How can I be a Philanthropist?

 “You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change.” 

–Tim Cook

One of the biggest components of implementing a philanthropy lifestyle is to recognize that life is not all about you; there is a bigger picture out there, more people and things that are much bigger than you are as an individual. To be a philanthropist means that you willingly give of your time, talents, and resources for the betterment of others. In fact, to be a philanthropist doesn’t come with stringent requirements that you are to adhere to, such as having copious amounts of money at your disposal, fame or even a multi-million-dollar empire. Every single person, who has the desire to make a difference and make the world and their community a better place has the ability and power to be a philanthropist in their own way. 

Being a philanthropist in our everyday lives is easier than you might initially realize. I’d wager that every single person, whether consciously or subconsciously has made the decision to be a philanthropist at one time or another. Think back on all the times you’ve been standing in the checkout line and asked if you would like to round your purchase up to the next whole dollar, or the time that you dropped a couple of bucks or spare pocket change into the Salvation Army’s collection cup, or the time that you selected an ornament off the Angel tree around Christmas. All of these small, seemingly insignificant actions on your part, were all acts of kindness, generosity, to promote the greater good of others—the definition of a philanthropist. 

Whether you recognize it or not, chances are you’ve already made steps towards being a philanthropist, which illustrates that every single person has the ability and the power within themselves to make a difference, with or without monetary donations. It starts with small, seemingly insignificant choices that add up to big changes over time. It is the extra spare change that rounds your purchase up to a whole dollar, that contributes to making a difference. It’s the spare pocket change, that means you forgo your morning cup of coffee to donate to a cause that is striving to make the world a better place. It is the child whose life you are having a positive impact on when you select their ornament off the Angel Tree, bringing the spirit of Christmas into their young life; letting them know there is good in the world. Because all of these small actions we make on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, our impact and the difference we make is unmeasurable. David Rockefeller once said: “Philanthropy is involved with basic innovations that transform society.”. When everyone takes these same small steps and implements them into their daily life, every single person is being a philanthropist, whether they realize it or not. 

Reasons to Be a Philanthropist

There are countless reasons why people feel the desire to implement philanthropy into their own life. It could be, because they have personally benefited from someone else’s generosity, therefore, seeing someone else in need tugs at their heart strings. A good example of this would be, when you hear about someone who has a need that you can fulfill. In my own life, there was a period of time when my husband was away for work and I was dealing with some health issues, at the same time, my yard quickly got out of control. Before I could arrange for a landscape company to come and remedy the situation, I had multiple neighbors who came over and mowed my yard, sprayed weeds and performed other generous acts for me that I was unable to take care on my own. For others, they feel as though they have been richly blessed, they too must use what they have been given to bless and benefit others lives. To be considered richly blessed, doesn’t mean that you are necessarily blessed with money, it could be that you are blessed with patience, that allows for you to sit and visit with dementia patients, blessed with a caring heart that moves you to volunteer at a soup kitchen; there are a multitude of ways in which you can be richly blessed that allows for you to help others without relying on money to do so. Aside from feeling as though you need to pay it forward there are reasons why people choose to implement the idea of philanthropy into their life. These reasons can include improving your community, your belief system, making a difference and many other things. Whatever, your personal reasons for wanting to be a philanthropist I would recommend you pursue it and allow it to be fueled by your passion for wanting to help others.  

Giving Back/Paying It Forward 

Whether or not you have personally fallen on hard times, chances are you know someone who has. You’ve seen how friends, family and even complete strangers rally together to provide assistance, financial relief, meals or anything else that people or families may stand in need of. Often times these instances are brought to our attention via social media, text from a close family member or friend, or other media sources. Regardless of where we learn of a need, it is natural for many to want to pitch in, provide help and give back where possible. Some people have a desire to provide support out of the kindness of their hearts, as a means of paying it forward for help they received in their own life, as a way to give back to others hoping that someday those whom they help will continue the trend to pay it forward; or with the hope that they will be blessed for helping others. 

A perfect example of this would be an eighty-eight-year-old woman who made sure that she smiled and waved to all the school children that would pass her home on their way to and from school for the past twelve years. Over the years, many students would return her wave and continue on their way. When students learned that the woman would be moving out of her home into an assisted living, nearly four-hundred children showed up on her front law, most came with flowers and cards to express their gratitude to her for the kindness that she showed them over the years through her simple, yet caring gesture of waving as they passed her home.

Improving Your Community 

Generally speaking, when you perform an act of generosity and kindness towards another person or group, you are doing so as a means to make a positive change or impact. Sometimes, these actions impact an entire community and not a single person. Prime examples of this includes, feeding the homeless, starting a community garden, volunteering at a local food pantry, or donating clothing and toiletries to a local shelter. All of these actions work to improve your community, by bringing neighbors and citizens together to promote the welfare and greater good of those you live around. You too will notice that your community has an increased sense of community and friendship towards one another. 

Belief System

For a lot of people, their belief system plays a huge factor in a lot of the things that they do in their daily lives. This can be the belief in a Higher Power that expects them to serve their fellow men, it can be the belief in what goes around comes around, or it can be a belief that you can make a difference. Regardless of what your belief system is, or what motivates you, many people claim that it is their belief system that motivated them to perform an act of kindness, generosity or philanthropy. Most are motivated to do these various things because they are commanded to do good, spread joy, lift one another’s burdens, and overall be a good person. 

Making a Difference   

Another big reason why people adopt and look for opportunities to be a philanthropist, is so they can make a difference in their community, the lives of others, and even the world. Simple acts such as, donating spare change to someone begging on the street corners, or participating in service or charitable projects in your community. Though they may seem like small, insignificant actions on your part, when combined with the efforts of others over a period of time, change begins to happen. It is a good reminder not only to yourself but to those in need, that there is still good in the world. You can be a part of that change, representing the good through implementing philanthropist style actions and choices into your daily life. 

A good example of seeing a need, taking initiative and making a difference would be the example of Jennifer Maddox, who was featured on the Today Show and womansday.com. Maddox, a Chicago native who was also a single mom of two young boys, was working as a police officer, who became a security guard at one of Chicago’s sprawling housing projects as a means to bring in more income. While working as a security guard, Maddox realized that many of the children living in the projects would get into trouble simply because they were bored. Most children did not have access to a safe place to play and to be kids. After a while, Maddox was able to provide after-school activities for the children when she wasn’t working. In 2011, she was able to officially establish the nonprofit organization Future Ties, which provides after-school, summer and mentorship for children aged eighteen and under. As a result of her efforts, crime has decreased, and many children who benefited from her efforts have returned to volunteer and help mentor other young children growing up in the projects.  

Finding Satisfaction as a Philanthropist

Now that we know why people decide to engage in philanthropy actions, what is it about philanthropy that entices people to keep doing good? I’d argue that one of the biggest reasons why people have a hard time going back to their pre-philanthropy ways is that it is addicting. When you do a good deed for others, it becomes addicting as you feel good doing it. Perhaps part of the good feeling that comes along with it, is the idea of karma or “what goes around, comes around”. When you do a good deed for others, it is then put out into the universe and good deeds will find their way back to you. 

Real Life Philanthropist Examples

There are ample opportunities and ways in which you can help others and be a philanthropist in your own way. This makes finding real life examples that you can emulate in your life easy to find. These examples can range from your favorite celebrities, religious figures, professional athletes, people in your own community and neighborhood, along with family members or even complete strangers. When you seen an example of someone implementing a philanthropist lifestyle, and it resonates with you; use it as motivation to make changes in your own life. The most important thing to remember when looking for examples to emulate, is that there is no requirement saying you need copious amounts of money at your disposal to live a philanthropist lifestyle. 

Ronald McDonald House

While most of us have not had the experience of staying at or taking advantage of the resources provided at the Ronald McDonald House.  The Ronald McDonald House not only provides services and goods to those who need a place to stay, but also provides an opportunity for those in the community to serve and provide service for those who are staying at the Ronald McDonald House. 

The mission of the Ronald McDonald House is to provide a way for families to stay close to their critically ill or injured child, while they receive treatments in a hospital setting. When a child is injured or ill, receiving help and treatment is paramount to a family, which is where the Ronald McDonald House can help. They provide a place for parents and family to stay, where they are close to the hospital without adding to the worry of where they are going to stay, or if they can afford to find a place to stay. 

In addition, to providing a place for families to stay at little to no cost, the Ronald McDonald Houses rely on volunteers to provide families with home-cooked meals, a listening ear, nurturing or simply just by being there. This allows for families to focus on their child, without worrying about where their next meal is going to come from. Anyone can donate their time, resources or talents to a local Ronald McDonald House in your own community. You can volunteer to go in and make a home cooked meal, spend time talking to families and being a listening ear. There are countless ways in which you can be a philanthropist for those who are going through a difficult time. 

Rotary International

Rotary International is a phenomenal organization that is dedicated to improving their communities and the world. The stated purpose of Rotary International is “to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world.”. This is achieved through the efforts of average, everyday people who work together to make changes that impact the biggest majority. Rotary International has worked tirelessly through the help of dedicated members to eradicate the world from polio, by bringing the polio vaccine to remote parts of the globe. 

Not only do they work on a large, global scale, each local chapter works hard to bring change and be a philanthropist in their own communities. Frequently local chapters organize various service projects that enable them to improve their community. This is accomplished through cleaning up local roadways, delivering dictionaries to local school children, or building covered bus stops. There are countless ways in which members of Rotary International perform acts of philanthropy around their communities, states and the world. All it takes is a desire to make a change and everyone can be a philanthropist. 

Neighborhoods and Communities 

aGoodCause - Charity Donations Fundraising Nonprofit Volunteer Concept

We are all surrounded by neighbors, or live in communities that are known to rally together to support and lend a hand when one of our own is in need. Sometimes this takes on the form of a charity auction, fundraising, bake sales, or other monetary donations. Sometimes, people in our communities and neighborhoods need help, but not monetary help. This is the perfect opportunity for people to practice philanthropy by helping in other ways. Every time a meal is taken into a family that had a new baby, a family member has been in the hospital or experienced a death in the family. Other examples include helping a family to pack up their belongings preparing for a move, helping to clean the home of a family who has fallen on hard times or unable to do so themselves, helping with yard work for the elderly in your community, and paying for someone else’s meal at a restaurant or drive thru. 

Recently, there was a family from my hometown who unexpectedly lost their father in a tragic accident. The accident occurred a couple of weeks before his youngest daughter’s wedding. Amidst the tragedy, countless neighbors and community members pitched in to provide meals to the family, time and talents were shared in helping with the final wedding preparations, help with yard work and so much more. The family didn’t ask for help, but those around them saw a need and took the initiative to help and ease their burden during a difficult time. 

Friends and Acquaintances 

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend, where he was presented with an opportunity to be a philanthropist. He was in the process of quitting his job and moving cross country to go to school. A few days prior to his upcoming move, it was brought to his attention that a coworker of his was struggling financially. The coworker had made decisions in his life that resulted in him having to pay extensive fines, legal fees and along with other financial repercussions as a result of his choices. When my friend initially heard about this situation, he learned that other coworkers were trying to gather donations to help their fellow co-worker out, ensure that he was still able to buy food and cover other necessary expenses. Initially, my friend and others were hesitant to donate any money, feeling as though the situation was the consequence and price that the man had to pay as a result of his careless actions and choices. After taking a couple of days to think about the situation, my friend ended up giving the man some money to help tide him over. The man offered to pay it back out of his next paycheck, as he knew my friend was soon going to be out of work and had extensive moving cost associated with his upcoming move. My friend, refused to be paid back as he would be gone before the next payday; he simply asked that instead of repaying him, the man pay it forward and help someone else in need. Even though he didn’t have to, and wasn’t necessarily in a position to do so, my friend saw that the other man’s needs outweighed his own; his small monetary donation was done for the betterment of someone else, something bigger than himself. 

