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The Last Word with Kathy Terry

The Last Word with Kathy Terry

How I Hope to Change the Meaning of Giving

Written by Kathy Terry
Photography by Kerri Lohmeier

People come in and out of your life for so many reasons, and sometimes you don’t realize the purpose until much later.

Susan was a woman who officed next to me after college. She had traveled the world by herself, living in China for a time to teach English. I sure didn’t know anyone else who would (or could) take off and travel by themselves. I decided that one day, I too would travel the world on my own.

Fast forward a few years: I found myself with a job that allowed me to take a six-month leave of absence. So, at the age of 24, I got a passport, packed up my backpack and set out to travel the world and see as much as I could. When I returned from this trip, it became blatantly obvious that my life would never be the same. Filled with a newfound hope and compassion, I shed so much of the bitterness and resentment that had held me back in the past.

From that point on, I was hooked. I found a viable way to work for myself and travel between jobs. Since then I’ve traveled to over 60 countries, most of them by myself. 

The compassion I've seen through travel ultimately led me to my latest venture. In the spring of 2018, I launched a mobile app called inLieu that enables social giving from your mobile phone. I found myself in countless situations where I needed a gift—whether it was a hostess gift, a birthday gift or a thank you gift—and kept asking the questions, “What does this person need, and what should I bring?”  

Over time, I realized that I’d much rather donate to my friend’s favorite charity in their name. A personalized donation would allow a gift to have a better, lasting impact. Thus, inLieu was born. InLieu enables you to donate on someone’s behalf in lieu of a material gift. The real reason I built inLieu? It has the opportunity to change the way we think about giving and have an enormous impact on the world we live in. 

Since launching inLieu in March I have been asked over and over “Where did you get your passion to give back?” The answer isn’t simple, it’s from a combination of various life experiences and a few very special people. But if I had to choose the one thing that had the biggest impact on me, it was traveling. And I would have never traveled if I had not met Susan.  

In my travels, I’ve been taken in by countless families from Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and Turkey, to Kenya, Thailand, Indonesia, and Nepal. I’ve been fed, clothed, sheltered, and cared for by so many that had so little themselves. I’ve been lost more times than I can remember, but every time I was found and guided home by a caring stranger. I learned compassion doesn’t have boundaries nor does it speak a language, and happiness certainly doesn’t come from material possessions. I lived my life surrounded by people who gave freely and unconditionally of their resources, food, shelter, and most importantly—time. 

I’ll forever have gratitude for all these people and their generosity. It’s because of their giving spirit that I feel compelled to give back. So that’s it—that’s my “why.” Every time I see someone donate in inLieu's social feed, I’m reminded of my purpose in life.

Like Pablo Picasso said ,“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” 

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