Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy New Year, 2009!

President Obama has recharged my enthusiasm, lifted my spirit and makes me feel like I want to be a better person! He is a beacon of light in a world in need and I am grateful he is our President! I love how he calls us to serve- that we make a difference by our smallest actions (I'm paraphrasing) in nurturing a child, lending a helping hand, and in essence, BEING "the change we want to see in the world." I'd like to give a SHOUT OUT to Starbucks for their incredible efforts in supporting community service- their staff has contributed 1,000,000 hours to community service and Starbucks has pledged to give us a free cup of coffee for every five hours of service we, as individuals, give to our own communities. The goal is 1,000,000 more hours. Let's get out there people!

Many have the desire to do more, but don't know where to begin. Oftentimes we volunteer at something only to find out that it was not fun at all, or sometimes just plain depressing. What has helped me is identifying a few things about myself that I know are strengths, as well as determining what talents I have that I know will make a contribution. We are not all cut out for volunteering in a hospital, or even working with children and that is OK! I think to be the most effective, we need to be honest with ourselves and the rest of the world in what we are comfortable doing. Many of you have and continue to give money to many areas that need it and that is so valuable. Our time is valuable too, and there are so many places in need that if we could carve out even an hour a month to sharing our abilities with others, slowly but SURELY, the change we want to see in the world, would happen.

So how does one begin? It helped me to ask what I feel impassioned about. I have a soft spot for women who don't feel their own power, who lack confidence or a sense of themselves as being valuable. I began with that and checked out local non-profits over the internet, shelters for at-risk teenage girls, organizations that help protect and counsel women who are in violent situations at home, and a few others. I narrowed my search to a few that moved me. My first reaction to working with at-risk teens was a feeling of intimidation. I'm being honest. I felt that at least right now, that might not be a suitable match for me. The Boys and Girls Club are also always in need of mentors, but again, I had to be honest with my time- with the demands of my own children's busy schedules on weekends, I didn't feel I could commit to being there for another child without sacrificing my time with my own. I found an organization that acts as a safe place for women who have been victims of violence and asked if they might be interested in my sharing what I am able to do. I offered teaching art and/or yoga. Surprisingly one of the branches of this organization offers a Mom's night where they take care of the children of mothers who are going through difficult times while the women spend an evening together, finding comfort in one another's company. I had the privilege of sharing an art class one evening and meeting some wonderful women who are creative and who are so enjoyable to be with. Although their situations are difficult, I admired their willingness to try something new and to make time for themselves. I hope to continue to be involved with this organization. I share my experience in the hopes that if anyone feels they are just not sure about where to begin with community service, that it might help to first ask yourself what you already know and then see if that can be shared somehow. Some people are incredibly patient with children. One woman I met volunteers her time to taking care of the children for free at the Mom's night I described. She has eight children of her own at home and volunteers one night a month. She truly knows the value of 'adult time,' but also loves to be with children. I was in awe of her! One of my best friends has a beautiful voice and she volunteers to sing at our local Hospice. She is an amazing soul who finds it a privilege to sing for individuals who are terminally ill. Although many of the families find solace in the beautiful singing, it is my friend who feels she is receiving the greater gift.

I think in our hearts we know that there are infinite ways we can make a difference. Take a moment to shine the light on yourself. You have been given great gifts. I think it is INCREDIBLE if you are sharing yours, but if you aren't yet, I ask that you hand your beautifully wrapped self to someone so that they may receive the gift that is you too.

Happy New Year everyone!

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