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, humor is not as important and 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 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, under privileged 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 defiantly 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 philanthropist around the world, made a huge difference without having copious amount 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 along side 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 own 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 loafs 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 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].

Ashley is a technical and creative writer for A Good Cause, where she uses examples from her own life to help apply the topics and principles to real life. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in English, with an emphasis in Professional and Technical Writing from Utah State University. She has experience in writing articles on a variety of topics, including: real estate, dental, financial, legal and fashion. 
When Ashley isn’t writing, she can often be found curled up with a good book, watching movies, or perusing Pinterest. She also enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and family. Ashley has been fortunate enough to travel to Germany, Austria, France, Mexico and all across the United States. Her life goal is travel to Guam and China someday.

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 adjective 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

Growing up my Dad always told me one thing that really made an impression–I am an independent person and I have complete control over my thoughts, words, and actions. It is a foundational belief that I have held since that time. I believe in taking responsibility for our actions and feel that the old saying “nobody can make you do anything,” is one of the truest statements ever made. I believe that we should all be agents that act and that are not acted upon. Which is why I chose that saying as a tagline; “The effectiveness of a gym is not dependent on the people who exercise there.” When we go to the gym, it doesn’t matter who is working out there or what they think about you, when you walk into that gym no one is going to make you lose weight or do it for you. YOU control you and you get out of the world (or gym) what you put into it. I strive to live my life with that mindset every day.

I am a mom of three wonderful children–a spunky girl and two rambunctious boys; each a character in their own way. I am married to a kindhearted man who loves me and supports me in every way. He inspires me every day to do my best and he has made my life 100% better. I graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. One of the first books I ever read was Danger at the Fair and from that book I wanted to be a writer. My main goal in my writing is to inspire others and spread truth. I have a passion for truth and God and hope to inspire others with that passion.

I am also a lover of movies, watching and making them. I love to read (duh). When the day is done, and my kids are asleep I enjoy sitting down to watch a good show while eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Just plain vanilla ice cream, no toppings, no fuss. That’s exactly how I like my life–a little sweet, no extras, and definitely no fuss.

I am not perfect, and I try every day to make improvements in my character. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it is that belief that drives me every day. I believe that happiness happens within you. If you want to be happy, BE HAPPY.

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

Brindisi has been writing professionally for small business for almost four years. In college she studied Advertising and Women’s Studies. She has written for a variety of clients about a range of topics including marketing, technology, healthcare, career development, education, charity work, and more. Brindisi is passionate about helping businesses establish their digital presence online through written content and social media strategy.

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

Ashley is a technical and creative writer for A Good Cause, where she uses examples from her own life to help apply the topics and principles to real life. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in English, with an emphasis in Professional and Technical Writing from Utah State University. She has experience in writing articles on a variety of topics, including: real estate, dental, financial, legal and fashion. 
When Ashley isn’t writing, she can often be found curled up with a good book, watching movies, or perusing Pinterest. She also enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and family. Ashley has been fortunate enough to travel to Germany, Austria, France, Mexico and all across the United States. Her life goal is travel to Guam and China someday.

Your Smile Can Change the World

I want to change the world. Many people say that same phrase but usually it means something grandiose, like becoming president of the United States. But for me, I don’t have anything that big in mind. Partly because I’m realistic. I know that I will most likely never be the president of the US. I am also fully aware that I have no desire to be president of the United States, therefore, I wouldn’t even try. I want to change the world, but I think there’s an easier way than devoting years of my life to politicizing.

In fact, changing the world may be as easy as one small movement with my face muscles.  Just doing this one small thing can potentially make a difference in the world, not just for me but also for those around me. Some might say that this one small thing can affect change more than all the money in all the foundations in all the world. That’s a whole lot of power.

The one small movement that holds all this power? A smile. It seems grandiose to say that a smile can change the world. But I fully believe in the power of positivity; I’m positive that positivity can change the world and I’m positive that a smile can spread positivity. Just imagine how you feel when you smile. That happy, joyous feeling that floats inside you, bubbling to the top of your body and bursting out your face like the sun breaking through the horizon. Sometimes when I’m feeling pessimistic I almost don’t want to smile because I know that it can change my attitude almost instantly and sometimes I just want to be grumpy. But a smile has that kind of power. There’s a reason people say that a smile can light up your face.

