Giving Back

It occurred to me a few weeks back that I’ve never actually volunteered. For anything.

I could probably rattle off one hundred reasons why, but that’s not important. What’s important is I decided to reflect on my good fortune in life and dedicate just a couple hours of my time to a cause that helps others who are in need. Lucky for me, the company I work for organizes volunteer opportunities at the Maryland Food Bank – and that seemed like the perfect way to get involved.

The Maryland Food Bank is a distribution center that provides food to nearly 1,000 organizations that help feed families in need. It’s amazing what they are able to accomplish through donations and the right partnerships. Each year, they provide about 29 million meals – or 79,000 every day – and their mission is to continue until hunger ends. Pretty impressive, right?

I didn’t feel like a better person walking out of the Food Bank after 2 hours of packing boxes. That’s not how it works. Mine was a tiny contribution to an immense problem. But I know I could easily do more for the community I’ve chosen to live in and, eventually, raise my family in.

There are so many volunteer organizations to choose from. Do I want to help kids? Animals? Victims of domestic abuse? Fight for a cure? What about people who’ve lost everything and are now homeless? Or maybe veterans? Do I want to stay local in my county? Or maybe I want to help in the inner city? After thinking about it for a while, I know my passion will be helping children – it’s so important to empower kids with a sense of self-worth and teach them that education is the key to living the best possible life.

It’s literally the least I could do, to devote my time and maybe a little money to an organization that helps children in need. I’ve been researching different opportunities and think I’ve found a few that I believe in and would be proud to be a part of. What started as a simple project to give back has turned into a desire to really, truly help others and build the community around me. I hope to continue to document this journey to inspire others to get involved (and honestly, to keep myself accountable for the goals I have).

Have you volunteered for a specific cause? What was your experience like?

November 2014 Edition // Being Grateful

nov-edition-being-gratefulIf you are paying any attention to TV ads or have been into any store lately, you’d think it was Christmas already. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is my favorite holiday season and I will celebrate it to the fullest – starting the day after Thanksgiving.

Even though I’m not celebrating a successful harvest, Thanksgiving is a wonderful tradition – it refocuses me on being present in the moment and being grateful for the life I have. It’s easy to be stressed – life is full of little mishaps and big shake-ups that can add negativity… if you let it. Sure you got a flat tire on the way home, but you can be grateful for the fact you don’t have to take the bus every day. Or maybe a close friend passed away, but you can reflect on the time you had together and be grateful for the relationship. Perspective is everything, and it’s something I have to remind myself of every day.

Part of my journey is writing a few days a week here (if I can swing it). It’s not a journal and I am making a conscience effort to keep it positive – not because I want people who stumble upon this space to think I don’t have fights with my friends or get sad… negativity inspires personal growth and I embrace opportunities to make myself a better person. But being grateful every day for the blessings you have can reset your mind to react to situations differently and generally make you a happier person. Who doesn’t want that?

This month I want to explore living gratefully, whether it’s through meditation, volunteering, connecting with friends and family, or celebrating a holiday with good food and great company.

I want to sign off with a TedTalk that has inspired me, and I hope it does the same for you.