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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.

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.

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.

Sit With Us

In light of last weeks events in Florida and the continued devastation of these schools shootings, my heart is heavy. These tragic events make me think there must be a way that we can come together to work towards a solution. Charity Matters is not a place for politics or debate but rather a community where people have gone through tragedy and turned their pain into  positive solutions, so the next person doesn’t have to suffer, as they did.

People that are hurting always hurt. A wounded animal will snap at you because they do not know what to do with their pain, other than to inflict onto the next. At the core of these shootings is a child isolated, rejected and in pain. So what can we do as a society to include these children before their pain grows and they become ticking time bombs?

One of the things that is different is that when we were growing up bullies didn’t follow you home, they didn’t taunt you on social media and the pain of not being accepted usually lasted as long as a school day. One brave young girl might just have the peer-to-peer solution to this bigger problem that stems from bullying and the isolation that goes with it. Her name is Natalie Hampton and she is the creator of the App Sit With Us.

Natalie was bullied just like an estimated 20% of American teenagers. She decided to change all of that by using technology not to be a victim but to empower and unite isolated teenagers. Her app allows students to find others who do not have a group to sit with at lunch and bring them together so that they are not alone.

The nonprofit that I run works with thirty-one high schools and we tried to partner with Natalie earlier this year on a project to create Sit With Us clubs, which is how I learned about her amazing work. While the project may have to wait until next year with all Natalie has going on. These days Natalie isn’t worried about being alone, but rather just the opposite. She has taken her pain to use it as fuel to bring others together. As Natalie said, “I am using my story to unite others.” 

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.

Dear Rosalynn

Last Friday, was the most amazing and unexpected day. It wasn’t because it was 85 degrees in February that made it so glorious, but rather the invitation to celebrate Rosalynn Carter’s 90th birthday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena that made it unforgettable. This wasn’t just any invitation, it was a love letter from one friend to celebrate another’s birthday in the most spectacular way.

These friends were not just any friends, but a remarkable man, author and school principal named Dan Horn and his dear friend, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Dan wanted to celebrate this special friendship in an exceptional way. A morning filled with performances from his amazing students at St. Genevieve’s School at the Rose Bowl and his special birthday gift, a documentary film made by his students for over four years of Rosalynn Carter’s truly extraordinary life. It was a love letter to a woman who has quietly changed our world.

The story all began with a letter written over 30 years ago from a young man named Dan Horn, who had read Rosalynn Carter’s biography and reached out to her via a letter saying that he would like to meet her. To his surprise Rosalynn replied, the two had lunch and as Dan said, “Lunch was life changing and I just had a hunch that we were going to be friends.”

Flash forward a few decades and here we all were in the Rose Bowl watching the world premiere of this documentary about this beautiful friendship between a former First Lady, one very special school and a principal. In the hour hundreds of us sat and watched the story together, we were inspired, elevated and simply blown away by what the Carters have accomplished in their lives.

Photo courtesy: The Carter Center

This soft-spoken mother of four has truly had a remarkable life. Helping her widowed mother raise her younger siblings at age 13 and putting them all through college. Supporting her husband in her roles as First Lady of Georgia and of the United States. It was learning about the depth of her humanitarian efforts that were truly inspirational. Her tireless work for Equal Rights, the creation of the nonprofit The Carter Center, whose mission is to promote human rights the alleviation of human suffering.  Rosalynn’s passionate work in eliminating the stigma of mental health, the couples work with Habitat for Humanity that put the organization on the world’s stage and the creation of the Rosalynn Carter’s Institute for Caregivers, to name a few.

One post is not enough to cover the tireless, bold and beautiful work this First Lady and author of five books has accomplished. In her words, “we just planted a few seeds.” but as the film and students of St. Genevieve said, so beautifully, “Thanks to the Carters we know we are all capable of changing the world.” Based on what we all saw last Friday, I do believe they will.

 

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.

Well Hello February!

“In the coldest February, as in every other month in every other year, the best thing to hold on to in this world is each other.”

Linda Ellerbee

Well hello February! I must admit with 80 degree days in LA, I dream of seasons and winter ….some days. January for me was all about goals, dreams, planning ahead and thinking about what the year will bring. February is about rolling up our sleeves and putting the plan in motion, even if it is just the tiniest of steps.

