I have to say that in almost four years of blogging, I have rarely been at a loss for words. I sat down to write the other day and there just wasn’t anything there. I mentioned this challenge at our family dinner table and my sons said, “You don’t have to write Mom, its ok if you take one day off.” A thought that truly had never occurred to me.
I had resigned myself to the fact that with two graduations next week and a very full plate at work, I would take today off. However, the universe had different plans, no sooner had I made that decision, when a friend sent me this video…which of course I needed to share with you.
Tired or not, seeing compassion in action, simply never gets old. It is moments like these that inspire me to do more, give more and use my time showing the world that it is actions not words, that really matter.
“Service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life.”
Carrie Chapman Catt
I had lunch with a girlfriend last week and we were discussing our mutual addiction to that indescribable feeling you get when you give. I had just come from Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages to our soldiers around the world. I had dropped off 1800 cards, on my way to lunch, written by student’s in my leadership organization, that would go in care packages for soldiers.
The feeling I had as I handed the boxes and boxes of heartfelt colored cards and notes was of pride, joy and as the quote says, “more happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life.” As my friend and I discussed, it is that feeling that becomes something you simply want more of. The gift of service is a gift you give to yourself, even if that isn’t the intention…..it is always the result.
Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor those who have served and sacrificed for our country. No one understands this more than a military spouse. The other day when I saw this piece on CBS News This Morning, I knew I needed to share. It is a letter from Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s widow, to herself. To me this puts Memorial Day in perspective and I hope it does the same for you.
Today, think about all of those service men, service women and their families who give so much to each of us.
Our lives are so frenetic and full that we barely have a moment to complete the most mundane tasks. However, when we stop. Just stop, take a breath, a moment and give ourselves the gift to sit and think it is amazing what can happen.
Somehow we have become afraid of silence and perhaps our own thoughts?
This past weekend I was up in Northern California for a board retreat. We were in the beautiful hills of Los Altos and it was a time to reflect, slow down the pace and “just think.”
As I pondered the takeaways of the weekend, I recalled a story that Bill Gates Sr. shared at a different board retreat a few years back. He was asked the question, “Was there any early indicator that your son (Bill Gates Jr.) was destined for great success?” Bill Sr. thought for a moment and shared a story about his teenage son.
He told the crowd that their family had loaded up the station wagon with children, pets and the like to head out-of-town to ski for the weekend. No one could find Bill Junior. Bill’s mother went searching through the house hollering for Bill. When she opened the door to his room, there was Bill laying on his bed staring up at the ceiling in a quiet room. His mother said to young Bill, “What are you doing? We have all been looking for you, yelling and waiting?” Bill Jr. looked up at his mom thoughtfully and said, “I was just thinking. Do you ever just think?”
As Bill Sr. shared that story with the room, he said that his son had always taken the time to simply “just think.” That story has stayed with me over the years and as I was given the gift of time to reflect, slow down and “just think” it occurred to me that, “thinking” is a gift each of us needs to give ourselves. When was the last time you were “just thinking?”
As I mentioned, we recently put our house on the market. We have no plan but just threw it out to the universe because it simply seems like the right time with our second son leaving for college. While keeping beds made (with boys), the house picked up and clearing out for showings at a moments notice is no picnic, there has been an amazing transformation in our family in the last two weeks…..gratitude.
Every time we look at a potential nest for our clan, we hear “this room isn’t as nice as the one I have” or “our kitchen is better” and on it goes. Even my husband and I find ourselves at night, saying how much we love the old beautiful wood floors in our house and how blessed we feel to live in this very special place. While we have always loved our home, it is the twisted human condition, that you don’t appreciate what you have until its gone which has hit our household.
Perhaps, at the end of the day if we don’t find the “right” next stop and stay in our home, then maybe that’s the lesson in this journey. Afterall, I now know for a fact that my boys know how to make a bed, keep their room clean at all times and that they truly realize the blessings of home. If that is the end result of this process, with or without a moving truck, then I would have to say its a move more than worth taking.
As this week is all about college graduations, commencements and a life lessons crammed into speeches.. A friend and Charity Matters reader recently shared this with me and it was so wonderful I needed to do the same with you. It is a Harvard commencement speech given by the famous author JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame. Her words of wisdom are not just for graduates but for all and her message of the benefits of failure, reads like a road map to success, as long as you pay attention to the signs along the way.
Here are the highlights for those that do not have the gift of 20 minutes (although a gift it is).
“I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
“If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
“Generosity is not giving me that which I need that you do, but it is giving me that which you need more that I do.”
As many of you know, I run a non-profit organization. The nature of non-profits is that unlike traditional businesses which survive because of goods and services exchanged, non-profits survive because of others belief in a cause and mission. In essence they survive because of others generosity.
There are many challenges that come with this “business” model, such as knowing where the next dollars to fund your program and pay your employees are coming. These past few weeks, I have felt the incredible burden and stress of just that…where will the funds come to pay everyone and make this happen? In truth, it is a sickening feeling that I wish on no one.
However, just when I had to tell my board that I simply didn’t know where to go next….did I receive the gift of generosity that brought me to tears, literally. One person, simply said, “I would like to help.” Those words changed everything, including me.
Like everyone, it feels better to give than to receive. However, to be humbled by one person’s immense generosity is a gift and a lesson I am grateful for. While the non-profit business model has its challenges, I am beyond blessed to be the constant witness of human kindness, compassion and generosity in action. The human spirit’s capacity to love and give is beauty in action.