How Can I Be a Philanthropist? 

Every single person, regardless of wealth, social status, occupation, race, gender or location has the ability to be a philanthropist in their own way. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, philanthropist is defined as “one who makes an active effort to promote human welfare”. That leaves the ways and possibilities in which you can be a philanthropist wide open. All it takes is for you to see or hear of a need and to do something about it. 

It also means that you can be a philanthropist by just being a good person, and spreading joy and kindness to those around you. A simple act of dropping spare change into a homeless person’s cup, can make a world of difference for them. Your actions of being a philanthropist don’t have to be some big, outlandish, earth shattering act; all it needs is to come from your heart and be meaningful. Don’t limit the possibilities of being a philanthropist be capped because of the misconception that the definition of philanthropist includes wealth and money, when in fact every definition I’ve ever found doesn’t mention money as a requirement to define yourself as a philanthropist. 

If you want to start living a philanthropist lifestyle but aren’t sure where to start, start small. Start by dropping spare change into charity collection cans at various stores and restaurants around your community, drop off a bag of food to your local food pantry, offer to pay for someone’s meal, bake cookies for the new neighbors that moved in down the road from you. The possibilities for how you can be a philanthropist are only limited by your imagination and your willingness to do something for someone else. Even a simple act such as giving someone a hug, can have a huge impact on their day, not to mention you generally feel better for it as well. At the grocery store, offer to return someone’s cart for them, hold the door open for someone, all these small actions that require very little effort on your part all add up to make a difference. No act of kindness is too small, no generous deed goes unnoticed. 

Just imagine how much better off our world would be, if we all acted out of kindness and performed seemingly small, insignificant acts of philanthropy. There would be more smiles, more laughter, more joy. It is possible, all it takes is small actions to implement change for the better. In the infamous words of world-renowned philanthropist Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”. Start today, by doing small philanthropy type actions that you can build on over time, building a legacy of thoughtful and caring actions that have a positive impact on those around you. 

Author:  Ashley Christensen

 Sources: 

https://www.groco.com/article/why_you_should_become_a_philanthropist.aspx

https://www.rmhc.org/volunteer

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotary_International

https://www.womansday.com/life/inspirational-stories/a19724992/jennifer-maddox-future-ties/

Alleviating World Hunger

When’s the last time that you skipped a meal because you were “too busy”, or “nothing sounded good” or you simply “weren’t hungry”? Having food available to us at any given time—day or night, is a luxury that we often take for granted without really thinking about it. We’re not afraid to spend large portions of our paycheck at the grocery store, fast food drive-through or dinner out with friends, where leftovers and extra food ultimately find their way into the trash can, to be whisked off to the local landfill. Once our extra, rotten food is thrown out, we might feel a tiny bit of guilt while tossing food, only because it cost us money to purchase that food and we are wasting it; but once it’s in the garbage we tend to forget about our guilt, just to repeat the cycle the following week.

Now imagine living in a world, where you do not know when you will get the chance to eat again, or where your food is going to come from. Imagine that when you do eat, it is only a small amount of food, that doesn’t even begin to satisfy your hunger, rather teasing you that your hunger will be satisfied, only to be disappointed. Imagine what little food you do get might be old, spoiled, or rotten, but you eat it anyways as your only other option is to continue to go without food and nourishment. Unfortunately, for a whopping 795 million people in the world (that is approximately one out of every nine) this imaginary world is their reality according to 2017 statics.

Food is an essential element to human life. It not only provides vital nourishment that is needed, it also fuels the body and provides a livelihood that can lift people out of poverty and bring communities together. When there is a lack of food for the population, malnourishment ensues along with increased poverty rates and crime. Think about how many times growing up your parents told you to “think of the starving kids in Africa” as a method of persuasion to get you to eat your food; or think about every time you have to throw food out that has gone bad before you had a chance to eat it. Both of these represent that vast amount of food that is thrown away and goes to waste. In fact, a staggering one-third of all food produced goes to waste.

World hunger is something that many of us have heard of, but have a hard time fully comprehending. Often times we don’t give a lot of thought to world hunger, because it doesn’t have an effect on our day to day lives. Before you can address a problem and work to alleviate it, it is important to know what exactly world hunger is, how many people are affected, where are the majority of people who suffer from hunger located, what causes world hunger and what is currently being done to combat this worldwide epidemic.

Facts about World Hunger

For many of us, we know that world hunger affects a large group of people, but do you know exactly how many? There are many facts surrounding world hunger, that many people don’t know or don’t recognize as being a contributing factor. One of the best ways to be able to combat world hunger, is to know all the facts.

A report published in September of 2018 stated that there are 821 million people worldwide who are chronically undernourished. Out of the 821 million, ninety-eight percent live in developing countries around the world—Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Knowing where the majority of those suffering from hunger live, can help in targeting efforts to alleviate the lack of food.

With so many people around the globe suffering from hunger, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the answer to solving world hunger is to simply grow and produce enough food to feed the world population. Interestingly enough, the world already produces enough food to feed the entire population. Even though there is enough food produced, many still go without because they are not able to grow and produce their own or they lack sufficient funds to purchase food for themselves.

Hunger also claims the lives of nearly one in every fifteen children living in developing countries prior to the age of five. In 2010 alone, nearly 7.6 million children across the globe lost their lives, with over half being attributed to poor nutrition.  Furthermore, when an undernourished woman becomes pregnant, the baby is often born undernourished as well. Every year, nearly seventeen-million children are born undernourished as a result of the mother’s lack of adequate nutrition before and during pregnancy. When a woman is undernourished as a result of a lack of food, she is often deficient in basic nutrients, such as iron, which results in nearly 315,000 dying during childbirth from hemorrhaging every year.

Causes of World Hunger

According to the World Food Programme, there are a few predominant reasons why hunger persists throughout the world, and oftentimes, these reasons are interconnected with each other. These reasons include: being trapped in poverty, lack of infrastructure, climate and weather, war, economy, and various other reasons that all contribute to the worldwide epidemic. Many of the reasons that are considered to contribute to world hunger are often complex and vary widely but they are still interconnected.

Trapped in Poverty

Poverty is considered to be the leading cause for hunger worldwide. For many who are living in poverty, they are living in a trap that provides little to no way for them to improve their lives. Unfortunately, as a result, many that are living a life of extreme poverty also live in a world of constant hunger. Many who live in poverty are unable to purchase nutritious, healthy food for themselves or their families. Without proper nutrition, the human body begins to weaken, physically and mentally. This in turn results in individuals being unable to work for a livable wage, preventing them from being able to escape the grasp of poverty and starvation.

According to Bread for the World the largest group of people who suffer from hunger and live in extreme poverty tend to be smallholder farmers. The definition for “extreme poverty” means that they have an income of less than $1.25 per day. Most of these farmers live in developing countries and do not have adequate land to grow enough food for themselves to eat year-round. What little food they are able to produce, doesn’t bring in enough of an income to allow for them to be able to purchase the necessary food they need from other farmers once they run out of their own supply.

Lack of proper nourishment has a ripple effect, children who are malnourished tend to be stunted in their growth, resulting in adults whose average income is significantly lower than their counterparts. Without adequate income, many of those living in poverty are in developing countries and are unable to purchase seeds to plant crops that would feed their families. For the rare few that are able to obtain seeds, many do not have the land or the water or knowledge to grow and harvest their seeds, ultimately keeping them trapped in poverty.

Lack of Infrastructure

In underdeveloped countries, a lack of infrastructure such as roads, warehouses and irrigation systems all contribute to a hunger epidemic. Due to the lack of these key features, communities are left facing high transportation cost, lack of storage facilities and unreliable water supply. With the lack of ability to safely and affordably transport food, store food or even grow food, many people are denied the access to food which is vital to their survival.

A lack of adequate infrastructure in developing countries can be attributed to the challenges that many farmers face when trying to grow their own crops. Because there is a lack of a water supply, in areas of countries where hunger is prevalent, many women and girls spend countless hours walking great distances to gather what water they can. This results in women not being able to contribute to other productive activities and girls are not able to attend school. In some countries that are developing, there are areas where there is a great shortage of food, due to the lack of adequate infrastructure to get food and supplies to the people, whereas, in other parts of the country there is an abundance of food because they have the ability to transport and grow enough food to feed those living in close proximity.

Climate and Weather

With the climate changing all across the world, there appears to be an abundance of natural disasters, including floods and tropical storms and drought. With the increased number of natural disasters, the consequences can be detrimental to those living in underdeveloped countries, who already experience a shortage of food. Natural disasters are known to wipe out crops, crop failure, and livestock losses, eliminating what food there possibly was available. Climate change is responsible for damaging food production and water security in significant ways all across the globe. How successfully the world responds to climate change will play a huge factor is being able to combat and ultimately eradicate world hunger.  It is projected that in order to keep up with climate change and a growing world population, agricultural production will need to increase by at least seventy percent just to be able to keep up.

War

It should come as no surprise that war and displacement has far reaching effects all across the globe. Throughout history, food has been both the cause the overall effect of war. War disturbs farming and food production by destroying farms and crops; fighting also forces people to flee from their homes, as they are displaced and no longer able to provide for themselves or their families. During a war, it is also not all that uncommon for food to quickly become a weapon of sorts. Over the course of history, troops have used food to their advantage, by starving their enemy into submission by seizing food, destroying farms and killing off livestock. Other times, humanitarian food that has found its way into a war zone, can be confiscated by government officials and used to feed their troops rather than their citizens. Fields become mined and water sources are contaminated, resulting in land that is no longer usable for growing food, and water that cannot be consumed. During times of war and conflict, the poorest citizens of a nation, are generally the ones who feel the effects first and suffer the most, as resources are dedicated to a nation’s military members and leaders.  All of this contributes to the worldwide epidemic of world hunger.

Unstable Markets

The world’s economy plays a big role in world hunger. When the price of food rises, those who are poor or living in poverty are then unable to afford nutritious food, instead of consuming unhealthy food. For good health, it is important that everyone has access to nutritious, adequate food year-round. When food prices go up, food may temporarily be priced out of reach for some. When individuals and families are no longer able to purchase the necessary food due to increased prices from an unstable market, there can be lifelong consequences for small children. When nutritious food becomes too expensive for the poorer population to purchase, they often resort to cheaper, less-nutritious food, leading to an increased risk of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies.

These are some of the biggest, most noticeable causes for world hunger, there are other, smaller reasons that contribute to this worldwide epidemic.

In developed countries, such as, the United States and other countries that are deemed to have a high-income the reasons for hunger are dramatically different. In most cases people in developed countries suffer from hunger as a result of a poor paying job, lack of jobs, or poor economic status.

What is Being Done to Combat World Hunger?

Because world hunger is affecting so many people around the globe, there are various groups and organizations that are working tirelessly to combat world hunger and bring food to those who are starving around the globe. Knowing the reasons why so many people are malnourished and starving helps to provide direction to alleviate the need for nutritional food.

Currently, organizations, such as Mercy Corps are working alongside communities that are most vulnerable to hunger by educating people, improving their communities and implementing plans for sustainability into the future.

Agriculture

Being able to grow and produce food to feed their families and make a living is an important step towards fighting world hunger. When farmers are able to get their resources that they need, they can then increase their food production, providing nutritious food to feed themselves, their family and sell to others, therefore, increasing their current income to be able to continue to provide food for their families when their supply runs low.

In Kenya, small farmers who were unable to compete with large scale farms, have been able to boost their production, while working on minimizing crop loss with the assistance of organizations such as USAID. This has been accomplished as they have been able to implement skills that they have gained through educational opportunities that are brought to them from humanitarian groups. Many farmers are able to sell their excess crops to the UN World Food Program that goes to help other communities around the world that are suffering from hunger and starvation.

