to move up in life. If those lazy Sri Lankan peasants can’t make their country like the US, that’s their problem. Right Mr. Halsmer?

  5. Hi Heather,

    Its great to hear the contribution from Microsoft. Like you, it has been a troubling week reflecting about this. I spent a considerable amount of time playing in the shores of Madras and have visited Andaman and Nicobar islands. It is hard to imagine the impact and destruction esp. in a place like the Andaman where several islands are just small strips of land and it would have been no point going inland to escape the waves. It is encouraging that the New Year is starting off with people trying to help and do whatever they can. I am curious about how science and technology is going to be used to minimize the impact of such natural disasters.

    Happy New Year !!

    Mohan

  6. Gabe Halsmer says:

    Its the holiday break, and yes I have more time then usually.

    :: Yes, we should help others because we have more than

    :: them…absolutely.

    Whenever one talks about redistributing wealth from the have’s

    to the have-not’s, you must consider the 4 qualities that are

    the cause for people having a little or a lot.

    I think you would agree with me that it would be unfair to

    redistribute wealth from those who are hard-working to

    those who are lazy. And I think we can both agree that it

    is incredibly just to redistribute wealth from those who

    are dishonest to those that are honest.

    Now what about talent? Is it a good thing to move wealth from

    the talented to the incompetent? I’d have to say no but that’s

    just my opinion.

    But I thought the point you were making was that we should

    redistribute wealth from those who are lucky to those who are

    not? Surely, you didn’t mean that wealth in general should

    be redistributed (though that is what you said).

    Anyway I was trying to offer an optimal solution to your desire

    for fairness. Those who are truly fortunate (lottery winners)

    should have there money redistributed to those who are truly

    unfortunate (tsunami victims). I’m not sure I agree with this,

    but I assumed that you would.

  7. Andy says:

    Wow. To the agro strange guy: Arguing on the internet especially in someone elses blog is like running in the special olympics. Even if you win you’re still retarded.

    Heather cheer up things will get better and at least MS is doing something, there are many other companies that aren’t doing anything at all.

    If that doesn’t cheer you up maybe this will; you were the flagship lady for SfhWinTech.

    See this link for details ( were your ears burning the other day? ):

    http://www.cadencoding.net/blogs/users/cornbread/permalink.aspx?id=113

  8. Dora Lane says:

    Tsunami Relief and the Bush Inauguration

    Happy New Year 2005! While weโ€™re lucky to have another year of opportunity, not all are so blessed. Right now, the world is suffering from the crushing devastation and loss of the December 2004 tsunami/quake disaster. Rather than party on New Yearโ€™s Eve, many held vigils to symbolize human solidarity in a painful time. Here, far from the destruction, many of us have made donations. Thankfully, the US government has now realized American aid must be increased dramatically. But, if the Bush Administration truly wants to reach out, it should step up and cancel the January 20th Presidential Inaugural festivities โ€“ which will cost over $40,000,000 plus millions more in public money for unprecedented securityโ€“ and instead donate those funds to tsunami relief efforts. Such a powerful symbolic gesture would send the right message about compassion and leadership. If you agree, tell President Bush president@whitehouse.gov, Trent Lott, Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies senatorlott@lott.senate.gov and members (Bill Frist, http://frist.senate.gov/contact.cfm , Christopher Dodd, dodd.senate.gov/webmail/,Dennis Hastert, speaker@mail.house.gov, Tom DeLay http://www.house.gov/writerep/ and Nancy Pelosi, sf.nancy@mail.house.gov, and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, info@inaugural05.com, 202-863-2005 or 202-314-2600 and spread the word by forwarding this message. Peace and Hope 2005!

  9. Ian says:

    I don’t think it’s horribly flawed at all. It’s great to see people who care so much. I believe there are some who genuinely want to help without ulterior motives.

    I feel it’s not a question of ‘acquiring’ the most things in life, but rather how many lives you can improve. Like you said: "lessening someone’s burden". Maybe my logic is also horribly flawed now because I have a connection to Sri Lanka…

    There are some big decisions coming up in the next few days in terms of my life’s path and this situation. We’ll see what happens… ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Robert Olson says:

    That’s really cool that Microsoft is doing that. Asia needs every little bit of help they can get right now. I just checked CNN and the death toll is up to 155,000 now. That’s over 31x worse then 9/11. Just awful ๐Ÿ™

  11. Julia says:

    Heather,

    The company I work for, Verite, does work in various parts of the world to try and improve working conditions. We have teams in Asia, and while our teams are safe, their circles of friends have been devestated, so in turn we feel that devestation.

    One has to wonder if Gabe has ever had to feel the lose of everyone in his family like so many in this disaster have. Such as the one friend of one of our team members. She lost her children, husband, parents, siblings, etc. Everyone. To be the only one left in the wake of such disaster. No family to turn to in time of crisis. I can only hope that she is able to find new family and hope to move forward.

    It seems that Gabe doesn’t believe that true altruism exists, but you seem to. Please, don’t lose sight of that and continue to believe in a better future. It’s been my experience that we can’t change the past, and the only way to change the future is in the *now*.

    Just in case anyone is donating material goods, at this point one of the greatest needs is for sanitary items (menstrual pads, disinfectants, etc).

    Julia

  12. Heather says:

    Suthep- Num-jai makes a lot of sense to me. Didn’t know there was a word for it…unconditional goodness.

    Andy-you are crazy, but I’m enjoying it ; )

    Mohan-I know that our SE Asia offices are doing some work to help utilizing technololgy. When I get more details on what is happening, exactly, I will update. I know that for 9/11 we worked to get systems back up and running for some of the business in the WTC. I’m not sure of how many businesses were impacted by the Tsunami. Does anyone know?

    Ian-all us flawed folks can hang out here and be good people, right? Let everyone else be grouchy ; )

    Julia-hard to hear about the friend of one of your team members…there will be many stories like that, unfortunately.

  13. Heather says:

    Gabe-you make alot of assumptions. I don’t buy your model for how people acquire "wealth". Frankly, once my tax money is gone, I don’t consider it mine any more, but I’d like to have a say in where it gets spent…it’s called a democracy. We get to vote on stuff like this..wheee! And we have free speech, so I can write here on my blog how I want my President to spend my tax money. Woohoo! Now I’m getting crazy with all my rights…somebody stop me!

    I don’t think money needs to be "redistributed" based on how it was received (and by the way, luck doesn’t exist…people use the term for dramatic affect but I know very few people who actually believe in it). I was on the receiving end of some need-based financial aid when I went to college. This doesn’t fit into your model. But boy am I happy I got it (I also got scholarships but they didn’t cover my entire provate school education).

    As far as my own personal money goes, I can send it to whomever I want for whatever reason I want as long as it doesn’t break the law (there are those rights again…they keep popping up in the funniest places). I NEVER said that wealth in general should be redistributed although you claim I did (hmm, did I even use the words wealth OR redistribute in my post?). Gabe, it seems that you are angry at something somewhere, but don’t take it out on me. If you don’t want to give money to help others, then by all means, keep all of your money! Enjoy it…you earned it (or you are "lucky", I guess)…it’s your right. But don’t try to make others’ benevolence into something ugly.

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