It seems that just yesterday, I was writing to you about loss and my first-born leaving the nest. I blinked, a year flew by and my nest is full once again. On friday, the last final exam was taken, the UPS truck arrived with boxes, a precursor of what was to come…. and then my husband hustled to the airport to bring our son home from his first year at college.
A scene that is happening everywhere this time of year, but for me, the moment took me by surprise. Yes, I knew he was coming home but what I didn’t realize was the level of joy, gratitude and love I would feel in that moment. A single hug that filled my soul and made me complete. Twenty years of parenting did not prepare me for that embrace.
My mind replays a thousand images of my son running into my arms, as a toddler, a little boy with a bloody knee, a young man with a broken heart and now here we are. Each moment more precious than the next, a treasure chest full of memories that makes up a life.
It is now with the gift of perspective, that I understand how fleeting these gifts are and savor every embrace that reminds me of the wonderful gift it is to be a mother. My gratitude, heart and nest are beyond measure.
The day after tomorrow is Mother’s Day and many of us are scrambling for last-minute gift ideas. This year I may just have a creative solution that will touch Mom’s heart and be a gift that she remembers.
I wish I could say this amazing idea was mine but it is not. It started back in 2011 when four women, Eva Hausman, Kim Athan, Trish Hazelwood, and Stephanie Norton were inspired after reading the book “Half the Sky” to make their world better. The book chronicled the oppression of women and girls, and how communities were changed when women were empowered.
Shortly after the group learned that over $18 billion dollars is spent annually on Mother’s Day. The combination of the book’s influence and Mother’s Day inspired the women to look at Mother’s Day, as an opportunity to create the Mother’s Day Movement. They began to research small to mid-sized charities, in the fields of education, health care and areas helping women. Each Mother’s Day the women choose a new singular charity/program for the year that would effect positive change for women around the world.
Since 2011, the Mother’s Day Movement donors have raised more than $300,000 to help women and children, dramatically improving the lives of women in the fields of women’s health, education, infant and maternal mortality and clean water. This year’s focus to help stop the slave trade of women and young girls around the globe.
Theses mother’s hope, is to shift the priorities of giving for Mother’s Day. If just a small portion of Mother’s Day gifts went to this year’s program, it would make an enormous impact for women across the globe. So when you go to buy those flowers, perfume or chocolates think about doing something different this year. Consider a gift that would help another mother and make your mom proud.
This weekend we will all celebrate Mother’s Day in some way, either being celebrated or celebrating our mothers. However, the sad reality is that thousands of children will be separated from their mothers because they are in prison. It is estimated that 856,000 children in California have a parent in jail or 9% of the state’s children. These children are victims of their parent’s bad choices and yet still crave the connection with their mothers and fathers.
Fifteen years ago, Sr. Suzanne Stephan and Sr. Suzanne Jabro decided they could make a small step towards helping these children by coordinating a bus that would take 17 children to see their mothers in prison on Mother’s Day. The event was created to bring a much-needed connection for both mother and child and was named Get On The Bus.
Each child is given a travel bag, a photo with his or her parent, and meals for the day. For the emotional trip home, the children are given a teddy bear with a letter from their parent along with post-event counseling.
This weekend, Get on The Bus will serve over 1200 children, take 47 buses to reuniting mothers and children. It will be a Mother’s Day to remember for all.
I know, I know….trust me I do…each day there is a new giving this or giving that day or event. I hear you and honestly, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all of these days that I swear did not exist when we grew up. However, tomorrow is more than Cinco de Mayo it is also the Big Day of Giving. Who knew?
Tomorrow more than 100 communities across the country will come together with the hope of reaching millions of donors to raise over $100 million dollars nationally to support efforts of local nonprofits. Each area (think No Cal vs. So Cal) is “competing” to be the most successful fundraising, in what is a national competition for the common good.
So tomorrow when you are eating your taco and celebrating Cinco de Mayo, think about the Big Day of Giving and ask, what you can do to make your community better? That is something to celebrate.
What is commitment day? It is one of the most important days in Watts all year. Commitment day is the day that the boys from Verbum Dei High School stand in front of their community and tell everyone where they will be attending college in the fall.
This might not seem like a big deal to many, but for these boys of South Central Los Angeles, this is a game changer. A moment that will alter their life course forever. These young men live in one of the most dangerous, poor and crime ridden neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Yet, 100% will be leaving because they are going to college, against all odds.
What makes their journey more unique than any other high school student? The obstacles that these young men must overcome are simply staggering. First, they must apply (if their parents allow them to or understand) to this amazing boy’s school and be accepted. Often times they are behind academically and students must catch up quickly. While other boys in these neighborhoods are joining gangs, the boys of Verbum Dei are putting on dress shirts and ties.
In addition to overcoming poverty, family issues, grades and gang pressures these young men are trained to work in corporate America. One day a week they board a van to their job where they work to help subsidize their education and more importantly see who they can become. After four years of studying, working, doing sports and becoming “Men for Others” these young men are proud to tell their family and friends that they are heading to a place most have never been, college.
Today is Commitment Day at Verbum Dei. These men will announce to their families, peers and school that they are on their way to schools such as Georgetown, USC and a host of others, all sharing bright future ahead.
The teachers, staff, parents and corporate sponsors have made commitments to these young men and now these young men are committing to the world that they are leaving the life they know and heading to incredible futures full of promise. This is Commitment day.