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Love and resilience

 

Last weekend I attended the most amazing event, it was a series for women authors, who were brought together to share their journeys as novelist and tell us how they came to write the stories they wrote. It was like book club on steroids! The group that brought these incredible authors together was a local nonprofit called the Pasadena Literary Alliance, which was established a decade ago to recognize the accomplishments of authors, to advance the community about literary arts and to raise funds to support local literary programs.

What made the day so incredible were these amazing women authors, who didn’t know one another, or compare their notes and yet every one of them spoke about failure, resilience and love. Each of their messages was so powerful and inspiring that I had to share, besides these are also great tips for summer reading!

The author of the New York Times bestselling book, Miss Burma, Charmaine Craig spoke about her families rich history in Burma. Charmaine’s mother was the most famous woman in Burma, an actress, a beauty queen and a resistance fighter and yet growing up in the United States her mother was quiet, unassuming and spoke little about her past. Charmaine shared her own personal journey in telling the story about her family, her recent house fire and losing everything and her families love for one another, their country and their incredible resilience in the face of adversity.

Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko, shared her personal story of being from immigrant parents, going to Yale and living the American Dream only to realize that it wasn’t. She became a successful attorney was diagnosed with a rare disease and became acutely aware of her time left on this earth and how she wanted to spend it. She told us that when she moved to Japan with her husband for business she volunteered to feed the homeless and quickly realized that the only volunteers were Americans. The experience changed her, her perceptions and she said that we each have an incredible superpower which is simply, “to love and persist” and that is the way we heal the world and one another.

The last author’s story I’m going to share was Hannah Tinti, author of The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley,who told us about her early failures, heartbreaks,family illnesses, financial struggles and lives challenges that seemed never ending. She decided to run away to write and was literally hit by a car on her way to run away. It was that moment that made her realize she was alive and she said to herself, “If you only had so much time left what story would you tell?” She told us that each of us has the ability to, “create a reflection of our pain to heal ourselves and the world.”

As I listened to these incredible women, each uniquely different and yet exactly the same.  I realized that their journeys are exactly like those of the nonprofit founders I share each week, just in a different outlet. The authors use their pain to help heal themselves by telling stories and the nonprofit founders use theirs to create organizations to heal others. We all have challenges but how are we using ours to heal ourselves and the world around us?

charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Earth Day

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” David Attenborough

I think I have shared with you before that my Dad was in the recycling business, long before it was hip. He started recycling in the mid 1960s and spent his entire career recycling. This week my husband started a new job and will also be in the recycling business, in a different way, but his new business is truly based on protecting our earth. Since this Sunday is Earth Day, I have been thinking a lot more about our environment lately.

We were raised to recycle, not pollute and to respect our planet. That being said, we grew up at time in LA with smog alerts and our lungs hurting after swimming outside on summer afternoons from the pollution. While smog has improved in LA in the past few decades, pollution and litter seems to be at an all time high. Scientist are saying that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. How devastating is that?  It is statistics like these that really make you think more about our planet and what we can do to protect it and why this year’s theme is End Plastic Pollution.

What began in 1970 by one man, John McConnell, has gone global in the best possible way.  On the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans came out to peacefully to demonstrate about environmental reform. This year over 192 countries and close to a billion people will celebrate Earth Day, making it the largest secular holiday in the world. We have come along way in these past few decades but still have much work to do.

My pledge to Earth Day is that I am going to start using my reusable metal water bottle and cut back on bottled water. A small step but if we all just make one tiny adjustment then our united impact can be significant. We all love this beautiful planet we call home.  Now, its time to take care of Mother earth. Happy Earth Day!

charity matters.

 

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National Volunteer Week

“A volunteer is a person who can see what others cannot see; who can feel what most do not feel. Often, such gifted persons do not think of themselves as volunteers, but as citizens – citizens in the fullest sense; partners in civilization.”
President George H.W. Bush
Founder, Points of Light

Its back and it here! No, not taxes, something much better…National Volunteer Week! Who knew that this week is National Volunteer week? In case you missed the memo from the White House, or your local news didn’t deem it important enough to cover, consider yourself informed…or at least you will be, by the end of this.

National Volunteer Week, a program of Points of Light  was established in 1974 and has grown each year, with thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled for the week. The week is all about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It’s about showing that by working together, we can do anything. National Volunteer Week is about taking action and encouraging people to be at the center of social change – discovering and  demonstrating their power to make a difference.