More than that, February is a month about love. This month my hope is to introduce you to a few new nonprofit founders that are all about heart. In full disclosure, my day job as a nonprofit Executive Director, is in full swing, and juggle as I may, I have to admit that making everything happen has been a bit daunting lately.  I honestly believe that I can not talk about giving and philanthropy every week unless I walk the walk, which I do with a huge smile on my face.

However, running a nonprofit, serving on multiple nonprofit boards and sharing the stories of my nonprofit heroes can often times be a serious balancing act. So I am going to thank you in advance for being patient with me this month as I try to make it all happen. This Friday, I will have a chance to meet former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn at an event here in LA.  So stay tuned for more about this amazing humanitarian next week.

I hope this weekend brings your team a Super Bowl victory and that this month gets you thinking about how you can achieve your dreams. Dreaming big is one of my mantras and if you are not yet doing it, maybe February is the month to try? Lastly, if I don’t say it enough, know that I love you all for reading, sharing this work and believing in goodness. After all, we are all here to serve and love one another and not just in February.

 

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.

Touched by an Angel

 

“We are each of us angels with one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”

Luciano De Crescenso

I’m not sure if any of you remember the infamous tv show Touched by an Angel? The shows premise is about an angel named Monica who is tasked with bringing guidance to people who are at a crossroads in their lives. The show ran for years and honestly I only saw a few episodes. I started following Roma Downey on Instagram recently and perhaps as a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about angels lately.

As you know, I don’t believe in coincidences but time and time again angels cross my path in the most beautiful and amazing ways. Many of them I have met for Charity Matters, many have become friends but each person has come into my life at just the time they are needed most. Each beautiful person, teaches me, guides me and shows me the way. Over time I have been able to identify them as the angels they are and I truly believe we all have them, but do we recognize them in that way?

Angels have been a sign in my life ever since my mom died, over a decade ago. Recently, I was talking to a friend who had lost her husband unexpectedly. I was telling her that when my mother died, a friend called me and said, “Heidi, please look for the signs.” To be honest, in the trauma of unexpected loss it is hard to look for anything, let alone function, but low and behold the signs kept coming, over and over…and all of them were angels.

Years before my mom’s death, my sister had given our family these angel necklaces that were big, silver and well, we never wore them. Oddly, the first time the three of us were together we all had the big angel necklaces on. I lit a candle the day after my mom’s death and it melted into angel wings, I was given angel statues, and on and on, angels began to appear everywhere.  My mom was amazing but angel wasn’t really a word that came to mind in describing her. If we were playing a word association game, the words would be more like smile, joyful, fun, happy, loving, gracious… but not angel.

A year after her death, when a group of us got together to start a nonprofit at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, we needed a logo. A friend said, “let’s have our children all draw a picture and submit them to the hospital to choose.”  Yes, you guessed it, the logo was this angel and still is. We were trying to get the nonprofit off the ground and this charming gentleman, who lived on Angelo drive, became one of our guardian angels in Spiritual Care.

Since that time, more angels have come across my path than we have time for and each one has been a gift in my life bringing  guidance, direction, support and is always the right person at just the right time. Angels are everywhere we just need to look a little closer to see them…but trust me they are there.  Do you know who the angels are in your life?

We are each angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”

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 Happiness Projects

A few years back there was a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin that spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list. The author had an epiphany that she wasn’t happy and didn’t spend enough time doing things that brought her joy. The result was a year long journey exploring her happiness and a bestselling book on the topic.

I have been following an amazing group on Instagram called by the same name but in no relation to the book. A few times a week I come across beautiful images of happy people doing service projects from feeding the homeless on skid row in Los Angeles, bringing brown bag lunches, visiting senior homes with flowers repurposed from other events (even plucked from Rose Parade floats) and the list goes on. So finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I reached out to find out who was behind The Happiness Projects?

The answer, a joy filled young woman named Ivy Luong, whose passion is to bring happiness to others. An event planner by day and philanthropist in every spare moment in between. I talked to Ivy earlier this week about what inspires someone with a full-time job, a full life and tons of friends to create a group that serves others? I think you will find her answers as inspiring as I did.

Charity Matters: What inspired you to start The Happiness Projects?