Hello Happiness, Goodbye Sadness - AgoodcauseAccording to a 2009 study done at Wayne State University, a smile in a photograph can predict longevity and an overall better life. It states, “Emotions affect personalities and life outcomes by influencing how people think, behave, and interact with others…” Our emotions affect how we behave and interact with the world around us. The study goes on, “People with positive emotions are happier and have more stable personalities, more stable marriages, and better cognitive and interpersonal skills than those with negative emotions, throughout the lifespan…” So, positivity can change the world because it makes for a better home and life. Smiling is truly a worthy cause.

Sadness is an important emotion too, don’t get me wrong. Pixar’s “Inside Out” taught us that very important lesson–sadness needs to be felt and expressed because if we ignore it, it will cause a chain reaction and tear down all our islands of personalities. But when it comes to being sad or being happy, most importantly we should choose positivity. Because although, we can’t literally change the world with just a smile, we can change our attitudes and interactions with others just by smiling.

So, let’s all smile a little more, we just might change the world.

Study: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797610363775

Author: Briana Pugh

Growing up my Dad always told me one thing that really made an impression–I am an independent person and I have complete control over my thoughts, words, and actions. It is a foundational belief that I have held since that time. I believe in taking responsibility for our actions and feel that the old saying “nobody can make you do anything,” is one of the truest statements ever made. I believe that we should all be agents that act and that are not acted upon. Which is why I chose that saying as a tagline; “The effectiveness of a gym is not dependent on the people who exercise there.” When we go to the gym, it doesn’t matter who is working out there or what they think about you, when you walk into that gym no one is going to make you lose weight or do it for you. YOU control you and you get out of the world (or gym) what you put into it. I strive to live my life with that mindset every day.

I am a mom of three wonderful children–a spunky girl and two rambunctious boys; each a character in their own way. I am married to a kindhearted man who loves me and supports me in every way. He inspires me every day to do my best and he has made my life 100% better. I graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. One of the first books I ever read was Danger at the Fair and from that book I wanted to be a writer. My main goal in my writing is to inspire others and spread truth. I have a passion for truth and God and hope to inspire others with that passion.

I am also a lover of movies, watching and making them. I love to read (duh). When the day is done, and my kids are asleep I enjoy sitting down to watch a good show while eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Just plain vanilla ice cream, no toppings, no fuss. That’s exactly how I like my life–a little sweet, no extras, and definitely no fuss.

I am not perfect, and I try every day to make improvements in my character. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it is that belief that drives me every day. I believe that happiness happens within you. If you want to be happy, BE HAPPY.

Funny Thing About Miracles

The week between Christmas and New Years is usually spent eating food that will add to your waistline, lounging in your pajamas, and planning New Year’s resolutions that you will probably never keep. But for my family, the week between Christmas and New Years of 2015 was a rocky start to a bad two years. My husband John went in for what we thought was just a routine performance review at his job, but instead he was fired.

With no significant savings, no plan, and two kids under two, the next two years was not a walk in the park. At least not a nice park. It was like Central park–unusual, terrifying, and full of thieves and vagrants. Our bank account was closed, our family van was repossessed, and we soon faced impending litigation. John found a job in September, only to be fired (again) before Christmas. In the summer of 2017, John found another job and we waited pessimistically for the inevitable, but thankfully this job stuck. Now, with a third baby on the way we were desperate to replace the van we’d lost. To do so would not be difficult, it would be impossible. We needed a miracle.

There’s a funny thing about miracles; they’re not always big, parting of the sea kind of miracles. It’s because of this that most people think miracles don’t exist. But miracles do exist, most miracles are just small and usually go unnoticed by anyone else except to whom they are happening. Miracles also usually come when you least expect them, and for us, that was Christmas Eve.