If you don’t know where to start, take a peak at one of my favorite sites, Volunteer Match.org. You just type in your zip code, what you love to do and it will match with an organization that can use your help, in your community. You can also go to Project giving Kids if you are looking for opportunities for you and your children to volunteer together. In addition, this Sunday, is Earth Day so maybe you can do an environmental volunteer project next weekend, the opportunities are endless.

Think of National Volunteer Week as an opportunity to shine a light on the people and causes that inspire us to serve. Each year twenty-five percent of Americans volunteer, which is 62.8 million people! They average about 32 hours per per person, per year according to the Corporation for National Community Service, which comes to 7.9 billion hours of service or $184 billion dollars. 

I hope this week finds you inspired to be an active part in a cause you care about, in your community, helping a neighbor or meeting new friends volunteering. It is people like you, the power of volunteers who build stronger communities and a better world for us all.

Happy Volunteering!

 

charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Random Acts of Flowers

“where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

Lady Bird Johnson

As we enter the month of April, we think of flowers and springtime, both bring smiles to our faces and lift our spirits, which is why this seemed like the perfect way to kick us into spring. The story of Random Acts of Flowers and founder Larsen Jay is as uplifting as a spring bouquet.

You never know what is going to inspire someone to make a difference. In Larsen’s case, it was an almost fatal fall from a ladder in July of 2007. While he was in the hospital for his long recovery, he received so many beautiful flower arrangements that truly lifted his spirits. Once Larsen was well enough to leave his room he saw so many other patients who didn’t have any flowers, so decided to repurpose his and give them to others, which was just the beginning of a beautiful idea. The memories of that gesture inspired him to start  Random Acts of Flowers in 2008.

One year later, Larsen delivered his first bouquet from Random Acts of Flowers to the patient in his old hospital room, bringing the moment full circle and a renewed commitment to brighten the lives of others with this beautiful gesture and simple kindness. By 2011, the organization had delivered over 10,000 bouquets and by 2013 had begun to expand in other cities.

Photo by Jean Marc Giboux

Today, a decade later Random Acts of Flowers is located in four major metropolitan cities; Knoxville, Chicago, Tampa and Indianapolis and shows no sign of slowing down. They are delivering smiles to over 9,000 people in hospitals, senior living centers and organizations in need  every month. As of today, they have delivered over 310,801 bouquets and smiles. As Lady Bird Johnson said, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

The Butterfly Child

Every so often a rare magical beam of light enters our world, makes it brighter, shines an internal light so brightly on something important and then leaves this  world a little darker when it goes. This past week that is exactly what happened when the world lost 17 year old Jonathan Pitre, on April 6th.

Jonathan Pitre was known as “Butterfly Child” because of the rare disease he had called Epidermolysis bullosa, which makes the skin as fragile as a butterfly’s wings. The disease also known as EB, is often referred to as one of the worst diseases known to modern medicine . The reason is that the slightest scratch or blister results in wounds similar to third degree burns and children living with EB are in constant pain because the skin never heals properly.


PHOTOGRAPH BY George Harrold / Barcroft Media

However, that pain became a source of strength for Jonathan whose mission was to raise awareness and  funds for the disease. Jonathan became an ambassador for Debra, the nonprofit organization dedicated to helping support families with EB.

The world first met Jonathan a few years ago, when James Duthie, did a documentary film called The Butterfly Child which told the story of this amazing young man and the life he and his mother experienced living with this disease.

James Duthie, said about Jonathan, “What really made him proud was to be able to draw attention to the disease, to raise money for it, to educate people on a disease that nobody really knew anything about except the families that were living with it. I’m thrilled he got to do that in his last few months because it really gave him purpose. I think that brought him a lot of peace in his last months.”

Jonathan’s positive nature, determination and sense of purpose made him an inspiration to all. The world will be better because he was here and not quite as bright without him. His mother said in a statement on Facebook, “Jonny’s story has been made very public over the last years as he invited you into his life and daily struggles with EB, as he tirelessly fought to raise awareness for this horrific disease. I am proud to say you did Jonny boy!”

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Warrior of The Light

First, I wanted to say welcome back to all our email subscribers, we have missed you! Thank you for being patient, as they say good things are worth waiting for. While I wish I had an incredible interview lined up for you today, I am still taking some much needed vacation time to decompress from my day job of running a nonprofit but promise to be ready to roll next week!