Sustainability

It’s one thing to be able to take care of immediate food and hunger needs, it’s something entirely different when you are able to provide nutritious food for the foreseeable future. When individuals and communities are provided with the necessary resources to create plans that allow for them to learn the skills necessary to adequately manage their resources, they are then able to improve both their crop and livestock production. This allows for them to provide nourishment not only to satisfy their immediate need, but also into the future.

Different organizations are helping communities around the globe to develop stronger food systems that will allow for them to make food that is grown in their areas easier to access for everyone. This is accomplished through teaching individuals and communities better ways in which they can manage and utilize what resources they have available to them to improve their crop and livestock production.

Education

Education goes a long way in helping people to make improvements so that they can better care for their families. Many people who suffer from malnutrition and hunger, do not know or understand the importance of proper nutrition, sanitation or hygiene. Through education, people learn about the importance of good nutrition, sanitation and hygiene practices that allow for them to be able to consume a more diverse and nutritious diet.

Food for the Hungry believes it is making an impact now that will have far-reaching effects into the future. Through their organization, they have been able to provide life-changing resources, including clean water supply, medical aid, food, educational opportunities to those living in the harshest of conditions. In order to provide these resources and education to people across the globe, they work closely with local leaders to know how best to respond to the needs of the people living in the area.

Meeting Immediate Needs

In areas of the world, where hunger and malnutrition run rampant, humanitarian aid strives to bring life saving food and nutritional needs. This is achieved through actual food and food vouchers. In areas that are affected by a natural disaster, relief is rendered through food, food vouchers and cash that allows for individuals to purchase food for themselves and their families. Through cash, individuals are able to provide nourishment to their families while helping to rebuild their communities.   

Children’s Hunger Fund is an organization that works closely with different church groups around the globe to provide food, water and other basic necessities to those living in extreme poverty. This is accomplished by delivering food and other necessary supplies to those in need through local church leaders in various communities who are able to distribute supplies to those who stand in need the most.

Working with Local Governments

World hunger is not a new development that we are just learning about, but it has come back into focus in recent years. Following years of underinvestment for many of the wealthier countries around the world, including the United States have begun to reinvest into programs that are designed to help combat world hunger. Through combined efforts of world leaders, private companies, NGOs, universities and academic institutions, ending world hunger has become a top priority that many are striving for.

Since its peak in 2015, many of those who have been working together to fight and ultimately end world hunger have been able to make substantial strides in achieving their goal. Through the combined efforts of the United States in partnership with the above-mentioned groups, the Feed the Future Initiative, which is an anti-hunger response has had tremendous results. These results include lifting 9-million people out of poverty, 1.6-million households free from hunger and 1.8-million children properly nourished.

Feed the Children works closely with donors, experts, partners, leaders and communities to find those who are suffering the most and providing relief. It is the mission of Feed the Children to work with local and world leaders to use donations to eliminate starvation and hunger for starving children around the globe.

How You Can Help to Alleviate World Hunger?

The success of organizations such as Feed the Future Initiative show that ending world hunger is possible, but it is going to take everyone to achieve the ultimate end goal. Because alleviating world hunger is going to require extensive efforts, everyone has the ability to contribute to this great cause. There are different ways in which you can contribute and help to make a difference in the life of someone who is suffering from hunger and lack of food.

Donate and  help to alleviate hunger around the world - Agoodcause

Donate

This is probably the easiest way in which you can help to alleviate hunger around the world. You can start by donating food to your local food pantry, to help those in need in your own communities. If you are looking to help on a larger scale, consider donating monetarily to an organization that is committed to fighting and alleviating hunger across the globe. This can be done directly to the organization, or you can donate through A Good Cause, where all the money donated goes directly to various charities that are working tirelessly to provide nutritious food to those in need. These charities include Feeding America, Children’s Hunger Fund, Feed The Children and Food for the Hungry. When you make a donation through A Good Cause, you can make a one-time donation, or you can set up to make recurring donations to help those in need.

Fundraise

If you’d like to do more than make a monetary donation, consider creating your own fundraising campaign using A Good Cause’s crowdfunding platform, where you can invite friends and family members to also donate to alleviating hunger around the world. Through your campaign, you can help to bring awareness to others about the need for funds to help those who are unable to obtain food for themselves and their family members.

By working together, we can all make an impact on those around the world who don’t know when or where their next meal is going to be coming from. We can help to bring nutritious food to those who otherwise will be going without. Whether you can afford to make a monthly donation, or simply spread the word to others, we can all work together and alleviate hunger across the globe. Alleviating world hunger is a goal that we can all band together on, regardless of our race, political affiliation, or geographical location and make a huge difference in the world. Through our efforts we can turn the idea of not knowing when or where someone will eat again into a distant memory for all, as nutritious food will be available to everyone, all across the world.

To make a donation or establish recurring donations through A Good Cause, please visit: https://agoodcause.com/campaigns/alleviate-hunger/

Author: Ashley Christensen

Sources:

https://www.mercycorps.org/articles/what-were-doing-help-end-global-hunger

https://www.bread.org/what-causes-hunger

https://www.wfp.org/stories/what-causes-hunger

https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-world-hunger

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/5-ways-usaid-helping-end-world-hunger

http://www.feedthechildren.org/about/

https://childrenshungerfund.org/about

https://www.feedingamerica.org/

What Brings the Greatest Joy?


“The source of all abundance is not outside you. It is part of who you are.”

—Eckhart Tolle

In a world obsessed with instant gratification, it is easy to get swept up in our own lives and forget about others. We tend to forget there are people out there who are not as fortunate as we are, down on their luck or who simply might need our assistance. Generally, during times of trials or tragedy we see our communities come together through various platforms, one of the most popularly used is the GoFundMe platform.  

Depending on the cause, the number of people who come together to donate can help determine the success of the campaign. When it is for a good cause, one that tugs at a large number or people’s heart strings, the number of those donating increases substantially. As one of the largest fundraising platforms on the market today, GoFundMe has raised a whopping $5 Billion since its launch in 2010.

So, how is it that GoFundMe has been able to help over 2 million campaigns raise so much money? The answer isn’t necessarily cut and dry…people donate to campaigns for a few different reasons. One of the most common is that people donate to campaigns where they know the person or people who the campaign is for personally.  Others donate to campaigns that tug at their heart strings and where they want to help make a difference in helping lighten another’s burden. However, others donate to campaigns where their friends or family know those whom the campaign is for and shared it with them. A large number of people also voluntarily donate to various causes due to the feelings of joy and abundance they experience as a result.

What Is Joy?

“There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.”

–Khalil Gibran

Before we can answer the question “What brings the greatest joy?”, it is important to define and understand what “joy” is. There are numerous ways in which giving back and giving of ourselves blesses others and our own lives, but do these ways bring us joy?

To answer this, we must first know what “joy” means. According to dictionary.com, joy is defined as: “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”. From my experience that is a good definition of joy, but I also believe there is more to joy than just a feeling of happiness. For me, I define “joy” as: “a sense of fulfillment, complete and utter happiness with an overflowing vessel of abundance”.

While each of us define “joy” differently, most of our definitions will surround a feeling similar to that of happiness. Knowing how you define “joy” in your own life, will allow you to determine and define what it is that brings you the greatest joy in your life.

For many, their families are their greatest joy. For others, they might find joy in their careers, hobbies, schooling, community service, religious organizations and various other places. So, ask yourself, what brings you the greatest joy? Is it seeing someone’s face light up when you bring them  baked goods welcoming them to the neighborhood? Is it when you put another’s needs before your own? Is it when you donate monetarily to a cause you believe in and are passionate about?

There are countless ways in which you can experience joy, but do all of these ways bring you temporary joy or long-lasting joy? Research has found these few specific things, can bring you joy, but it is only temporary joy. Temporary joy includes:

  • Having Lots of Friends
  • Being Financially Successful
  • Being Famous
  • Having Children
  • Winning Competitions
  • Traveling
  • Being Highly Creative
  • Having a Big House
  • Winning the Lottery

Why is it that these things bring temporary happiness and joy but not long-term joy?

An Inherent Desire to Help

“The joy that isn’t shared dies young.”

–Anne Sexton

It is human nature, when we hear of a tragedy, crisis or personal trial among those we know, or even complete strangers, that we find a desire within ourselves to help. Often one of the first questions asked when news spreads is, “What can I do to help?”. When it comes to donating to a good cause, it is not considered a business transaction, it is more of a human connection between two or more people who feel a connection and/or a desire to help.

According to the Network for Good: The Nonprofit Marketing Blog, there are fourteen main reasons why people donate to fundraising campaigns online such as GoFundMe. The reasons range from being asked to donate to feelings of wanting to make a difference. Others reported they donated due to their family values, religious beliefs or out of a desire to have a positive image of self/business.

Most people who give of themselves in assisting others, find they are filled with a sense of joy and an overabundance of wanting to do more to help others. This feeling becomes contagious! I have seen this first hand in my own life, giving of your time or monetarily, turns into an addiction of sorts of wanting to continue to help others whom you cross paths with.

Different Ways To Help Others

There are numerous different ways in which you give back and help others. Obviously, the most popular being that of crowdfunding sites, such as aGoodCause, Classy, Fundly, Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and many more. If you can’t help out monetarily, there are countless other ways, to help others. These ways can include:

  • Volunteering your time. This can be anything from donating at a homeless shelter, food pantry or a clothing drive.
  • Helping a neighbor. It is easy to overlook those who are closest to us and neglect their needs. This is especially true for neighbors. It can be as simple as delivering a plate of cookies to someone who just moved in, mowing the lawn of someone who is unable to, or offering to help them around their home.
  • Donate to a charity of your choice. Find a charity or organization that you are passionate about, and donate to support their cause. There are literally thousands of organizations and charities that are committed to helping others throughout our communities and around the globe.

While these are just a few ideas of ways in which you can give of yourself, help others and bring joy into your own life. If you are committed to helping others around you, keep your eyes open and opportunities will present themselves.

Psychology of Helping Others

“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”

—Booker T. Washington

It doesn’t come as much of a shock when we take the time to volunteer, serve, donate and help others, we benefit along with those whom we helped.  Psychological studies have found the benefits exceed beyond experiencing feelings of gratitude and abundance, it goes much deeper—in fact there are physical and health benefits that many givers experience.

In the “The Neurobiology of Giving Versus Receiving Support: The Role of Stress-Related and Social Reward-Related Neural Activity” study, conducted in February 2016, researchers studied the impact of giving social support to others on a neurobiological level. Researchers used fMRI brain imaging to pinpoint three specific neurological benefits that came as a result of giving social support to others. Social support is support offered by friends, family, coworkers and others during times of need. This support can come in the form of monetary donations (GoFundMe, cash, gift cards, etc.), time and a multitude of other ways.

Throughout the course of the study, participants were asked about different scenarios in which they were on the giving or receiving end of social support. As expected, participants on both sides experienced lower negative psychosocial outcomes. However, when researchers used fMRI neuroimaging test, they discovered those who were providing the social support showed a greater amount of brain benefits than those on the receiving end. Three specific benefits were discovered included:

  • Reduced stress-related activity in different areas of the brain, specific to that of memories, emotions and decision making.
  • Greater reward-related activity in left and right ventral striatum.
  • Greater caregiving-related activity in the septal area.

Researchers discovered through these three specific areas in the brain that specific activation was only found when the participant gave social support.  This activation was not found when the participant was the receiver of social support. Ultimately, researchers believe by giving support to others, it is part of a bigger feedback loop that makes the experience rewarding for the giver; because the giver ultimately receives more long-term benefits than that of the receiver.

It is this feedback loop, which is what I believe provides us with the desire to continue to give to others continually. Not only do we feel good and experience joy and abundance in our own lives when we help others, we also reap the various health benefits as well.

Benefits of Helping Others

“Every single second is an opportunity to change your life, because in any moment you can change the way you feel.”

