The challenge today is to be charitable, act in good faith, and become one with others. As the website says, "Ultimately, you will not only be giving back — you’ll be getting back."
Volunteering and Health
According to Yes! magazine's website, "More than 30 peer-reviewed, longitudinal studies have found a strong connection between volunteering and a decreased risk of heart disease, lower rates of depression, and greater longevity."
The No Impact Week Experiment suggests making a list of all the ways you contribute to your community now. Here are some ways that I contribute to the community:
- Volunteer at the homeschool co-op on Mondays throughout the school year.
- Hold doors open for people if they are near me when they are entering a building.
- Donate items on a regular basis to the second-hand shop so the proceeds from their sales can support programs that help individuals, families, and seniors in need.
Sophia and Olivia with clothes and diapers that we donated to
Project Quinn - a special project serving Native families in Alaska.
On an on-going basis, we also donate clothes to the local second-hand store.
- Help my dad with his medical and dental appointments; and work with his case manager at the senior day care program to ensure he's receiving personalized and meaningful care as he deals with Alzheimer's Disease.
Quilt I made for my dad that has photographs that he and I picked out out.
Almost every time I see or talk with him, he mentions the quilt.
- Donate my hair to Locks of Love. I just donated a ponytail in Fall 2010 and am growing my hair out again. This was the third time I've grown and cut my hair, and donated it to Locks of Love.
The third ponytail I donated to Locks of Love in Fall 2010.
- Share my sewing skills with different non-profit organizations.
A pillowcase dress that I sewed and then sent to a non-profit organization
that provides dresses to girls in Africa.
These are the things that come to mind immediately. I use to be much more active in the community - especially when I ran a non-profit here at the farm. However, once that ended in 2003, I became more focused on raising Sophia and Olivia (both of whom have special needs); homeschooling them; and working with different agencies that provide therapeutic care to address sensory issues as well as developmental and speech delays.
A set of pillowcases that I made for a hospital
that has a section that serves children who have cancer.
Even from 2003-2009, I had many more ways I was giving back to the community through a variety of organizations and interests of mine. This is making me very aware that I have definitely pulled back considerably during 2010 - particularly the latter half of the year.
Several years ago, Sophia and Olivia filled shoeboxes with gifts
as part of Operation Christmas Child.
Increasing One's Impact on the Community
Many years ago, my doctor observed, "You're burning the candle at both ends and in the middle." More recently, I completed a six-week caregiving program through Family Means. The main focus of the program was learning how to take care of oneself when you're a caregiver. Often times, caregivers give too much of themselves, leaving behind the things they once enjoyed and people with whom they enjoyed spending time.
One of the activities that we did during the caregiving program was set one goal each week that we wanted to do that would bring enjoyment to our lives. In doing this, people become stronger and healthier so that they can have the energy and enthusiasm to continue to make a difference in the community.
The No Impact Week Experiment asks, "How can you step up what you’re already doing and do more?" At this point in my life, I think the following actions would be achievable (spread throughout the year)
- Continue to look for little ways each day to make at least one person's life a bit easier.
- Send letters or postcards to people. One thing that my dad use to do was clip articles from the paper if he knew the person mentioned in the article. He would send it along with a little note to the person. I like that idea.
I also read somewhere that rather than sending a Christmas/holiday newsletter, to send personalized letters to people you've received them from. Each week pick one or two people, and share with them how they've brought joy to your life.
- Incorporate volunteering into the homeschool curriculum. Find organizations that would welcome young volunteers. The Doing Good Together website has some wonderful ideas for ways that families can volunteer without leaving their home as well as ways families can volunteer in the community.
I drove the girls to a local nursing home where they
helped put out pumpkins that their 4-H club carved.
This was taken outside the Memory Care Unit.
- Participate in the fall fundraising event sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association. This year's event, Walk to End Alzheimer's, is scheduled for September 24th. More information is HERE.
- Go on a mission trip to Tanzania! There's an opportunity to do so in 2011...and I have wanted to go to Africa for many years now. I'm hoping to raise enough money to be able to go.
"For it is in giving that we receive."
~ St. Francis of Assisi
Identify Your Level of Impact
The No Impact Week Experiment had the following pyramid on its website and asked participants to identify where they are on it.
At this stage in my life, I'm between the "Weekly" and "Monthly" levels. From 1989-2003, I was at the top of the pyramid - working for various non-profit organizations and/or running a non-profit that I founded. The important thing I need to remind myself is that I'm still on the pyramid.
"Crafting for Charity" class I taught in Spring 2010
to a group of homeschool students.
A Life of Service and Giving Back
Giving back and being of service was a value that was deeply instilled in me when I was growing up. As an adult, I can't imagine living a life any other way. The amount that I give...and how I choose to give...varies with my interests and with factors I cannot control (e.g., my parents' declining health).
What I have realized in reflecting about today's focus of giving back, is that I have shifted my focus of service from the community to family. Recognizing that caregiving responsibilities will not cease in 2011, my goal is to determine how to gradually incorporate being of more service to the community - local, country, and world.
Perhaps one way to do this is follow Tiffani Titus' idea of doing 52 Weeks of Giving. She was looking for ways that she and her children could do volunteering on a regular basis, and ended up doing small weekly projects. She found a variety of opportunities, and she and her family made a commitment to do one good deed per week.
In doing an internet search for "52 Weeks of Giving" I came across a church website that is doing a program with the same name. At the bottom of this LINK there are numerous ideas for projects that can be done throughout the year. It's worth checking out.
If it's easier to follow a plan that someone else has created, take a look at 52 Weeks of Impact. Each week through 2011, the website will feature a different cause or theme; and offer ideas for action toward making the world a better place.
"Kindness in words creates confidence.
Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.
Kindness in giving creates love."
~ Lao Tzo