Spending a few days in the desert to relax, unplug and rejuvenate. I don’t think I realized how tired I was until I stopped for a moment to take a pause. As I mentioned on Tuesday, I started reading an incredible book  by one of my favorite author’s, Paul Coehlo. The book is called Warrior of The Light: A Manual. I’m not sure if you would call it a how to guide to life but I can’t put it down.

In the book he discusses our call to be Warriors of the Light for ourselves and to others. To follow our path, our dreams, to listen to our souls and to be relentless in living our purpose. One of the thousands of messages that resonated and needed to be shared was this, ““The Warrior, however, transforms his thinking into action. Sometimes he chooses the wrong goal and pays the price for his mistake without complaint. At others, he swerves from the path and wastes a great deal of time only to end up back where he started. But the Warrior never allows himself to be discouraged.”

As I have been slow this week and in a self reflection mode, I thought this message was important for all of us to hear. Sometimes, we work so hard at something and it doesn’t go the way we expected but it is in persevering that we prevail. Something that I think we occasionally need to hear, keep dreaming, keep doing and keep moving forward on our paths.

So as I recharge, rest and contemplate next steps, I wish you a fantastic weekend and looking forward to moving forward with each of you next week!

charity matters.

 

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

A time to rest

All that is important comes in quietness and waiting.”

Patrick Lindsay

There is a time for work and a time for rest. I really do believe that sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to rest, be still, slow and listen. Honestly, all things that are challenging for me personally. Full speed ahead is the usual pace, however, all the signs have pointed to me that rest is needed. We just came off a huge work push and are getting ready for another that will last through July, so I am squeezing in a few days of much-needed R & R.

So forgive the brevity of this post but I have big plans for the next couple of days, sun, naps, family time and lots of reading. You will find me on the chaise lounge above reading a new book, Paul Coelho’s, Warrior of the Light, which is a few years old, but is already super inspiring. Looking forward to sharing it with you all. My hope is that all the rest will rejuvenate this tired girl and bring forth a mountain of inspiration and writing. Hopefully by then all my email subscribers will be receiving their post again.

I am hoping that my theory of unplugging things to make them work, will apply not only to this blog but more importantly to me.  Wherever this post finds you,I wish you a little rest, a little quiet and beginning to see the beauty of renewal and spring.

charity Matters.

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Happy Easter!

“Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and a new life.”

Janine di Giovanni

It is hard to believe that Spring break has arrived and Easter is this weekend. For our family Easter means that the boys will be home from college, egg hunts with my nieces and nephews and family time….and of course chocolate!

 

I hope this weekend finds you with the ones you love, with time to relax and to think about what spring renewal means to you. I’m ready for March to end, it has been an incredible month but a reset is in order.  Here is to a joyous Easter filled with hope, renewal and new life.

charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

Inspiring service…

“I think leadership is service and there is power in that giving; to help people,to inspire and motivate them to reach their fullest potential.”

Denise Morrison

I must confess these past few weeks have been crazy busy at work and in life, overwhelming really. In addition to all of that Charity Matters email subscribers have not been receiving their emails, which has really been frustrating for everyone….so thank you for your patience! I’m not sure if its Mercury retrograde or what the source is but we are working on it and it pretty much sums up my March Madness.

At work, we are just wrapped up training and teaching thousands of young students leadership and Saturday we worked with our high school leaders. One of the key messages we tell our students is that you can not lead unless you serve. Honestly, one of my favorite things about my job…inspiring others to give.

When I saw this quote above, it spoke to me about service and what it means to me. I was recently interviewed for a recognition of service and just saw the video. While I am not a big fan of watching myself, and really who is? However, I thought I would share because a few of you have asked and it gives a bit of context to the message of how important it is to serve.

Service is what we are all here to do, to serve one another. When I am overwhelmed, thinking about all of lives  many tasks, the only way out of that feeling  is when I think about others, rather than myself. It is so easy to get wrapped up in all we have to do  but the moment we think about caring for or helping another, a shift occurs.

As we get ready to wrap up this wild month and dive into Spring, I am committing to a renewal of service, purpose and focusing on what matters.

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Prescription: Downtime

“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves;otherwise we harden.”

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe


 

I have to say that March has been an incredibly crazy month. Life has been so full, so fast, so fun and so much…it’s been a bit like Christmas you can’t really even process what has happened because it is all overwhelming. It started with a huge event and continued with an unexpected ski trip and has truly been an incredible two weeks filled with family, friends, celebrations and fun.