–Rhonda Byrne

Not only does helping and giving to others provide us with psychological benefits, there are also proven physical benefits as well. These benefits include: reduced stress levels, staying physically and mentally active, and living a longer life.

  • Reduced Stress Levels: those who actively give of themselves to help, serve and benefit others are able to increase their social networks. When you have a larger social network, you are able to better buffer your stress levels and have more ways to give of yourself to help others. Additionally, when you are in the service of someone else, you can experience feelings of having a purpose and being appreciated by others. Both of which can be expressed and felt by the giver and receiver, which ultimately have stress-reducing effects on the individuals.
  • Mental and Physical Activity: a lot of volunteer activities encourage you to get moving, being physically active and thinking at the same time. Studies have found those who volunteer to help others report they experience better physical health than those who don’t give of themselves to assist others.
  • Live a Longer Life: a review of data from the Longitudinal Study of Aging found individuals who volunteer their time, give of themselves to help others have a reportedly lower mortality rate than those who do not. Other studies have found those who suffer from a chronic or serious illness, experience a decline in pain intensity and depression as a result of helping others.

There are other benefits that come around as a result of giving of yourself to help others. Some of the biggest are the feelings of fulfillment, satisfaction and joy. These are all benefits you can notice and experience almost immediately, whereas other benefits might not be as easily noticeable in the moment.

Bringing it Home

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–Maya Angelou

A few years ago, my husband and I were presented with the opportunity to donate to a GoFundMe campaign. A gentleman my husband knew and worked with briefly experienced a sudden, unexpected, tragedy in his family. When we were asked by other coworkers if we would consider donating to the cause to help cover expenses, we didn’t have to think about it. We knew we were in a position where we could donate, we knew it would help this family through a very difficult time. So, knowing we could help, we did!

While we didn’t know this gentleman very well, we didn’t know his family or his home life, we still felt that we needed to do what we could to help this family. It went beyond the fact that my husband had worked with him, it went beyond being asked by others to help this family. For us, it was a chance to help someone else through a difficult time. Even though our donation wasn’t the largest, nor was it done to receive recognition, we felt joy, for in some small way we were able to help this family.

I often reflect back on this experience, when I am presented with other opportunities to make a donation.  Whether it be a financial donation to a GoFundMe campaign, a donation of my time, talents or services, if I can help to ease another’s burden, I find myself more willing than I was before this experience.

Abundance Becomes Part of Our Identity

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”.

— Winston Churchill

Why might this be? When we made the decision to make a small financial contribution to this particular family’s campaign, we both felt a sense of gratitude, abundance and a desire to do more. We felt gratitude that we were in a position where we could contribute and hopefully, in some small way make this difficult time in their life more bearable. We felt a sense of abundance, we had both been raised to help those around us in need, to give of ourselves. We wanted to do more to help this family, but due to life, we could only do a little bit. As a result, we have found ourselves helping others who cross our paths.

This sense of abundance we felt, wasn’t a new found feeling. It was a part of us, it is a feeling that has continued to grow, it drives us, and directs the way we live our lives. All from a small moment of making the decision to help a family, we barely knew who was in need. No one would have known if we did not donate, no one would have judged us if we had decided not to contribute, all that mattered was we felt a desire within ourselves to give and assist others in need.

aGoodCause - a boy giving money to a female beggar

This feeling of abundance has carried over to other experiences and opportunities I have had in my life to give of myself to serve and assist others in need. Whether it is a simple act of dropping a couple of bucks into a collection can outside the local supermarket or dropping off food donations to the local food pantry, the same feelings of happiness, joy and abundance are experienced.

For my family and I, the thing that brings us the greatest joy is when we give of ourselves to help others in need. After the first taste of abundance and joy from a modest donation to a good cause, I have sought out opportunities where I can experience the same level of joy and fulfillment.

Giving and Receiving Goes Both Ways

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

–Edith Wharton

I have been on the giving end of donations and service of others, I find it difficult to accept service and help in my own life. Recently, due to changes in careers, my husband and I live in two different states for a brief period of time. During this time, I find myself in need of assistance with some manual labor tasks around the house. I was so hesitant to ask my neighbors and friends for assistance, as that goes against my nature.

I blame this on the fact that I am so accustomed to providing service to others, that I have a hard time accepting it myself. When I finally admitted to myself that I did need help and that I couldn’t do it myself, I was surprised to find just how eager everyone was to provide the help I needed. Not only did they help with the small project I initially needed done, they did more!

When I went to drop off a small thank you gift, they thought I was going to ask them for help with another project around my house! It was through this experience of being on the receiving end instead of the giving end, that I realized how important it is to not only give when we can but to be on the receiving end when necessary.

Through my experience, I believe in order to fully appreciate the benefits, and might I add, blessings that come with giving, we need to also experience receiving service as well. I was able to experience a wide range of emotions from their simple acts of service towards me. My feelings ranged from being humbled, loved, blessed and grateful, and joyful knowing others are so willing to give of themselves and their time to assist me.

What Brings the Greatest Joy?

“Joy is increased by spreading it to others.”

–Robert Murray McCheyne

I believe in order to answer this question of what brings us the greatest joy, will vary from person to person. This is an individual and personal answer that we each must answer and decide for ourselves. For me, my family brings me the greatest joy in my life. While there are other elements of my life that do bring me temporary joy, it is singularly my family and giving back to others that brings me the greatest long-term joy.

Knowing what brings me the greatest joy in my life, allows me to know where I get my strength, joy and desire to pass that joy on to others. This knowledge allows me to be able to refill my cup with joy so that I am able to continue to give of myself to help others. That in turn then allows for me to continue to give of myself to bless others lives and in turn bless my own life.

Finding what brings you the greatest joy in your life, will allow you to do those things and spend time with those who bring you joy. Whether it is your family, career, friends, kids, etc. there are numerous things you can find joy in. It is recommended you find ways outside of your current social network that allow for you to give of yourself, serve others and find joy.

I challenge you, to take some time to ask yourself and find what elements in your life bring you the greatest joy? How can you take that joy and use it to bless and benefit others around you? I promise, the more you give of yourself the more joy you will find in your life!

Author: Ashley Christensen


Sources:

Smith, Craig. “By the Numbers: 6 Interesting GoFundMe Statistics.” DMR, 1 Apr. 2018, expandedramblings.com/index.php/gofundme-statistics/.

“How To Get Donations, 14 Reasons Why People Donate.” Network for Good, 7 May 2018, www.networkforgood.com/nonprofitblog/how-to-get-donations-14-reasons-why-people-donate/.

“3 Specific Ways That Helping Others Benefits Your Brain.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201602/3-specific-ways-helping-others-benefits-your-brain.

Paul, Margaret. “The Greatest Joy in Life.” Dr. Margaret Paul, www.innerbonding.com/show-article/4000/the-greatest-joy-in-life.html.

“Helping People, Changing Lives: The 6 Health Benefits of Volunteering.” Services and Treatments – Mayo Clinic Health System, mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/helping-people-changing-lives-the-6-health-benefits-of-volunteering.

“3 Specific Ways That Helping Others Benefits Your Brain.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201602/3-specific-ways-helping-others-benefits-your-brain.

“7 Scientific Benefits of Helping Others.” Mental Floss, 4 Dec. 2015, mentalfloss.com/article/71964/7-scientific-benefits-helping-others.

“Achieving Happiness by Helping Others.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/teen-angst/201701/achieving-happiness-helping-others.

Spring Cleaning for Your Soul

There is something about the melting snow, the gentle rains, the warm sunshine, and the blooming daffodils that makes the heart soar.  It is SPRING! The time when we wash away the dust from the windows, and sharpen up the lawn mower blade. Children start to go from snow clothes to shorts, and mud becomes a common enemy on your pets paws.  

Spring has always been my second favorite season.  It would probably be my first due to the greening of the grass (because green is my favorite color) if it weren’t for the awful conditions of the golf courses; but I shall save that discussion for another day.  This article is about spring, and finding ways to lighten your soul.

Just as a mother prepares a home before a new child arrives, in a phenomenon called “nesting” during the spring we clean and prepare for a new stage of life.  This cleaning can result from boredom, a desire to get out of the house, or to make something better. Even the anticipation of the coming summer can make spring cleaning enjoyable and purposeful!

With this in mind, I would like to have us all consider the spring cleaning that we might use on ourselves, to tidy our minds, refresh our spirits and even cleanse the soul.

ADD WATER

The first method of cleansing is the use of water.  Just like the saying that “April showers bring May flowers,” the hydration that our earth gets is just as vital to us.  Our bodies are 70% water! We need water to survive, second only to oxygen. According to Mindbodygreen, “water is one of the most vital elements of life, yet it is probably the one thing that many of us take for granted. Many of us are dehydrated; not only do we not drink enough of this miracle elixir, we mindlessly shower in it, curse it when it falls from the sky and run from it when it tries to weep from our bodies. The humble drop of water enables us to see vibrant rainbow colors reflecting in the sunlight, it gives shape and form to everything, it builds mountains and cliffs, it floods our bodies with nourishment, and it helps to release the pain within our body through the tears we cry.”

  1. Drink 2 liters of water daily.  Hydrate your body.  Cleanse your blood. Relieve stress on your kidneys.  Improve your skin. Give yourself the feeling of being satiated.  Water will be your best friend before you know it! If you want to see more water tips, click the mindbodygreen.com link at the end of the article.

INCREASE OXYGEN

However redundant it might appear to have oxygen on the list of spring cleaning for the soul, consider this: Where are you getting your source?  Step away from the office cubicle and step out into nature. Go for a walk in the evening. Hike a trail. Check out the nearest scenic view. You may be surprised at the freshness of the air.  The more greenery around, the more smells you will enjoy. Get away from the smog and the inversion. Pollution is not your friend, even if it is a familiar sight. Consider taking steps to improve your lung capacity!  Now would be a great time to put down that pack of cigarettes. Step away from the e-Cigarette and vaping. Energize your body by breathing in deep diaphragmatic breaths. You will see your brain capacity increase, as well as your lung capacity!  

2. One Minute Breath: This exercise soothes fear and is said to help cognition. 20 seconds to inhale, 20 seconds to hold breath, 20 seconds to exhale. To start, inhale slowly, filling the lower abdomen, stomach area, lungs and then finally, the chest. Hold the breath in for 20 seconds and then slowly exhale for 20 seconds. Work your way up to 20-20-20; perhaps start with 10 seconds to inhale, 10 seconds to hold, 10 seconds to exhale (or five seconds is great too!). Continue for a minimum of three minutes. If you want to see more on breathing, check the link to yogatoday.com.

SPECIFY EXERCISE

Exercise is one of the best ways to cleanse the soul, because your options are ALMOST unlimited.  From swimming to horseback riding, from cycling to gardening; there is an exercise for everyone!  It seems today that everyone is a trainer and/or critic, but for this article I have chosen to focus on just one exercise which all women (and men) need.  The Kegal. This particular exercise will strengthen your pelvic floor,which supports the bladder. This exercise will help stave off those embarrassing moments when you sneeze, cough, laugh, or even catch a fly ball after the age of 30 (yes, it truy happened)! This exercise won’t make you look better, but add it to your aerobics and strength training!  Your ego can thank me later.

3.  To do Kegel exercises correctly, squeeze the muscles you would use to prevent yourself from passing urine or gas. Hold the contraction for two or three seconds, then release. Make sure to completely relax your pelvic floor muscles after the contraction. Repeat 10 times. Try to do four to five sets a day. Seriously, the best time to practice these is while you’re stopped at a red light.  When it turns green, your done!

We can’t forget while spring cleaning that we need to boost our minds!  Consider adding music to your list. Update your playlist. Find a new and fun station on the radio.  Turn on the music as you do the laundry. Sway the hips as you vacuum the floor. Now not only do you have more fun, but your job goes faster and you are increasing your exercise!