That night the stockings were hung, still with care but with removable hooks on the wall because we live in an apartment and there is no chimney. I in my yoga pants and John in his Hurley baseball cap had just settled down for a long winter’s nap–but we’re parents, so a short winter’s nap–when there arose a knock on the door.

A knock is a different sound entirely from Santa coming down the chimney but just as surprising as any unexpected guest. We opened the door to see, not Santa, but people who could easily be described as bringers of gifts. Their names were Ryan Schooley, Jessica Ferrin, and Tom Moak–angels from Chubby’s. They came bearing gifts; food, toys for my kids, and most inspired, a van.

Ryan spoke to my husband, “John I have been where you are now–down on your luck and praying for a miracle. But now, I am able to buy my family a new van. So I want to pay it forward and give you our old van. The only thing I ask is that when you are on your feet again, you do the same for somebody else.” We accepted the van and the promise with tears in our eyes. Now, you see, what transpired that night, after all we had been through, could only be described as a miracle.

Author: Briana Pugh

Growing up my Dad always told me one thing that really made an impression–I am an independent person and I have complete control over my thoughts, words, and actions. It is a foundational belief that I have held since that time. I believe in taking responsibility for our actions and feel that the old saying “nobody can make you do anything,” is one of the truest statements ever made. I believe that we should all be agents that act and that are not acted upon. Which is why I chose that saying as a tagline; “The effectiveness of a gym is not dependent on the people who exercise there.” When we go to the gym, it doesn’t matter who is working out there or what they think about you, when you walk into that gym no one is going to make you lose weight or do it for you. YOU control you and you get out of the world (or gym) what you put into it. I strive to live my life with that mindset every day.

I am a mom of three wonderful children–a spunky girl and two rambunctious boys; each a character in their own way. I am married to a kindhearted man who loves me and supports me in every way. He inspires me every day to do my best and he has made my life 100% better. I graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. One of the first books I ever read was Danger at the Fair and from that book I wanted to be a writer. My main goal in my writing is to inspire others and spread truth. I have a passion for truth and God and hope to inspire others with that passion.

I am also a lover of movies, watching and making them. I love to read (duh). When the day is done, and my kids are asleep I enjoy sitting down to watch a good show while eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Just plain vanilla ice cream, no toppings, no fuss. That’s exactly how I like my life–a little sweet, no extras, and definitely no fuss.

I am not perfect, and I try every day to make improvements in my character. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it is that belief that drives me every day. I believe that happiness happens within you. If you want to be happy, BE HAPPY.

The Fuel Behind aGoodCause

This is a true story as told by Luke Brandley, Co-Founder of A Good Cause Global, LLC.

The summer of 2017 was a world-wind of tragedy, narrowly escaping death, and massive medical expenses that were extremely daunting.

One late evening in July, my  healthy and beautiful wife was sitting on our couch when she unexpectedly had a seizure in her right arm.  Immediately, after the seizure she lost all movement in her legs – she became paralyzed from the waist down. This was very terrifying. Her legs were paralyzed for nearly two months.  The doctors discovered that she had a Chiari Malformation that exceeded 15 millimeters protruding from her brain. The Chiari was pressed hard against the spinal cord and blocking it from receiving enough fluid; therefore, interrupting her brain from properly communicating with her legs.  At length it was determined that she would have to have brain surgery.  

Unfortunately, it got much worse before it got better.  In the first attempted surgery she almost died.  Thank goodness that the second attempt at surgery was a huge success.  Months later, miraculously and thankfully, she is now walking again. I call her my miracle girl.

While my wife and I were at the hospital – I stayed with her nearly 24/7 – our neighbors fed our 9 children, built a ramp for my wife’s new wheelchair, my mother-in-law came and stayed at our house to care for our children, and I believe my wife was prayed for by hundreds of loving people from at least four continents.  I could not believe the tremendous outpouring of generosity and thoughtfulness by so many. A dear friend brought me dinner, up at the hospital, numerous times.  People came to visit us and brought love and gifts, and drove my kids around to their activities and sporting events. I was truly in awe and overwhelmed by the goodness of others.