Last weekend we were supposed to be out-of-town but my husband’s cold had us reschedule our plans. The result was an unexpected quiet weekend with everyone thinking we were gone. A gift from the universe for sure. It rained in LA, so it was fires and movies. Saturday was sleeping in and taking a long nap in the middle of the day, who does that? Sunday, came with kids in the house, walks with friends and a family dinner. Basically, all of lives pleasures.

What I always find so fascinating, is that I don’t see any of these gifts until I stop. Stand still. Pause. Listen. Reflect. Of course all of these gifts are all around me, but do I see them when I am zipping through my to do list? Do I notice the joy of being not scheduled? Do I see, really see the smile on my son’s face? Do I notice the beauty all around me on my walk? Do I appreciate life’s blessings? Do I stop to feel gratitude?

The answer is no. It is only when I stop, give myself downtime that I can hear myself, my inner voice speaking. Then in those magical moments I can feel the joy that comes from feeling grateful. I can see clearly what is important and where to redirect my time and attention. It is the quiet of downtime and the gift of rest that resets, refocuses and shifts our attention to what matters and where we are heading next.

The next two weeks are going to be crazy at work.  I am grateful for this respite, refueled and ready to roll up my sleeves and make things happen for those I am privileged to serve. Life is short but we all need to take a moment to simply pause and appreciate all our gifts, especially the gift of downtime. Hoping this weekend brings you yours!

charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Today is the International Day of Happiness

“happiness is not something ready made. it comes from your own actions.”

Dalai Lama

Are you happy? Well if not, you might want to rethink that thought because today is the International Day of Happiness. A holiday we all should be celebrating. If this is the first time you have heard of the holiday, you probably are not alone and not to worry I don’t think Hallmark has created cards for it just yet. It seems that in 2012 the United Nations had an assembly on happiness and made happiness a resolution, recognizing happiness as a fundamental goal of the UN. In 2012, the United Nations deemed that March 20th would be the International Day of Happiness and the first year it was celebrated was 2013.

This international day is coordinated by the nonprofit, Action for Happiness, which is a nonprofit movement of people from over a 160 countries and growing. Their goal is to commit to building a happier and more caring society, where people care less about what they can get for themselves and more about the happiness of others. The Dalai Lama is one of the organizations main supporters.

Just in case you need a little help to get in the mood, maybe Pharrell Williams can help you out.

So today, smile, eat healthy, exercise, be grateful, give back, think positively, spend time with friends and family, spend time alone, be mindful, dream, listen to music, say thank you and mean it, compete, be charitable and most of all do what makes you happy.

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Dollies Making a Difference

Do you remember that childhood toy that you treasured and cherished? A stuffed animal or doll that you carried everywhere, that made you feel safe and loved? I think most of us can conjure up an image of that one special toy we loved as a child and more importantly how it made us feel. So, a few weeks ago when a mutual friend told me about the work that Dollies Making A Difference was doing, I knew I needed to find out more about the inspiration behind this amazing and very special organization.

Earlier this week I had a fantastic call with Co-Founder, Cindy Simon, who told me the heart warming story of this amazing organization that simply believes that to give is to receive.

Charity Matters: When and how did you start Dollies Making a Difference?

Cindy Simon: In 2010, I was back east and had just read an article about a group of women who had gotten together to sew some dolls for the children suffering from the earthquake in Haiti. These east coast women were inspired by Dianne Sawyer’s coverage of the earthquake and knew the moment  they saw Dianne Sawyer pull a doll from a pile of rubble and say, “Look some little girl has lost her dollie.” that they needed to act.

The article about these women inspired me to act. I called them up, went over to see what they were doing, learned their process and said I wanted to help. When I got back home to Los Angeles, I called some friends to ask them to help me make 500 dolls for the children of Haiti. My dear friend, and non-profit co-founder, Dorothy Miyake, was the first to help. She had a large group of friends that were crafty and we decided to meet every Wednesday in my dinning room to make these dolls.

Charity Matters: What was your goal when you started Dollies Making a Difference?

Cindy Simon: The mission was simply to help the boys and girls in Haiti by providing homemade dolls and teddy bears but we quickly learned that what we were doing was not about a doll and was so much more. Our mission is that to give is to receive and we quickly learned that with the Three Cs:

Community, the group of women who sit around my dinning room table every Wednesday for over a decade sharing, caring for one another. We have gone thru  health issues, death, birth and life together. We are a community.