FIND SPIRITUALITY

AgoodCause - Enlightenment

For many, spirituality is found in nature; for others it is found in reading from good books.  Many find an increased spirituality in attending religious services while others find an increase in their spiritual growth by serving others.  Whatever your case may be, the fourth spring cleaning area for your soul is to review what you do to be a spiritual person. This is an era where we tend to look inward, but not in a necessarily positive manner.  Focus not just on the “me” but on the “we.”

4.   Bless: in an article found in conscious lifestyle magazine, they point out the importance of taking a moment to bless what we consume. Consider the number of people and the amount of energy it took to bring you whatever it is you are about to eat or drink. When we bless our food and drink, we are expressing gratitude for all of the labor those individuals exerted to create the sustenance we are about to enjoy. Blessing also directs positive, uplifting energy toward it. By regarding our food and drink not simply as something to consume, but as a gift, we consciously create feelings of gratitude. See the link below for more areas you may want to consider.

The last area for spring cleaning your soul is to realize just what an amazing creature you are.  The person you see in the mirror is completely unique. There is no one else like you on all the face of the earth!  You have so much potential, and so much power. As you look to start anew, perhaps the most important step that you can have a direct hand in is this:

APPRECIATE YOURSELF

We often get bogged down with self-depredation.  We can look at our shortcomings with loathing or down right pitty.  Trials become stopping points. We literally damn our progress in life, just like a beaver does to a stream.  This year, right now, as you begin the process of lightening your load, and spring cleaning your soul don’t forget this:

    5. MIRROR: Look in the mirror and recognize that what you see is just a glimpse of who you are, and what you can become.  Smile at yourself. Look at the laugh lines, the wrinkles, the freckles, the gray hairs, the balding areas! Then close your eyes.  Look away from the mirror.  Feel your heartbeat. Feel your lungs take in air.  Think your positive thoughts, put on your walking shoes, and go out into the world and make a difference to someone else.  

These five simple steps might be just what you need to spring clean the cobwebs from your life!  Sharpen the blade of your mind and soul, and see how beautiful your life really is. Much like the earth after a soft rain or a lawn after being freshly mowed, we too can look forward to a new year with a “Spring” in our step.  Love yourself. Care for yourself. And finally, appreciate yourself for the miracle that you are.

Author:  Katie Stevens

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5659/8-Ways-to-Cleanse-Your-Mind-Body-Soul-with-Water.htm

lhttps://www.yogatoday.com/blog/rise-shine-with-these-quick-breathing-techniques

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-of-the-best-exercises-you-can-ever-do

The Three Pillars of Service

“Service is like peeing your pants. Everyone sees the results, but only you get to feel the warmth.” This turn of phrase from back when I was in Boy Scouts is something that has always stuck with me. When it was time to do one of the many service projects we did, sometimes we needed to pump ourselves up a bit, and humor is a very powerful tool. As an adult I try to keep in mind the words from Mahatma Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” In my eyes, service is a three-pillar system: providing service to others, providing service to yourself, and being accepting of service. You may think I am crazy, but hear me out.

#1: Service to Others

Obviously, this is the most common service and the one you likely expected to read about when you started this article. Marie Osmond has said, “Being of service to others is what brings true happiness.” I find this to be true in my life. I have been able to provide service for many people in my life both through family and friend service projects, as well as through organizations like my church and the Boy Scouts. I have had incredible examples of service to others in my life as well. Service can be something that takes but a few minutes or something that takes several hours or days. It can be something that is simple, or something back-breaking. However you do it, do it with love. Audrey Hepburn said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

My sister spent some time in Alberta, Canada as a volunteer for her church. While there, a large river flooded a town she was staying in. While she and her apartment were fine, a great many homes were destroyed. She spent several days helping to clean up houses from the mud and water, and trying to salvage people’s lives and property. This was a large undertaking and she informed us of the exhaustion and sorrow felt by all of those involved. Ultimately; however, she was excited that she was able to help out and make the lives of these people she was serving a little bit better. She jumped right in and worked hard because there was a need and looking back on what she was able to accomplish brought a profound and unbreakable sense of love for those she served.  My sister is a stalwart example of serving selflessly and completely. Yet, she will tell you that she gained more out of helping those people than they ever did, because of the unmeasurable feelings of accomplishment and pure love that ultimately feeled her soul for a job well done.

I have been lucky enough to have wonderful examples of service in my life. My mother has always had an altruistic side, even when it’s not outwardly apparent. She has always been the first to send a card when she knows someone suffering through a trying time, sent food to a family who is enduring a trial, or going without something so that her children are taken care of. She does this without wanting or needing recognition. My grandfather is also a prime example of true service. Throughout his long life, he has been of the disposition to literally give the shirt off his back. He has had people move in with him when they needed to get back on their feet. He has organized clothing drives, picked up furniture from family members who were getting rid of it to give to someone who needed it. He has loaned his vehicles to children and neighbors who need to get to work. He has… Honestly, the man takes service more seriously than anyone else I’ve ever met. Even now at his advanced age, and less than spry health, he still tries to help everyone he comes across.

When I was in the Boy Scouts, we did more service projects than I can really count. We did small things like cleaning the trails as we hiked, raking neighbor’s leaves, and mowing people’s lawns. One of the more intense projects was for an elderly neighbor whose house was being repossessed and who would have nowhere to go. Someone donated a piece of land, and others donated supplies and expertise, and together with us Scouts, we built this woman a small, but functional 1 bedroom house for free. It was exhaustive, backbreaking work, but for this woman, it made her whole world. Service does not have to be this grand. Small acts of kindness are just as important.      

Have you ever been “elfed?” You probably have, you just called it something else. At Christmas time, we would pick a family in our area that we knew needed a little extra help, we would wrap presents, stick them in a bag, and “doorbell ditch” the family with the bag of gifts. We called it “elfing” because of the time of year, and feeling like we were helping Santa by being his elves. We were recipients of this exchange as well, and it was so lovely and exciting to receive these sweet gifts. Maybe you have done the 12 Days of Christmas for someone where you give a small thoughtful gift for the 12 days leading up to the holiday. Maybe you participate in an Angel Tree. These are all sweet, simple, and thoughtful service projects that get you in the spirit of the holiday and help those in need.

Have you ever given someone a “Heart Attack?” I’m not talking about that time your sister jumped out of the darkness of the basement and you were sure your heart stopped, but something very different. “Heart Attacking” is something that shows how much you care about someone. Cut out paper hearts in different sizes and colors, however many you want, write complimentary phrases on them, and stick them to someone’s door. Then ring the doorbell and run. The person on the receiving end of this feels so loved, and so appreciated. Again, it’s a simple act on your part, but it can change the entire outcome of the other person’s day. Maya Angelou stated, “People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maybe you don’t have the ability to donate your time or strength to serve others. This does not exclude you from being able to assist others. You can send a kind and thoughtful card to brighten someone’s day. You can send a text message or a quick phone call and it will make all the difference. You can make a monetary donation or even set up a system for others to donate to someone. aGoodCause.com is an excellent place where you are able to set up a campaign to help yourself, or more importantly, others get donations from others to help with whatever is needed.

I am a big Cinephile (keep your head out of the gutter, it means I love movies.) There are many beautiful movies that illustrate service, and honestly, I could go on for a very long time about them, but one of the most poignant to me is “The Ultimate Gift.” This movie begins with a spoiled, bratty, trust fund kid whose father dies. He is left his father’s entire fortune, but he cannot take possession of it until he follows through on a series of tasks designed to help him become selfless and to learn the importance of serving others. He goes on quite the journey during the film, including meeting a young mother and her daughter who is going through cancer treatment. He learns the importance of family, and the Ultimate Gift of love by serving others.

#2: Service to Self

Audre Lorde said, “I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” I know, you might be thinking, this guy is nuts. “Service to myself?” But hear me out. Who do you spend the most time with every day? Nope, it’s not your spouse, not your dog, not your co-workers, and not your kids. I’ll give you a hint; look into that shiny thing on the wall in your bathroom… It’s You!! In fact, it was You all along! In all seriousness, taking care of yourself is as important and some may even argue even more important than taking care of others. Now, I am not advocating for becoming a hermit or ignoring the plight of everyone else because you believe you are better than them. First and foremost, no one is better than anyone, so get that out of your head. But what I am speaking about, is that if your life is unstable and messed up, it can impact your ability to care for others. Example: if you are constantly depressed and unable to get out of bed, how are you going to get out there and help someone rake their leaves?

If you’ve ever been on a plane, part of the safety demonstration includes the oxygen masks that may descend into the cabin in the event of an emergency. As part of the script for the demonstration, they say to make sure you put your own mask on first prior to helping any children or others next to you. This has always been an interesting thought to me. I thought, why wouldn’t I want to help my child first to make sure they are ok? But the reality is, if I pass out from no oxygen, no one is getting helped, and it makes things so much worse. This is similar to what we need to do with ourselves in regards to service. We need to make sure we are serving ourselves, (not exclusively), to make sure we can help others.

#3: Accepting Service

           “To get the full value of joy, you must have someone to divide it with.” Mr. Mark Twain said those words, and does it not describe service most beautifully? We talked about providing service to others, and service to ourselves, but what about when service is done unto us? A kind gesture of service when you are in need is priceless. What can lower the value of your joy and the joy of the one providing the service is pride and being unable to accept the help of someone else.

There have been times in my family’s life where we needed some help. We didn’t advertise this but yet some truly kind-hearted people somehow knew. Whether it was the “elfing” when I was a child or an envelope of cash with a sweet card, we have been very blessed with amazing people in our lives. But imagine for a moment if we would have said no and refused the gifts? I’m not talking about the polite, “oh you shouldn’t have,” or, “I can’t accept that.” I’m talking about straight up refusing to accept the kind-hearted gift. Imagine how that would make someone feel? What right do you have to defuse the joy of someone who thought of you?

Pride is a difficult emotion. While it is important to have pride in yourself and your achievements, when your pride takes away from other’s happiness is when it becomes harmful. John C. Maxwell articulated this well in the following quote, “There are two kinds of pride. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.” If you view yourself as better than, you are denying the “good pride” of others.

Follow the Three Pillars of Service

Service to others, service to self, and acceptance of service are the three pillars of service. Each day that we are privileged to live on planet earth that there will be presented good causes that will allow us to take part in one or all of the three pillars of service.  Be kind to others and be willing to give of yourself, when you can, to make someone’s life better. Be kind to yourself and make sure your needs are taken care of so you can help others most effectively. Lastly, be willing to accept the gift of service gracefully. If we can do these things, we are able to reach a better plane in life and experience true happiness.

Author: Elijah Brandley

Philanthropy is Not About Money

“Philanthropy is not about money, it’s about feeling the pain of others and caring enough about their needs to help.”—Timothy Pina

In a world that is quickly turning into a selfish and often a needy society, it is no wonder that the idea of being a philanthropist is not the main topic of conversation among individuals and groups. Although it is less common today, as it may have been in years or centuries prior, it is not an idea that has completely died. This is because examples of philanthropist can be found all around through acts of kindness, fundraisers and genuine kindness exhibited by individuals towards others.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “philanthropy” is a noun, which is defined as: “goodwill to fellow members of the human race especially: active effort to promote human welfare.” Other definitions include, “an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes” and “an organization distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes.” Furthermore, the Oxford Dictionary defines it has “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes”.

Examples of Philanthropist

“Never respect men merely for their riches, but rather for their philanthropy; we do not value the sun for its height, but for its use.” –Gamaliel Bailey

For most of us, we are presented with opportunities to donate to various different charities, that are intended to help individuals and groups with a specific goal in mind, such as special needs outdoor activities, children with cancer fun runs, multiple sclerosis, burn camps for children and veteran’s fun runs to name a few. In fact, if you look around, there are plenty of philanthropist who quietly work behind the scenes giving freely of themselves for the betterment of humankind. More often than not, these people silently, give of themselves; not wanting a lot of fanfare or recognition. Others have dedicated their life to being a philanthropist like Mother Teresa, and actively work towards bettering human welfare around the globe.

