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The Giving Tree

Over the years I’ve written a number of posts about helping the helpers, caring for the caregivers and self care. The magical thing about all of these nonprofit founders is that their passion and purpose rules their lives. No matter how many people they help, there is always more who need them. These selfless heroes start an organization out of their core belief that their work and effort will  ensure that the next human will not go through whatever tragic event they went through, cancer, rape, sex trafficking….and the list goes on. And they are right, their work does change the world but the other side of my amazing heroes is their selflessness often comes to the point of burnout. They give and give and give until there is nothing left.

My nonprofit founders remind me of one of my favorite childhood books, The Giving Tree. The tree gives shade to the child, it gives limbs to climb, it gives its fruit to sell, it gives itself for wood to build a home and ultimately it has nothing left to give. This is often the reality of the nonprofit founder, they give until they are empty. The needs of humanity are endless and can truly never be met and yet, they keep on giving and giving.

I understand this because I suffer from the same disease. I am not Mother Teresa nor as saintly as those I love to interview but I confess that I am hardwired for burnout. Like an energizer bunny I go full throttle into projects, meetings, running a nonprofit, writing these post and trying to connect people to causes. I love my work, am passionate about making a difference with my life and am full of gratitude. The downside to these gifts is the burnout. The tank that is suddenly on empty and is so low on gas you are pretty sure that even if you can find a gas station, you will run out of gas long before that tank can possibly be refueled again.

So how do we help the helpers? How do we care for the caregivers or even more importantly care for ourselves more, regardless of our careers? I  think the challenge is that the answer is exactly that, to care for ourselves, to slow down, to walk to win the race and not run. Even typing those words feels like its opposite day. How can we get everything done if we move slowly, thoughtfully and walk through life?

photo via: onstar.com

The reality of this is finally sinking in for me and I am not alone. According to a recent article in Thrive Global, author Stephanie Fairyington states that, “two-thirds of Americans are suffering from burnout.”  The pace of life can often times feel unsustainable. The race ahead appears too big and too long to run. As I look ahead to the future and all that I hope to accomplish, I see that the only hope to keep giving is to start here first. To slowly fill up the tank and not feel guilty while doing so. To set realistic goals and expectations about what can actually be accomplished in a day, a week, a month. The mindset and commitment to that alone is the first step.

Next, the action plan towards self care. First sleep and turning off the devices, with clear time limits set. Second, fuel type, some people put 87 octane in their cars and some like to put 91 and I usually fall in the middle at 89, my diet is exactly the same. I put some great fuel in my body and some not so great fuel, this needs to change. I need to upgrade on the fuel choices more regularly. After those basic maintenance steps, it is carving out time for myself. Giving myself the gifts that fuel me whether a run, coffee with a friend, writing, and the list goes on.

While it feels backwards being selfish will only fuel my ability to be selfless. The more I can care for myself, the more energy I will have to care for others and the causes I am passionate about. So as we are entering a time of spring and renewal, I am committing to myself (you are my witnesses) that this Giving Tree will keep her limbs, branches and fruit so that she can continue to give year after year.

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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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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.

Life imitating art….

“When you are able to shift your inner awareness to how you can serve others, and when you make this the central focus of your life, you will then be in a position to know true miracles in your progress toward prosperity.”
Wayne Dwyer

In an interesting turn of events where life imitates art…I am continually surprised by the never-ending twists and turns that land in my path.  Last week took a few unexpected turns and while I had planned on sharing with you my Grades of Green interview, a number of events turned things around a bit.

As some of you know, after almost six years of interviewing and showcasing nonprofit founders for this site only, I have begun to peak my head out of my shell. A scary thing for sure to leave the safety of your people, however, after a variety of events and conversations, I thought I would see if anyone else might be interested in my work? Honestly, while I have thought about it before, I am usually so busy running a nonprofit and serving the ones I am passionate about, that the whole digital self promoting world has simply not been my thing.

Don’t get me wrong, just like everyone else, the more people who see these posts, the more people I hope to inspire with the message of service and how it truly can change your life. All that being said, you may recall that I wrote a piece after the Las Vegas shooting called Something Is Happening Here and because so many of you shared it, it gave me the courage to do the same, which I did on Ariana Huffington’s new site Thrive Global.

A week passed and I heard nothing so thought, well, maybe I should try again? So, I submitted the piece about being lost and looking for the signs, retitled as Finding the Path While Reading the Signs. Since I have already confessed to being lost, I figured it couldn’t hurt to share the post in hopes of helping someone else? Then, a crazy thing happened. I received an email saying that the Vegas piece was published by Thrive Global, I was stunned and thrilled.

 

Even crazier was the fact that the next day, my piece about being lost was also picked up and also published. A sign, I’m not sure? As soon as you tell the world you are lost, it seems that the universe begins showing you the way. I have to admit, it is still scary to putting myself out there in a bigger way. However, as the quote says, “ When you are able to shift your inner awareness to how you can serve others, and when you make this the central focus of your life, you will then be in a position to know true miracles in your progress toward prosperity.” 

I think somethings happening here….

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.