Connection, we don’t send our dolls and teddy bears through huge organizations. We find Ambassadors that can be people we know or small nonprofit or church organizations. We request that each of our handmade toys is delivered by hand from an Ambassador to a child and that the human connection is what makes the experience special for both the child and the person delivering the dolls.

Comfort, is what the child receives from having and holding their own doll or teddy bear.

Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?

Cindy Simon: We know we have made a difference when we make a child smile, when the person who delivers the doll is moved and this had made a difference for all of us making these dolls.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work 10 years later?

Cindy Simon: This work has given me a passion, a purpose, I feel worthy and relevant. It is fun to be connected to wide variety of people and organizations around the world. More than that it renews my faith that there are a lot of good people in our world who are helping people they will never know.

Charity Matters: Tell us about your success and impact?

Cindy Simon: What started out as a small project has turned into over 13,000 hand-made dolls and teddy bears being hand delivered to over 300 organizations around the globe. In addition, we have given over $107,000 away to other nonprofits in grants with the funds we raise. 

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience?

Cindy Simon: Everyday I am reminded of how many good people and organizations are out there in the world. I think I underestimated the power of community and what goes on with the connection and community we have in making the dolls, it is the sharing that just happens.

This journey has made me more compassionate to all the needs out there. I have learned that we can all be of help to others and especially to those who we will never meet.

charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

A little help goes along way

Yesterday, I was at a work event with someone who also raises money for a living. This counterpart said to me, “What is your strategy?”  I looked at him a little bewildered by the question. Strategy and making a difference in the life of students doesn’t always align in my mind.  My bewilderment wasn’t because  I didn’t have a fund-raising plan, but rather because my fundraising plan is more philosophy, than plan. I looked at my counterpart and said, “My “strategy” is simply to help everyone. My competitors, anyone who ask, simply everyone…because the more people who I genuinely help the more people help me.”  The gentleman looked at me as if I were insane. I shrugged and said, “We all have our own philosophies but this is mine and I think we are all here to work together to help one another, it’s pretty simple.”

Don’t get me wrong, I completely admire people with strategic minds, but I do not really have one. I run more on heart, instinct, intuition and what feels right in my gut. So far, helping people has never let me down, in fact is just the opposite. Last night at dinner, I was sharing the story of my day with my family, the evening news came on, as I shared about my day, this was the story that aired…

The story of 18 year old Evoni Williams from La Marque, Texas who was working as a waitress when an older gentleman asked her for help. It seemed that his hands were not working so well and he needed help to cut his meat. Without missing a beat, Evoni just helped. What makes this story unique is not that she helped but rather that someone snapped a picture of her helping that went viral.

The result of Evoni’s helping hand was not only a news piece, thousands of Facebook shares but even more was a college scholarship, simply for helping someone. Helping isn’t strategic and Evoni’s innate kindness is a perfect example. Helping is simply what we are here to do, to help one another. We all need it and we all are capable of giving it. It is just that simple.

charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Teaching service and leadership

As many of you know I run a youth leadership nonprofit organization as my daytime job. Teaching over 3,000 students each year how to be leaders. This time of year at work we are doing leadership days, so think about a school field trip where a few hundred middle school students are going to a local high school to be taught leadership by high school students.

All year the college alumni of our program teach the high school students leadership skills and then like a waterfall, the high school students turn and teach the middle school students, which is how we run an organization that serves 3,000 students with only two employees. More than any of that, what constantly inspires me is seeing the power of peers. It doesn’t matter if you are 50 and looking up to those a few years older or 12 and looking up to a 15 year old, that peer relationship is so powerful and never really goes away.

We spend so much time in our schools talking about bullying and negative things that are happening with our youth and so little talking about the good, which is why I needed to  share this. I have been working with hundreds of these inspiring teenagers as they teach these middle school students. I watch as they take, shy, sometimes awkward, sometimes overly confident middle schoolers and they validate them, accept them, include them and as a result empower them. These small gestures of kindness are transformative.

I watch these young adults transform others lives through their service and transform their own by recognizing their own power and the power of kindness. I continue to be in awe of watching these students transform themselves, their schools and communities through their service and leadership.

This isn’t a post about school violence, politics or bullying but rather a place to point out that these teenagers can fix almost anything. If our youth continue to come together to reach out to an alienated or lonely child, include someone who feels isolated, help another who is feeling left out…. those simple gestures can have the most powerful results. We don’t need marches on Washington, we simply need kindness, compassion, inclusion and acceptance that is how we are going to take back our schools, society and safety.

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.