According to an article published on forbes.com the list of the top fifty of the most generous people in America, you’ll find famous names such as Warren Buffett, Bill & Melinda Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael & Susan Dell and many others.

Most famous people—actors/actresses, billionaires, athletes, and so forth have charitable organizations they endorse and support, and are thereby considered to be a philanthropist. Others have started their own charitable organization that supports something that they are passionate about.; including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, animal rescue and shelters, underprivileged children and cystic fibrosis, just to name a few. The biggest thing to remember, is that you don’t have to be rich or famous in order to be a philanthropist, every single person has the innate ability to be a philanthropist in their own way.

While all of these different individuals and couples are doing great things and definitely fit the definition of being a philanthropist, they are well known for more than their charitable contributions. Once again, no where in any definition of “philanthropy” does it state that part of the requirements to be considered a philanthropist do you have to be famous or a billionaire.

Some of the most famous philanthropists around the world, made a huge difference without having copious amounts of money at their disposal. These people include Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and others all had a desire to make the world around them a better place, and made that their life mission. As a result, people continue to emulate them and the example and legacy they left behind.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu dedicated her life to caring for the less fortunate and the destitute around her. At the young age of 12, Mother Teresa felt a strong call from God, telling her that she needed to be a missionary and to spread the love of Christ. At the age of 18, she left home and joined the Sister of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns who had missions in India. It was while she was in Calcutta, India that she got a glimpse into the suffering and poverty outside the walls of the convent. What she saw had a profound impact on her, that in 1948 she received permission to leave the convent school and devote her life to working alongside the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. She had no funds to aid in her efforts, she depended on Divine Providence and was able to start an open-air school for children who lived in the slums. Eventually she was joined by voluntary helpers and financial support came forth, which made it possible for her to extend the scope of her work. The work and effort she put forth into being a philanthropist to those in Calcutta has been recognized and acclaimed world-wide. Mother Teresa received numerous awards for her work in providing aid and support to those in need.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi, or better known as “Gandhi”, practiced a nonviolent philosophy that promoted passive resistance. Following World War I, Gandhi was active as the leading figure in India’s struggle to gain independence from Great Britain. Because he believed in nonviolent actions to promote change and bring awareness to bigger issues, such as, excessive land-tax and discrimination against farmers and urban laborers, throughout his life. He undertook numerous hunger strikes both as a means of self-purification and political protest to the injustices that his native people were experiencing. Gandhi was committed to helping India gain economic independence, so much that he advocated for the manufacturing of khaddar, or homespun cloth to replace imported textiles from Britain. Although he was imprisoned for his beliefs, he never stopped fighting for what he felt was right and what would provide India and their citizens a better quality of life.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was instrumental in helping to advance the civil rights movement in the 1950s in the United States. In addition to his efforts to advance civil rights, he also worked as a co-pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. King, was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. With this position, he was eager to organize nonviolent protest and movements to improve the quality of life for his race. Some of the most famous events that Dr. King organized include the bus boycott of 1955 that lasted for 382 days. As a result of the nonviolent, bus boycott, the Supreme Court of the United States declared the laws unconstitutional that required segregation on the buses; allowing for whites and coloreds to ride the same bus as equals. In 1963, Dr. King lead a peaceful march with 250,000 people, on Washington, D.C., where he delivered his famous “I have a Dream” speech. He was arrested upwards of twenty times between 1957 and 1968, and was assaulted at least four different times. Nevertheless, he did not let these incidents and incarceration stop him for promoting his belief and conviction of equal rights. As a result of his efforts, he was able to motivate both whites and coloreds to work together to advance the civil rights movements. He had the ability to get others to see both races as equals and not divided. Although, his life was cut short before he could fully see the fruits of his labors, Dr. King had a dramatic impact on the civil rights movements and future generations to come. He left a lasting legacy that has propelled him to be an iconic philanthropist who was willing to die so that others would have a better quality of life for generations to come.

You Can Be a Philanthropist

“Charity is just writing checks and not being engaged. Philanthropy, to me, is being engaged, not only with your resources but getting people and yourself really involved and doing things that haven’t been done before.” –Eli Broad

You don’t have to have billions of dollars or gain worldwide recognition to be a philanthropist in your own community. You don’t have to do something crazy, drastic or profound to make a difference. Simple acts, such as donating monetarily to someone in need or providing acts of service to those around you so they know you care is all it takes to be a true philanthropist. Everyone can be a philanthropist in their own way. Some of the most popular ways that people are able to be a philanthropist is by donating to a family who has a child fighting cancer, helping an elderly neighbor with their yard work or household chores, baking cookies to take to a friend, offering to bring in dinner to a family with a new baby, or providing child care to a family in need. Even small and simple things fit the definition of philanthropy. That’s why I strongly believe that you are a philanthropist; we all have the capacity to be a philanthropist everyday.

Unfortunately, these stories don’t tend to make news headlines, but they happen all the time. Think about the times in your life when you were the recipient of someone else’s generosity. Perhaps you were a young girl scout out selling delectable girl scout cookies trying to raise money for your troop, or perhaps you were trying to raise money for your school sports team and received donations from friends and community members.

Elizabeth Laird “Hug Lady”

Other examples of everyday philanthropist include Elizabeth Laird, who is better known as the “Hug Lady”. When the United States went to war against Iraq in 2003 in the fight against terrorism, countless troops deployed from Fort Hood, Texas. When the troops started to deploy, Laird was there to send them off with a hug and words of faith and encouragement. When troops started to return home, Laird was once again there to greet them with another hug welcoming them back home. Over the years, she has given out hundreds of thousands of hugs to troops coming and going from Fort Hood. It is estimated that over the years Laird handed out over 500,000 hugs before she passed away at the age of 83 in 2015. This simple act of kindness took little effort on Laird’s part but quickly showed her support and love for the troops. Laird’s example shows that no matter how old or young a person is, they can make a difference, they too can be a philanthropist in their own way. Laird was able to see how much her simple act of love and kindness was appreciated, when thousands of troops came to visit her in her hospital room when she was battling cancer, leaving her with thousands of hugs of their own.

Dorothea Watkins

Many people have not had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Dorothea Watkins, better known as Dottee and her work as a philanthropist. Dottee is a selfless woman who lives in the United States by a Mexico border town. She saw a need in her community and that of the bordering Mexico town. As a result, she wanted to do what she could to make a difference and improve the quality of life for those who were living in poverty in Mexico. Among the needs she worked to alleviate, she learned that young children who were deaf had no way to communicate with their families and vice versa. Dottee reached out to those who could help and was put into contact with a group from El Paso, Texas. The group made the journey to Dottee’s border town and were able to teach Mexican Sign Language (MSL) to young children and their families, along with other interpreters; as a result, MSL is now taught in schools, enabling the hearing impaired to be able to communicate their needs.  As Dottee continued to learn of the needs in her own community, she eventually founded a non-profit organization that provides free healthcare to those in need, along with EMT training to locals, to be able to provide emergency medical services to those in need. Along with meeting healthcare needs, Dottee’s organization works with organizations across the United States that travel to Mexico to build homes and bring necessary medical supplies to the impoverished community. Dottee believes that through empowering the community, the entire community will benefit and have a desire to work together and improve their community on their own.

Dessert Lady

Chances are, you know someone who enjoys baking and enjoys sharing their yummy treats with others more than they do making them. All growing up, I had a neighbor who made the most divine homemade bread and cinnamon rolls. She enjoyed making them so much that she would always make a large batch, more than her family could consume. As a result, living next door to her, she would send over a couple loaves of bread or a dozen cinnamon rolls for our family to enjoy as well. It was a small gesture on her part that made a positive impact on our family. She took the time to share her talents with us, not expecting anything in return. This was a great example of someone practicing philanthropy in my own life, that instilled in me at an early age a desire to do kind deeds to others for no reason other than to be nice.

Paying it Forward

A common act of kindness that I have heard of frequently is where people pay for another person’s fast food order or groceries randomly, with the hope that the person whose life they blessed, would pay it forward and pay for someone else’s. There are countless videos on YouTube that illustrate people doing this very thing, and how it made them feel afterwards. In some instances, they performed this act completely anonymously, whereas others confronted strangers and learned their story. Honestly, watching videos of others doing this act, makes me want to do it for others when I am in a position to be able to do so. I have been the recipient of this in my own life, and it was the biggest surprise to me and it made me happy that I wanted to return the favor. I am continually looking forward to an opportunity where I can pay for another person’s meal or groceries as a way to pay it forward and spread kindness to others around me.

How to be a Philanthropist in Your Own Life

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” –Tony Robbins

There are countless different ways in which you can be a philanthropist in your own life and make a difference in your community. Some of the easiest, most common ways to become a philanthropist include donating to charities and other good causes, baking cookies and taking them to a neighbor in need, spreading joy through hugs and companionship, befriending someone who needs a friend, or volunteering your time at a local food bank or homeless shelter.

aGoodCause - Charity Donation Icons Graphic Concept

With the help of social media, it is easier now than ever before to find people and organizations that need help or volunteers. It is difficult to scroll through a social media feed without finding a post that encourages or ask for people to donate to different causes, fundraisers, charities, etc. This is primarily because as soon as word is out that a disaster, tragedy or accident has occurred, people establish fundraisers as a way for others to donate and help ease the burden of the current situation.

Simple ways in which you can make a difference in someone else’s life is to actively look for opportunities to help those in your own community. The United States Postal Service does a food drive, where all you have to do is place food out by your mailbox to be collected by mail carriers, this is something that occurs in all of our communities and is easy for all of us to participate in without a lot of effort or fanfare. Most food pantries will accept food and monetary donations at their facilities where you can drop off the items you wish to donate.

If you are in a position where you can help someone, make the effort to do so. Even if it is only a couple of dollars that you can spare to help make someone’s situation better, do it. But remember it does not have to include money it can include giving of your time to help someone even if it is just listening to them. I firmly believe in what you do unto others will come back to bless you when you need help in your own life.

A common misconception that many people have about being a philanthropist, is they believe that it requires them to have copious amounts of money. This misconception can hinder people from realizing what they do have to offer, thinking that the only way to help is through monetary donations. No matter how big or small, you can make a difference by donating your time to assisting others in need. Most people who are true philanthropist, work tirelessly, with little to no recognition for their efforts, which is exactly how they want it to be. These people give everything they have to ensure that others needs are met and that they leave the world a better place than they found it.

Example of Real-Life Philanthropist

Recently, I was traveling over 1,000 miles with a group to do a humanitarian project. We were a little over halfway to our destination, when we experienced some serious car problems and ended up stranded on the side of the road. We were in a different state, where we didn’t know anyone or any mechanics or tow trucks whom we could call for help. After frantically searching Google, while sitting on the side of the road and making numerous phone calls all to be told they couldn’t help us (it was late on a Friday afternoon), we were starting to get discouraged. When out of the blue, a guy who happened to be driving past had an empty, flatbed trailer, saw our group (mostly girls) standing on the side of the road and decided to stop. This man stopped, and offered to load our car onto his trailer and take us to a mechanic shop that he knew of a couple of miles down the road. In order to help us, in our time of need, it required that he miss a scheduled appointment to pick up a piece of equipment that he had rented and other plans were delayed. He didn’t care that his plans were disrupted. In fact, he told me that when “you see a group of girls standing on the side of the road, you have to stop and help”. We were forever grateful for this man, who out of the kindness of his heart helped a group of complete strangers who were in desperate need of help. He did not ask for or require that we pay him for his service, he was just happy to help someone in need.

Anyone Can Be a Philanthropist…Including You!