Ivy Luong: I have always felt grateful for all that I have. I am a first generation American and have watched my parents work so hard for our family. I know that there are so many people in need. Last January, I reached out to a bunch of my friends to see if they wanted to volunteer. I made it easy, fun and we called it The Happiness Project. I never thought a year later what we would accomplish.

Charity Matters: So what has your impact been in just 365 days?

Ivy Luong: We didn’t set out with a goal, we simply wanted to show people (the homeless, the elderly) that someone cares. We just wanted to help empower as many people as possible. I reached out to a few friends and a few nonprofits that I cared about and before I knew it there were more friends and more causes. Last year we completed 18 projects, had over 115 volunteers and delivered happiness to 1, 666 people.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work and when do you know you have made a difference?

Ivy Luong: All the people I meet. Bringing strangers together to do good. The interaction from the people we serve. Our lunch bag project on Skid Row, for example, when you feed someone who hasn’t eaten in days and they smile at you when you give them food. It not only makes you realize that their hurdles in life are bigger than your own but more than that it compels you to move forward to the next project.

Knowing that if I can help just one person, that’s when I know I have made a difference.

Charity Matters: What life lesson have you learned from The Happiness Projects? And how has this year of service changed you?

Ivy Luong: I have learned big lessons. First, is that you never know what someone is going through . More than that, give back whenever you can. Connecting people, opportunities and causes  has been one of the greatest experiences, not only for me but for everyone involved.  Just knowing you have helped one person let alone hundreds is what The Happiness Projects is all about.

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 weekend full of service

I hope you all had a great holiday weekend. The weather in LA was perfection and it was a great weekend to get out and come together in our communities. For me, Martin Luther King weekend ended up being a bit of a full circle moment. Years ago when my sons were toddlers I was extremely involved with a little children’s museum called Kidspace in Pasadena. At the time it was run out of an old school and was a homegrown space for young moms and children to come together to play and learn.

I met many of my closest mom friends at Kidspace, chaired their Halloween festival, benefit and advocated for the building of a then new museum near the Rose Bowl. I was passionate about supporting something that had given  so much to my sons. This past weekend, almost twenty years later I was asked to come to Kidspace in conjunction with Project Giving Kids to celebrate the weekend of service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

It was so much fun working with young families and planting the seeds of compassion in children. We partnered with three different nonprofits (St. Vincent de Paul with Meals on Wheels, a local animal shelter and Reading Partners) and did simple craft projects such as creating Valentines Day Cards for homebound seniors, cat toys and book marks.

An unexpected treat was getting on the local KTLA news to share all of the wonderful work that we were doing.

While the weekend was full, there truly was nothing greater than seeing children understand the power they had to make someone happy and give of themselves…and to see parents understand the power of compassion and kindness in their children.

As Dr. King said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?” If the work that was done at Kidspace this weekend was any indicator the world is going to be just fine!

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.

Looking back, a year in review

As we begin to wrap up the year and look back at what we accomplished in 2017, I am always amazed by the incredible nonprofit founders we met this year. Their hardships, determination and passion to turn their journey into an organization that gives to others…. simply an endless source of inspiration.

So before we look ahead, lets take a moment to recall some of these extraordinary people we talked to in 2017:

Katie Quintas with Here to Serve showed us that in the face of adversity of having a husband and a son with cancer, she would create an organization to serve families whose children have cancer. Katie combines technology , her ability to connect and compassion to help families with items from food, to groceries to medical expenses.

Francie Paul with Saving Tiny Hearts, took her experience having a newborn with congenital heart disease to create an organization that funds research to save these tiny babies born with congenital heart disease. One of the loveliest humans with the biggest hearts I have ever spoken too.

Rebecca Pontius of the Do Good Bus. Rebecca and her friends decided that doing good together is fun and makes the world better, so she created a nonprofit that brings groups of people together to volunteer and do good. A fun way to serve, connect and make a difference.

Andy Goodman of the The Goodman Center shared how to use the power of storytelling as a tool to impact the world.

Two amazing women, Yasmine Johnson and Jules Leyser of Alliance of Moms created an organization to break the intergenerational cycle of teen mothers in foster care and inspired me with their incredible organization. These two women are beautiful inside and out and ones to watch for sure!

