What a great day to blog my thoughts! It's Easter and a glorious day in every way! Today has been a day of reflection. For decades, I've celebrated Easter but it's typically hectic with a lot of people. Today is unusually quiet. This year is only 3 1/2 months old but I've had some of my greatest personal challenges this year. I am especially grateful today for my life, family and friends.
I learned something several years ago that I passionately believe as a result of my personal experience and seeing it in the lives of others: When things are tough - reach out and give to someone else. Take the focus off of me (or you). It's amazing how therapeutic giving to and helping others is for our own soul.
When I take a look around and see others - I mean really see them by looking into their eyes, watching how people respond to them and how they respond to others - I begin to see inside the person. Sometimes their response is a true picture and other times it's a mask to hide their true feeling. They've been hurt deeply or they have a need, but they don't want anyone to know it. I believe we weren't meant to experience life alone. We were created to engage and intertwine with each other to create the whole picture of life.
I sometimes feel awkward when giving to random individuals - have I read the situation wrong? - Will I offend them? - Will they think I'm weird? But the truth behind my feelings is that if I have had at least one positive impact on someone then I can deal with all of the "she's weird" thoughts. Are you that way too? Don't get me wrong - I have pride and lots of it! I have even read Joyce Meyer's book "Approval Addiction" - which is a book I highly recommend - but I keep going back to what's really in my inner being: I know with confidence my eternal future and I want to make a positive difference in today's world while I'm here in it.
My mind has now taken me to all of the many ways I can give to others. Yes, it's as simple as a word of encouragement, a smile, letting someone go in front of me - even when that parking space is rightfully mine! It's baby sitting, dog walking, lawn mowing, giving flowers, picking up trash along my running route, pulling weeds, or opening doors for others. All of these don't require spending any or much money - but only requires an intentional effort and possibly a small amount of time.
If there is more time to give, then volunteering at any numerous shelters or non-profits. I've never been turned down when I asked to serve and every time, without exception, I've been blessed in return. Some of my most favorite memories of the last year were when Mike and I peeled and cut over 1200 cucumbers so that cucumber salad could be served for the poor and homeless the next week. Another time I cracked over 1000 eggs. I have numerous stories that I could share over the years and although it wasn't elaborate, luxurious, clean or self-elevating, it was truly fulfilling in a way that can't be compared to anything else. For those that don't serve regularly or are in a new city, I am happy to get you in the right direction. For those that do, feel free to provide your experiences in the comment section - but remember this is not a platform for advertising or asking for money. However, I love hearing your serving experiences.
When I don't have time, but want to give, then there are many legitimate non-profits that help people. If that's you - then do your research! Know what they are about - peruse their mission and annual report. What do they represent? Talk to some of the people they serve. Guidestar is a resource that I've personally used in the past (http://www.guidestar.org/) but there are many resources to utilize. What's your passion? I'm passionate about helping the poor and homeless, single mothers, victims of domestic violence, and helping others to live in the world but not of the world. But there are many other causes and we each have a God-given passion within us that when put together, we really can tackle the world's problems one day at a time!
If you have the means, then what about hiring someone that needs to work to do some work - even if you know you could do it yourself! There is an elderly man that cleans and waxes our cars regularly. He doesn't accept money without working but he is limited in his ability so he details cars around town. Frankly, this is a luxury that I can do myself but that's not the point! What about tipping twice or three times the amount? Paying someone's mortgage or rent? Filling someone's car with gas or even giving them a car? What are your ideas? What have you done? I'd love to hear from you about your experiences.
Here is the kicker! It needs to be a gift - not expecting anything in return! Wow! Sometimes I get caught up in this one: "That ungrateful person!" And then, I've just messed everything up! It's a gift without judgment and without expecting anything in return. I have to keep myself in check. When my motivation is wrong, then I'm wrong. Don't misunderstand; there are legitimate times that conditions are set. What I'm speaking about now are the unselfish acts of kindness and there is definitely a difference!
Being caught up in my own personal challenges, my time this year has been limited to my family and in ways that it has never been in the past. As stressful as it may be, I'm very grateful for those moments. I hope I am also continuing to give in other ways while my time is currently occupied. I know people are giving themselves to me and for that I am thankful! And now a challenge for you: Go give something of yourself to someone else today!
Who are you and what thoughts do my random thoughts spur in you? I welcome your thoughts, comments and inspirational ideas.