As per the definition of philanthropy, everyone and anyone can be a philanthropist by simply having a desire to do good and improve human welfare – and doing good. Being able to make a difference has never been easier, as there is a plethora of opportunities that provide every single person the ability to give back and pay it forward in their own communities, nationwide or worldwide.  

I challenge you to look outside your own personal life, and find ways in which you can give freely of yourself to improve another’s life. Find ways to implement the idea of being a philanthropist into your life and you will benefit from it. Find a good cause that you believe in or that tugs at your heart strings and donate to it, or share it so that others can donate.  

In order to be a philanthropist, you don’t have to donate money, there are other things that you can do that will also make a positive impact and promote the betterment of human welfare. Simple things such as volunteering your time, bake cookies, visit the sick or elderly, send a card in the mail just to let someone know that you are thinking about them. Another easy way to help others that doesn’t require money is to help pass out or post flyers for an upcoming event or good cause.  

There are ample opportunities and ways in which every single person can be a philanthropist. Don’t let the idea that you have to be a famous person or have millions of dollars stop you from making a difference. When you look for opportunities, you will find them in abundance. If you see someone in need, ask yourself if you are able to fill the need, and do so if you are capable. All of these small things add up to make a big impact that can truly change someone’s life for the better.

Author: Ashley Christensen

Sponsored by aGoodCause.com – Philanthropy at work.

Sources:

Merriam-webster.com. (2019). Definition of PHILANTHROPY. [online] Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/philanthropy [Accessed 8 Feb. 2019].

Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2019). philanthropy | Definition of philanthropy in English by Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/philanthropy [Accessed 8 Feb. 2019].

Forbes.com. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/top-givers/#193d89d566ff [Accessed 8 Feb. 2019].

NobelPrize.org. (2019). The Nobel Peace Prize 1979. [online] Available at: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1979/teresa/biographical/ [Accessed 9 Feb. 2019].

HISTORY. (2019). Mahatma Gandhi. [online] Available at: https://www.history.com/topics/india/mahatma-gandhi [Accessed 9 Feb. 2019].The Washington Post. (2015). The extraordinary story of the grandmother who committed her life to hugging soldiers. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/11/14/the-extraordinary-story-of-the-grandmother-who-committed-her-life-to-hugging-soldiers/?utm_term=.ff532502a68b [Accessed 12 Feb. 2019].

Hope in the Hands of Strangers

“Never look down on a person… unless you are helping them up.”  Author Unknown

A longing for freedom from the oppression of his home country and a desire to seek God, Donghyun Kim made a heartbreaking decision that would change his life forever. Kim grew up in North Korea and as a young adult his desire to leave the tyrannical, nanny-state grew stronger. The inclination to be free from the chains of the North Korean government became hard to ignore one day as he watched several families being dragged from their homes and beaten. So, in the guise of a business trip Kim left his home, his wife, and, with the help of an escape broker, escaped to South Korea.

After some time, Kim was able to contact his wife and ask her to follow him to North Korea’s peaceful neighbors. He knew that this would not be an easy thing. She would have to cross a frozen river, climb over barbed wire, and spend months hiding from the North Korean government. The one request that Kim asked of Song was that she pray for a safe journey.

Never having been religious before, even the concept of God was new to them. Song was confused but did as her husband requested. Both Kim and Song prayed for a safe journey and that they would soon be reunited in South Korea. On foot, by bus, and over the water, Song eventually made it to her husband and freedom. Grateful to be together again, the two North Korean natives began to rebuild their lives in South Korea. Kim’s desire to know God led him to take a leap of faith and take a risk to be free, knowing that if he failed the price was his life or the lives of his loved ones.

In time, Song’s desire and faith in God led them to America. They now live in the land of the free, free themselves and grateful to be together–building a life and family in the United States.

Although amazing and powerful, Kim and Song’s journey isn’t new, there are many people every day who are escaping terror, tyranny, and heartache. Escaping for their lives, desiring freedom from whatever nightmare is behind them. The courage that it takes to leave your home and loved ones, and travel to a new land seeking refuge is nothing short of miraculous, admirable, heroic, and any other adjectives that could describe such a harrowing journey.

A lot of times when a refugee finally makes it to a safe haven, whatever land or location that might be; when they have finally crossed those borders, climbed those fences, or faced those risks to be free of their torment, they often need the hands of kind strangers to help them rebuild the lives they left behind.

help others for a good cause

Lifting Hands International is trying to do just that. They are a non-profit organization dedicated to helping refugees with resources and supplies–doing what they can to relieve some of the weight of fleeing to a new land. Founder and director of LHI, Hayley Smith works tirelessly day after day, creating a safe place to land for those who need it the most. Their work started with Ms. Smith while she was working with the recent refugee crisis in Greece. After seeing the immense lack of supplies and support, she went home and decided that more had to be done. She donated what she could collect in two months and sent a container of those supplies to Lebanon. But she knew that she could do more, so she began the organization Lifting Hands International and with generously donated money they have established themselves in several different locations and provided much needed items to refugees in crisis.

Lifting Hands International currently works with emergency aid in Greece and France. They have donated a second container to Lebanon, they paid for further containers to be shipped to Greece from collection teams in the UK, and in a refugee camp in Greece they have full-time volunteers dedicated to helping those refugees in crisis. According to their Facebook “about” page, the organization “purchase and distribute milk-producing goats for vulnerable Syrian refugee families in Jordan.” They “have a team of dedicated volunteers who provide services and meaningful activities to Yazidi refugees living in a camp in Serres, Greece.” They also “collect, sort, and ship aid from [their] warehouse in Utah to refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.” And as if that wasn’t enough, they also “furnish incoming refugee apartments in the Phoenix Valley using community donations.”  

Their mission statement says it all; “We provide humanitarian aid to refugees, both home and abroad. No politics, simply humanitarian.”  This organization, these volunteers, and Hayley Smith are making a difference in these refugees’ lives by doing something we can all do – reaching out their hands. We too can make a difference by reaching out our hands. It is really the least we can do to help those who have sacrificed everything to be free.

https://www.liftinghandsinternational.org/blog/2018/2/2/how-lhi-started

Kim’s Story: “2018 Freedom Award Recipients.” Freedom Festival Magazine June 2018: 18. Print.   

Author: Briana Pugh

Integrity: Man in the Glass

A poem, written during the depression by Dale Wimbrow, quickly gained popularity and is still recited today.  It was one of my grandpa’s favorites; and being an Irishman at heart, he loved to sing and recite poetry. Reading it today makes my heart leap, knowing that my inner bonnie lass feels the same.

When you get what you want in your struggle for self and the world makes you king for a day, just go to the mirror and look at yourself and see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife whose judgment upon you must pass the fellow whose verdict counts most in your life is the one staring back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest for he’s with you, clear to the end and you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test if the man in the glass is your friend.


You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years and get pats on the back as you pass but your final reward will be heartache and tears if you’ve cheated the man in the glass.”

Do you recall stories of your grandparents?  I remember mine talking about being able to get a loan from a bank based on your name and a handshake.  It is incredible, the amount of security that could come from one simple word. INTEGRITY. Life was about looking at the man in the glass and being proud of what you saw.

Frederick Douglass put it this way, “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” Abraham Lincoln said, “ I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”

Such stirring words from men who helped shape this country into what it is today!  Integrity is something that has to be molded, and continually practiced. It is not something that comes easily to most people, but those who do have integrity are revered.  Names like Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and more recently Malala Yousafzai stand in our minds and hearts for their strong stand to show integrity.

An anecdote about Gandhi’s integrity involves a mother who brought her young boy to meet the great man. She asked Gandhi to tell the boy never to eat sugar because of its effects on his health and teeth. Gandhi refused, instead asking the mother to bring the boy again 30 days later. When she returned, Gandhi did as she wished, telling the boy to stay away from sugar. The mother wondered why Gandhi had not just done that on the first visit, and Gandhi replied that he had still been eating sugar at their first visit and did not feel comfortable telling others to abstain from something that he enjoyed.

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, or moral uprightness. It is a personal choice to hold one’s self to consistent standards. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity can stand in opposition to hypocrisy, in that judging with the standards of integrity involves regarding internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding within themselves apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs. The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete. In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.’ (Wikipedia)

Psychology today published an article about seven traits that they found in people which characterized an increase in integrity.  

  1. The ability to apologize to someone below your status.

Parents who can see that they were wrong, and apologize to their children. As a parent myself, I am SO far from perfect.  Any manual that came on child rearing must have been thrown out before I got to the bookstore, because I certainly make plenty of mistakes.  My children have heard it all from me, but I am not above telling them that I was wrong. I often feel like I should hand out a ticket, with an assigned apology number.  “I was lacking chocolate today, and I acted like a….. Well I am going to say “BAD MOM” here, because saying I was acting like a child would be insulting to my kids who are often more mature than I seem to be. If we act out, and we punish unjustly or snap at kids, we have gone too far.  Being able to apologize to a child, or anyone who is under your authority shows integrity.

2. Bosses highlighting their staffs’ accomplishments and downplaying their own.

A boss with integrity doesn’t need the limelight.  They recognize their role as a leader, and there is no need for power plays.  Managers and bosses often come across as sadistic, narcissistic, or even sociopathic, but the boss with integrity brings out the best in others. A boss, in my mind, plays a role similar to the parent in the first scenario. One in this position already knows their worth, and that they have advantages others don’t get.  Therefore, the boss with integrity will play up other’s accomplishments! Not only does this make the boss look good, for highlighting the work of others, it is also benefiting him or her, because workers will give more to the company for said recognition! My boss is really great at this, as each month we get together twice and he spends five to ten minutes recapping the good that is happening in the building.  We learn about each other’s successes, and I know I personally look forward to him singling me out and talking about the work I am doing.

3. Romantic partners who boycott name-calling or other vicious behaviors.

I know what we are all thinking!  Are these people for real?! You can not go on social media today without seeing examples of people who LACK INTEGRITY.  This category however, I think is admirable. My own spouse is very conscientious about not getting into situations where others could be hurt.  Just to give him a little pat on the back, I think it should be known that he is pretty level headed, whereas I am hot under the collar most days.  He is my sounding board, and I will write an email, or get ready to post- and then I will hand over my device or the laptop and say, “Here. Delete this for me.”  He usually reads them, gets a good chuckle, and then tells me that they just aren’t worth it. Doesn’t he know that I am fuming?! Yes, but he helps me see clearly.  So, if you are the one who boycotts, my hat is off to you!

There will always be those who fight, but those who have learned to not be unfair, and who stop short of name calling will always have a better relationship.  Being able to show a higher level of humanity and kindness are traits that those with integrity have.

4. Drivers who (almost) never use the horn or drive aggressively.

This made me almost snort/laugh.  You know exactly why. I live in a fairly conservative state, with a large population of people who are very religious. Unfortunately, we are one of the worst in the country when it comes to aggressive driving, so it is ironic that Psychology today listed this as an aspect of people who have integrity.  I suppose that how you drive says a lot about you. Perhaps when we all go in for our annual meeting with our religious leader, and he asks us if we are honest in our dealings with our fellow man- the follow up question should be, “and how is your driving record?” I personally love to speed. My children tell me quite often, “Mom, if you were any closer to the car in front of you, you could back seat drive.”  I once had to be to school at 6 in the morning for a rehearsal with my students. Upon entering the room, I heard one young lady say that she had someone riding her “butt” the whole way there. I piped up proudly, “That was me!” I would like to add though, in case any of you are thinking that I am a terrible person; I USE my blinkers! Let’s all remember that driving in a cooperative manner that is mindful of your fellow commuters is actually a sign of integrity. Let’s all try to practice it more when we’re behind the wheel (I am Katie Stevens, and I approve of this message).