Ford and Heidi Johnson, Jennifer Hull, daughter Josie and Sienna Dancsecs

Jennifer Hull and daughter Josie, founders of Once Upon a Room, transform hospital rooms for the sickest children, think Extreme Home makeovers on hospital rooms. Their story is beyond inspirational and one for all to see.

Hand to Hold‘s Kelli Kelly inspired us all with her story of being the mother of a premature baby and the struggles that ensued. The result is her incredible organization that supports families through this challenging time. A beautiful story of love and compassion.

Hope and Comfort‘s Jeff Feingold’s amazing story of taking his child’s birthday party and turning it into a nonprofit that provides soap, toiletries along with  Hope and Comfort to thousands of children in the Boston area.

Annie Cannons The incredible story of Laura Hackney and Jessica Hubley’s remarkable adventure to end human trafficking in the United States. A nonprofit that not only teaches women how to write computer code but gives them skills, an education, hope and the ability to break the cycle and create change for others. Two of the most inspiring women and the most brilliant organization that is approaching a horrific topic in a fresh and empowering way.

JoAnn Thrailkill of Pablove showed us that even when your loss is overwhelming, there is love and hope. JoAnn shared the tragic story of losing her son, Pablo and creating a lasting legacy of hope for children with cancer. JoAnn’s  words haunt me, “The experience of starting Pablove has allowed me to always see the light. I am now reminded daily of the love that surrounded me during one of the most difficult times in my life.”

It is people like JoAnn and all the other incredible people we met this year that will inspire me moving forward into 2018. The sources of inspiration are endless, the people awe-inspiring and there are so many others we met this year that I hated not including. My dream for the New Year is to share as many of these heroes as possible with the world. It is obvious to me that we simply need more heroes.  They are all right here, every week, sharing their challenges, journey, humanity and hope for us all. Thank you for subscribing via email to a little soul and inspiration this year, for liking our Facebook page, commenting or sharing a post. It takes a village to spread the word of light, hope, goodness and charity.

Wishing each of you blessings in the New Year filled with love, gratitude and kindness to all.

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2017 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 Year Full of Surprises

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday and time with friends and family. As I begin to look back at this past year, I am truly inspired by the incredible people I have met and the amazing journey that Charity Matters continues to be. The surprises constantly take my breath away. Yesterday, I received one that has truly left me in awe.

I have been called many things in my life but being named a Woman Warrior of 2017, by HoopLaHa is truly an unexpected  honor. HoopLaHa highlights Good News Only, and we are kindred spirits of sorts in telling stories of people making our world better. So, to be mentioned in the same breath as Annette Ross, author of  Where Fairy Tales Go and Karen Shayne of the nonprofit,  Women Survivors Alliance is beyond humbling.

As we begin looking back at 2017, I can say that I am proud of the work we are doing at Charity Matters. Grateful to each of you for following, subscribing, sharing and knowing that our world needs heroes and people to show us the way. These non-profit founders are my heroes and it is such a privilege to be considered amongst them as Woman Warrior of 2017.

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2017 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.

Spirituality, Faith or whatever you call it…

Many of you may have seen this piece when it was published earlier this year by Thrive Global, who I wrote it for. However, this week as we celebrate Christmas it seemed the right time to revisit or reshare with all of you. This is probably one of the most personal stories I have done in the past five years but it also highlights the journey that has lead me to this place….and a reminder of why we celebrate Christmas.

I was recently asked about when my faith or spirituality began. I knew the answer but growing up being told to never discuss religion or politics, I was initially unsure how to respond. I have never publicly shared this story but once asked I felt compelled to share, because I am proud of this journey.

I grew up in a big Catholic family, maybe an oxymoron, but a fact nonetheless. That meant mass on Sundays, prayers at dinner and a Catholic education, Kindergarten through high school. All of these rituals became the building blocks for my faith. Like most religions in the world, the blocks that were presented to me were love one another, trust God, people are good, help one another, and believe in something bigger than yourself.

I thought I had a relationship with God, but honestly I didn’t truly know what that was until the fateful call in the middle of the night that truly changed the course of my life, fifteen years ago. My parents and their friends had been in a horrible car accident. My mom was dead, two of my parents friend were also dead and my dad and his best friend were barely hanging on.

