My grandfather, Samuel Mayerson, immigrated to the United States from Russia. Alone. At the tender age of 13. As a stowaway on a ship. He had never slept on a mattress. He did not speak English. But he made his way. He worked hard to learn the language. He found jobs where he could. He married and had a family. He fought heroically in a brutal war. He endured the Great Depression. Though his resilience was forged by a firm determination, it was softened by compassion for his fellow man, gratitude for his blessings, and a sense of duty to God, family, country and community.
My father has told numerous stories of how these values were passed down to him from his parents. He recalls a time during the Great Depression when he and my grandfather resorted to peddling peanuts in order to support the family. But, regardless of how hard they struggled to make ends meet, there was always a jar in the kitchen for collecting change for others who needed help. During the course of my life, I have witnessed this value-guided determination as my parents have negotiated the hills and valleys of their lives. They have worked hard. They have saved. They have always given of their time and money to community organizations, as they have been able. They have dedicated themselves to their family, country, and religious heritage. And they count the bounty of their blessings.
In 1986 they performed a remarkable act. They established our family foundation. They could have done other things with their hard earned savings. They could have simply let them accumulate, or they could have lived more lavishly. But instead, they heard a higher calling. And this calling, I believe, floated to them on the wings of the important values my grandfather held so dear – values that he himself had absorbed from his parents, and that they in turn received from their parents before them – and so on, down the line. Today we strive to express these time-honored values in the operation of both of our grant making and our operating foundation.
Determination drives the time and effort spent on our initiatives – the proactive side of our activities. Compassion forms the basis of our sense of urgency – because every day that passes and every effort that falls short represents a failed opportunity to be helpful to real people in need. Gratitude causes us to work hard to put each and every dollar to use – for we appreciate the good fortune, the sweat, and the sacrifice from which our assets derive. Overarching all of these values is a sense of duty to help repair the world and leave it in better condition than it was when it was put in our hands to care for. Determination, Compassion, Gratitude, and Duty. These are the cornerstone values that our foundations strive to embody and honor.
As we go about our work we recognize that none of us accomplishes much of anything meaningful alone. So, I thank all of the kindred spirits who work tirelessly in the non-profit trenches day-in and day-out to make this world a better place for all – and to each and every person who links arms in the amazing human chain of caring of which we are a part. It is only through the dedicated and collective effort of many that we succeed.
As I write this message it is warming to hear the echoes of my grandfather and humbling as well. Though he left everything behind to face the unknown almost a century ago, he brought with him important values that I feel privileged to carry forward. It seems fitting, therefore, to dedicate this website to my grandfather – a man of steadfast character – Samuel Mayerson.
Neal H. Mayerson, Ph.D.