5. People in positions of power apologizing for keeping their captive audience waiting.

I have a great doctor.  He is a busy guy, and just like most medical offices, it usually takes longer than you think necessary to be seen.  The thing that made him come to my mind when I saw number five, was that he is always quick to say that he is sorry for keeping me waiting.  I appreciate that he recognizes my time is worth something too! All too often when a person feels like they are more important than other people, they don’t make a conscious effort to apologize to others.  Hey! That goes back to number one! Parents are in a position of power, and as parents we have peers and members of society who are above us. If we were all part of the food chain, it would be easy to see that there is always a bigger fish in the ocean.

When was the last time that a physician came into the examination room and acknowledged how long you’d been made to wait? I’ve never heard a doctor say, “I’m sorry for keeping you waiting,” or, “Thanks for waiting; I’m sure you’re probably busy.” In situations where there is a major power imbalance, make no mistake: The one with power who apologizes to the one with less power is showing bona fide integrity.

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6. Anyone giving another person the benefit of the doubt when the circumstances are unclear.

Modern life is more taxing and fast-paced than ever, and we suffer from stress on an ongoing basis. When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to get defensive and blame others. But if each of us could learn to give people the benefit of the doubt across the board—whether it’s in an argument, about a job not completed, or in response to feedback that suggests that someone’s spoken badly about you—we would have less stress in our daily lives. One of the noblest behaviors you can engage in is to give someone the benefit of the doubt before rushing to judgment or negatively filling in the blanks yourself.

7. Volunteers.

Happy volunteers in the park on a sunny day

As a society, we hardly volunteer enough. Yet a handful of men and women make volunteering a built-in part of their weekly life, whether at a church, a food pantry, animal shelter, or other non-profit operation. It shows a certain level of integrity to volunteer for a one-day stint here or there, but the steadier integrity is shown by those who commit to ongoing volunteer positions that require a real sacrifice of time. Cheers to all the parents who coach their children’s teams, but let’s not forget those volunteers who provide a service to their larger community or to underprivileged strangers.  I watch in amazement when relief groups come from all over the world after a hurricane, tsunami, flood, or other disaster. When I was seven years old, my hometown was caught in the path of a flood. I grew up in southeastern Idaho, and just miles from the Teton dam. On June 5, we were in Utah at a wedding when news came across the radio that the Teton dam had burst. We raced for home, unsure of whether or not we could get there, and if there would be a home left to get to. It was chaos! Army trucks rumbled by, and the National Guard was called out. Homes from Tetonia, St. Anthony and Rexburg were buried in mud and stinking water.  It fanned out for miles along the Snake River Plain, killing eleven people, gobbling up livestock and cattle, and decimating cars and homes. Immediately the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sprang into action, with calling trees and home teachers being led by Bishops preparing people to enter the danger zone. Others were called upon to build up the banks of the Snake River in Idaho Falls, sandbagging for miles to ward off the oncoming waters. It was the worst man-made disaster in Idaho history. As one who benefitted from the efforts of all the volunteers, I can only say thank you for your service!

Speaking of sports, my family and I are avid golfers.  We have been participating for generations, as it is one of the few sports that you can continue to play as you age.  My grandpa played, and my parents took up the game in college. They introduced us at eight years of age. I think they figured if you are old enough to be considered “accountable” for your sins, you should start playing golf!  I include this here, because golf is a game full of integrity. If having integrity, and a moral character is defined by what you do when no-one is looking, then golf is a great life lesson! (And I don’t mean because no one watches the game!)  Golf is the only professional sport where participants call penalties on themselves! As a child we were carefully taught by our parents, neighbors, coaches, and by those we came in contact with out on the course that there is nothing more important than being accountable for everything we did.  Each stroke, whiff, out-of-bounds, and ball movement was counted. The penalty for ignoring or “forgetting” was disqualifications. Talk about learning a life lesson!

Integrity is a moral stance.  I listened today as a young man in my class proudly told the class about his grandma.  He announced that his grandma told him, “Break as many laws as you want, just don’t get caught!”  He seemed quite pleased at how cool she was. I piped up, “That has got to be the worst advice ever!”  The root of integrity is found in “The Golden Rule.” We should do unto others, as we would have done to us!”  

In the story of the Good Samaritan, a parable unfolds.  A Jewish man is found lying along the side of a road. He has been beaten, robbed, and left for dead.  The first to come upon this man was a fellow Jew, but he was too busy to stop. The next man to come across the poor fellow was a Priest.  Surely a Priest would stop to help someone in need; but no- he did not have the time. Finally, a Samaritan stopped. The Samaritan’s and the Jews were not friends.  They did not like each other. This man however, stopped and saw to the wounded man’s needs. He also took him to an inn, and paid for him to stay there. Finally, he told the innkeeper he would be back through in a week, and whatever further payment was needed, he would pay.  I love this story. It tells me so much about integrity! The first two men showed moral turpitude akin to an enemy. The man who was actually looked down upon by others was the one to live the “Golden Rule” as previously mentioned. The moral of the parable was to realize that all men are our neighbors, but I think it also stands true for showing integrity to all.  There is no one that is not deserving of being shown a better way.

Having a foundational value like integrity in your life, you can be sure that the way you are viewed by your peers, and the value that is placed on your word will increase dramatically.  

As a child, my mom was a stickler for this.  I remember going to a store, and learning a quick lesson about what happens to those who don’t have integrity.  My little brother decided he wanted a piece of gum. It was in a bin, like loose penny candy used to be. As we walked by, he put a piece in his pocket and it wasn’t discovered until we got home.  My mom put him back in the car, and drove back into town for that one cent Dubble Bubble. She went immediately to the store manager, and told him that my brother had something he wanted to tell him.  With huge crocodile tears, my little brother confessed to taking the piece of gum. He told the manager how sorry he was, and that it would never happen again. I think mom told him that he might have to spend a night in the county lock-up, but the lesson was learned.  Not one of the Stanger children ever tried to klep anything again.

There is one organization that comes to my mind when I think about what we teach our youth.  As a sister to two boys, I got to see first hand the valuable life lessons that they learned while involved in the Boy Scouts of America.  From the time a boy turns twelve years old they are required to learn (and hopefully live) the Scout Oath. This oath states:

On my honor I will do my best,

To do my duty to God and my country

And to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong,

Mentally awake, and morally straight.   

What a wonderful oath that these young men and women make!  Is it any wonder that earning the office of an Eagle Scout is so commendable and holds so much esteem?  So many of our leaders today can look to their youth and see the influence of the Boy Scouts of America.  If you followed a law which encouraged you to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent- (whew, that is a LOT of good qualities) I think it would be safe to say that we would all be better people.

ttps://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-is-2020/201504/7-signs-people-integrity

https://www.charismamag.com

www.blueletterbible.org

Author: Katie Stevens

Gratitude: The Key to Lower Stress

There is no doubt that life is a ride of ups and downs. From lost jobs or new friends to broken down cars and winning championships, the curve balls life throws at us can really catch us off guard. So how can we be more resilient to sudden changes or long periods of discouraging times?

In a 1998 study done by McCraty and colleagues, it was found that individuals with an attitude of gratitude experienced lower levels of stress. This suggests that there is no more opportune time to choose to be grateful than while we are experiencing tough times. Additionally, research shows that expressing gratitude can strengthen and build social circles. Though an initial expression of gratitude may not be directly reciprocated, the thanked individual may go on to reach out to a third party, continuing to expand social connections and develop a network of good. This growing network can help individuals advance in life and better cope with uncertain circumstances, again implying that it is best to be grateful during times of trouble.

What are the best ways to develop an attitude of gratitude? Though it can be difficult to stay positive while experiencing a rough patch, everyone can benefit from being grateful. A few easy ways to incorporate gratitude into your life include keeping a gratitude journal, volunteering, visiting loved ones and writing thank you notes.

Gratitude Journal

        It seems as simple as Julie Andrews counting off a list of her favorite things but keeping a consistent gratitude journal can have profound effects on your life. A study done by the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida found that participants who wrote down a list of positive events at the end of their day (and why those incidents made them happy) experienced a greater sense of calm and lower stress levels. Keeping a gratitude journal can also help to keep your mind focused on the positive things in your life instead of everything that is going wrong.

aGoodCause - Happy Volunteer Family

Volunteering

As James M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan has said, “those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” Though it may seem counterintuitive to take the time to help others when you yourself are in need of help, many research studies show that it might just be the medicine that you need. Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has concluded from his research that “volunteering is the single most reliable way to momentarily increase your well-being.” As you help others you can better appreciate the positive things in your life. You also feel that you can provide value and that your time and talents used while helping others was worthwhile.

Visiting Loved Ones

There’s nothing like a good chat with an old friend or a visit from a friendly relative to lift your spirits. Not only will these visits brighten your day, but they are also an opportunity for you to practice being grateful. Take these moments with your loved ones to thank them for something they have done for you, whether it was last week or last year. You can also take this opportunity to listen to any struggles your loved one may be experiencing and offer some advice, assistance, or simply a listening ear. As you express your gratitude and help your loved one, you will be able to strengthen your relationship with them and open the gate for more opportunities for you to serve them and for them to serve you.

Thank You Notes and Letters

Having a similar effect as writing in a gratitude journal, taking the time to sit down and write a letter of appreciation is another great way to bring some positivity into your life. An experiment performed by Soul Pancake found that this simple exercise of writing a thank you note increased an individual’s happiness from 2 to 4%. These letters don’t have to be long or elaborate. Even something as simple as a message scrawled on a sticky note will do the trick.

As you strive to include an attitude of gratitude in your life, you will be better equipped to handle any setbacks or disappointments that may come your way. Whether it’s keeping a daily journal, volunteering, visiting loved ones or writing thank you notes, you’ll find a little ray of sunshine from practicing gratitude daily. Sincere gratitude is the key to lower stress and a happier life!

Author: Brindisi Olsen Bravo

Resources:

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-appreciation/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#e23e5b0183c0

https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2016/07/08/8-ways-to-have-more-gratitude-every-day/#7f9c740f1d54

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-jessen/gratitude-journal_b_7745854.html

The Benefits of Giving

“The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.” – Rick Warren

Giving of ourselves to help and assist others creates a feeling of abundance in addition to a sense of satisfaction within our own lives. Giving to those who are going through a difficult time or are less fortunate forces you to step back and take a broader look at your own life. This can sometimes cause you to reevaluate and adjust your focus in your own life.

I have seen and experienced this in my own life on several occasions—both in my own community and internationally. Every experience has left me with feelings of joy, gratitude and wanting to do more.

A few years ago, I participated in helping organize an Eagle Scout Project that collected winter clothing for a battered women’s shelter. At first, I was a bit apprehensive about getting involved and helping this organization due to a previous experience with them that was negative, I decided I needed to think about others besides myself and help make this project a success.

The day finally arrived, where it was time to collect, sort and donate all the donated winter clothing. I stayed behind to help organize the donations according to size and categories (coats, sweaters, jackets, etc.). As the night went on we were amazed by the abundance of items donated, more than we ever anticipated. While we did get a good laugh out of the hideousness of some of the items donated, we quickly understood and gained a deeper appreciation for the kindness and generosity showed to those less fortunate.

I often look back on this experience with fond memories as I am filled with a sense of accomplishment and love for those whom we were able to help that night. While I will never know the gravity or fully comprehend that simple act of service, I know my life was forever changed because of the simple act of love.

I am in a position where I am able to pay it forward and assist those who aren’t in an equally as fortunate position as I. As a result, I feel as though it is my responsibility to give to those in need when and where I can, as it not only benefits those in need directly, but my life also benefits from it. The more that I find myself paying it forward to those in my own community and those around the world, the more I crave it.

I used to think I couldn’t make a difference through my small actions, but I have quickly learned through my small actions, great impacts can be made. This is an attribute I have and will continue to emulate throughout the rest of my life, and it all started with a simple clothing drive one winter night.

Author: Ashley Christensen