That was when my relationship with God truly began. I prayed, begged, and pleaded with God to not make me an orphan and to save my Dad’s life. A man who has incredible faith. God listened and while my Dad had a long road, he survived and eventually thrived.

Unbeknownst to me, my mom had bought raffle tickets before her untimely death, and a few months after she was gone we received a call that we had won a first class cruise anywhere in the world. I was sure it was a sign but wasn’t sure what it meant? My husband and I picked a Mediterranean cruise, that had a list of places I had visited with my parents over the years. My hope was that somehow, on one of these stops, God, my mom or something would come to me and make sense of the insanity of my loss and overwhelming grief.

City after city on our stop, nothing. No signs from above in Paris, Florence, Venice or Rome. Finally one stop from our final destination, I had given up. We arrived in a place called Ephesus, Turkey. Because we had no idea what to expect in Ephesus we went with a guide through the ancient city.

You might have thought going to church every weekend of my life I would have recalled the Bible readings of St. John to the Ephesians or have known that when Jesus was dying on the cross he is believed to have asked John the Baptist to get his mother to Ephesus to keep her safe. Nope, I was clueless. We listened as our guide wove the history of Christianity, Judaism and the Muslim faiths into a beautiful tapestry that if all could hear, there would not be any religious wars. He was mesmerizing.

Then he took us up a hill to Mary’s house. Yes, THE Virgin Mary’s house. Really? How did I not know about this? The Pope had recently made it an officially site of pilgrimage. I stood in front of Mary’s little brick house, smiled for a picture not knowing what was about to happen. I walked into the darkened tiny room with a stone floor and was struck by the most overwhelming feeling. Tears streamed down my face, I could not speak (which lasted over 2 hours) and the emotions where so overwhelming, unexpected and powerful. Love is the only word that would explain how I felt, overwhelmingly loved.

Was it my mom? God? Mary? I didn’t and still do not know. My husband asked me if I wanted holy water, I nodded yes. He asked if I wanted to write on the wishing wall, I nodded yes. He asked me if this is why we won the tickets for the cruise? Tears streamed down my face like a faucet, as I nodded yes. I knew for some unexplainable reason that I was supposed to be there in that moment. A girl from LA with three small sons halfway across the globe and I was meant to be in Ephesus, my mom had brought me here for a reason.

That moment changed my life and I now know there is a power in the universe greater than us all. Whether you call it God, Mary, love, light, spirit…. it doesn’t matter but I know and believe it is real. Since that day almost fifteen years ago, I have used my life to serve others. I believe in the plan that has been set for me. A year after that trip, a group of us started a nonprofit to provide chaplains of all faiths at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Since that time, in all my work with nonprofits, I am privileged to see and feel that same goodness over and over. As they say, “Faith is seeing light with your heart, when all your eyes see are darkness.”

Charity Matters.

 

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Wreaths Across America

“You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFPN (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Apologies for the delayed post this week but Christmas and a cold set me back a bit. As usual things happen for a reason because last night as I watched the evening news I came across this beautiful story, that was more than worth a share.

The story is about a couple, Morrill and Karen Worcester from Maine, who own a Christmas wreath business. In 1992, their Worcester Wreath Company found that they had an 5,000 extra wreaths that year. Morrill remembered a childhood visit to Arlington National Cemetery and had always believed that his good fortune and success was in large part due to the values of this country and the Veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. This visit was the inspiration for his idea of what to do with the extra wreaths.

Merrill wanted to place a wreath on every grave site at Arlington National Cemetery. So he reached out to his Senator to make arrangements to place the wreaths at Arlington in an older section of the cemetery. This went on for a number of years until in 2005, when the image above of the snow-covered wreaths  went viral and suddenly thousands of people wanted to help. In 2007, Wreaths Across America received their nonprofit status.

In December 2014, Wreaths Across America achieved its goal of placing 226, 525 wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. Earlier this week on December 16th, close to one million wreaths were laid at 1,000 locations across the United States and beyond. From Bunker Hill, to Valley Forge and to the September 11th site, thousands of fundraising groups, wreath makes, truckers, corporate sponsors  and volunteers contributed  to make this possible.

The Worcester’s hope is that their gesture will inspire us all to remember our fallen veterans, honor those who serve and teach our children the value of freedom.

Charity Matters.

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Copyright © 2017 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.