“I want to help, but I don’t know how,” or “what difference could I really make?”
I genuinely believe that people have the innate desire to help others. It’s that feeling you get when you’re with the masses at a 5K, wearing the same color and running for the same purpose. That feeling when you find out you’re the 37th person in the Starbucks line, paying for the order of the person behind you. That feeling when you notice someone looks lost, and you have just the answer to help them find their way to their destination. Or when you see your child offer a friend his ice cream cone, because you’ve always taught him to be kind and share. It’s there in so many, if not all of us. But I believe that it you can “give back” with so much more purpose if you can use your strengths with what you do.
Before I go on, see my post on how to balance selflessness and self-care first 😉 Take care of your heart and fill your cup completely full so that it overflows to others. Once you have done that, then you can shift your focus on how you can help others.
This is the part where we need to take a very close look at ourselves. What kind of causes do we care about the most, or which of these are we the most passionate about? Here are some examples I found on volunteermatch.org:
Immigrants & Refugees
Veterans & Military Support
Homeless & Housing
People with Disabilities
Homeless & Housing
Once you have chosen two to three causes, the next step is to look at the season of life you are in. Where in your life do you have some EXTRA? Time, money, connections, items to donate, resources? Let’s say that you have some extra time. What kind of time?
-Do you have 115 hours of PTO saved up, and you are not sure what to do with it? Maybe you can take 10 days off and go on an international humanity-serving trip.
-Do you think you could spend 1-2 hours per week tutoring underprivileged children locally? -Maybe the first Wednesday of every month you can serve at a local soup kitchen, or volunteer at your church.
-Do you love animals, but like my husband and me, it just does not work out for you to adopt another right now? Find a local shelter that has a foster program. The one we go through provides EVERYTHING – kennels, food, medications if needed, etc. But we get the privilege (and let’s be honest, sometimes the chaos!) of giving our fosters a loving home, away from the loud kennels and concrete floors.
-Do you love nature? Take a glove and small trash bag and pick up any piece of trash you find along your trail!
-Do you have $35 per month to spare? Check into an organization you trust to sponsor a child, locally or internationally.
-Are you fancy? Buy a ticket to a local charity gala. Get your red pumps on, work that contour kit,bring your hot date and have an incredible night, for a cause!
Okay friends, I think you get the idea. There are so many ways that you can give back, and so often it is an incredible thing to realize that we receive just as much joy in giving, as whomever is on the receiving end.
I spoke to the point of considering which season of life you are in, as an important factor when deciding how you can best give back. I will use some of my life experiences, and seasons with changes to illustrate what I mean. A few years ago, when my now husband and I were just dating, we were really good about going on short, but incredible weekend trips around the southwest. Because of that, I had many days of PTO sitting in my bank. Sundays at church came and went, with announcements in the bulletin about the upcoming mission trips. These mission trips were usually 6-10 days long, and ranged from building a home in the Phillippines, to digging wells in Africa. I saw a trip that stuck in my head well after I had seen it in the bulletin – a trip to the far southern region of Mexico. It was a medical mission trip: I work in medicine, and I’m fluent in Spanish. Okay God, point taken. I raised the money for the trip, and spent seven days working as His hands and feet down there, on a trip I will never forget.
I would never discourage anyone from doing a trip like that. It truly has the power to be life-changing. But I found myself thinking, okay…so am I just not going to do any volunteer work until my next big trip? It didn’t seem right. I live in a city where there is so much need, and that need is there every single day. So I found myself digging through websites and found something that stuck: tutoring middle school-high school children in central Phoenix. I met the students in their summer church program, just so we could get to know each other. And I spent the next school year every single Thursday night with four high school girls in particular, going through worksheets, calling my mom (high school math teacher) and having her explain how to solve calculus problems I could never do on my own, teaching them how to cite their sources, and so on. They are refugees from Myanmar. And ya’ll…you could not imagine what they have been through. That year working with them, learning from them and seeing them accomplish so many things in their schooling and lives. Honestly, I will never be the same.
But one huge life event happened during that school year, I got engaged! So as their school year came to a close, I was constantly juggling work (40 hours + 2 hours/day of commuting), teaching spin classes, planning a wedding, and trying to keep a close relationship with these girls. And something hit me so hard, that I broke down into tears. I was about to commit my life to what would be one of my greatest priorities, my marriage to my husband, and I literally never spent time with him. Less than a handful of one on one time a week, and it crushed me. It crushed me for two reasons: first, that he was my favorite human being in the world and I never saw him, and second, I knew I had to give some other things up in my life to free up more time to spend with him. One of them was tutoring.
Luckily, my husband loves dogs as much as I do. Fostering shelter dogs is the most perfect thing at this point in our lives. It is flexible. We can let the shelter know our availability, and if we have one, but had a weekend trip planned, they let us bring the dog back to the shelter for the weekend. It doesn’t cost us any money, which is extremely important
due to other financial priorities we have right now. We get mostly medical fosters, ones who are not adoptable while we have them because they are healing from a surgery, or on medications – which is perfect because we are both therapists in the medical field. It helps us be a team with taking care of these little ones, who so far, two of three have been puppy-aged. It gets us both home sooner in the evening so we can take care of them (and of course, our rescue dog, too!). And lastly, I get to watch my incredible husband love on these doggies and have some serious daydreaming about how great of a dad he’s going to be someday. Ladies, you ALL know I’m not crazy for thinking that way 😉
That is what I have for you tonight, sweet friends. I hope that in a big, or small way, reading this post helps encourage you to think about your strengths, your passions and what you have to offer. As my friends at Lighthouse for Hope say it best…”Be a light.”
Love you all, have a wonderful and safe Memorial day as we get to enjoy the freedom in this country that certainly was not free.
XoXo, Lindsey Sholtis