Yes, we were going through an enormous trial; however, at the same time I was sincerely thankful (and forever will be) for all the tender mercies and genuine miracles that were happening all around me by the unbelievable kindness and generosity rendered by so many people in behalf of my family and I.  

It is true that “when it rains, it pours”.  While my wife was in rehab at the hospital, our son complained about his heart beating too fast.  Well, come to find out, his heart actually exceeded the heart monitor he was required to wear (over 250 beats per minute) so, he was brought to the same ER that my wife had been rushed to only a few weeks earlier.  He too had to have surgery – heart surgery.  Beyond adequate words to express my earnest feelings of inexplicable gratitude, his heart surgery was also a success.

This entire ordeal taught me that life is so very fragile, each moment on planet earth is a gift, and that there are so many seriously amazing people that endow others with small acts of kindness that truly make all the difference.

When many people come together to support a good cause, it makes a ginormous impact.  I knew from these tender moments that, going forward, my life would never be the same and that I wanted to do for others the same sort of  kind deeds that so many did for my family and I.

These experiences, and many more like them, have been the fuel behind creating aGoodCause.com.

Author: Luke Brandley

I am super grateful to work beside my partners to humbly offer the world the ultimate fundraising platform. As we minister to the relief of others, their burdens become lighter and our lives become enriched.

I love, and strive to live by, the immortal words of the late Barbara Bush when she said,

“Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people – your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.”

Get engaged in a good cause today!

Plant Flowers and Grow Your Relationships

Michelle is one the greatest examples of a what it means to be a loving and selfless individual that I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet. I often crossed paths with her while she was providing some act of service for another individual: bringing a hot meal to a new mom, visiting a lonely neighbor in need, or helping to drive a handicapped woman to the airport. All this was done while carting around her two-year-old and even still while she was pregnant with her second child.

Though life wasn’t always a walk in the park for Michelle, she always managed to wear a smile and bring sunshine into the lives of those around her. Her cheery disposition and positive attitude made it easy to become instant friends with her. She always offered a happy “hello” and had the best advice when you needed it. I remember one specific conversation Michelle and I had about why it was important to reach out to others and make friends.

I expressed some frustrations about how fluid my life was at that time. It felt that anytime I met someone new and started to develop a relationship with them, they would graduate from school or get a new job and move someplace else. “I would like to have more friends, but it’s almost pointless for me to try and meet new people,” I said to Michelle, “because in a matter of months they’ll move and I won’t see them ever again.”

“Well,” Michelle began, “Reaching out to others and making friends is a lot like planting flowers. Some flowers only last a season before they’re gone. But the time you spent tending to those flowers, pulling the weeds, and helping them grow wasn’t wasted because you got to enjoy their beauty while they were in bloom, even if it was only for a little while.”

“And think about the positive influence you can have on their life as well. If you take the time to listen to others and better understand their needs, you will be better equipped to provide some type of service for them during the short time that you knew them.”

It is tough when the flowers in our lives fade away, but that doesn’t mean we should never plant them. Michelle taught me that not only does getting to know others brighten our own lives, but it opens the door for us to be able to serve and help them when they need it. As we make an effort to get to know those around us, whether it’s our neighbors, the waiter at our favorite restaurant or a fellow coworker, we increase our social circle and our opportunities to serve others.

This week, take a little extra time to try and get to know those around you better. Here are three simple ways you can try to plant flowers and grow your relationships.

Ask the grocery store clerk how their day went.

Odds are that you shop at the same grocery store at the same time every week. If that’s the case, you probably run into the same grocery store clerk quite often. This week while picking up your carton of milk and bag of chips, ask the cashier about their day and try to remember their name. That way the next time your paths cross you can call them by name and start a conversation easier.

Write a “Thank you” note to an acquaintance at work.

It can be surprisingly easy to go through the motions at the office and not really get to meet the people working around you. This week take a few moments to write a quick thank-you note to someone you would like to get to know better. Not only will it brighten their day, but it will also help to grow your relationship with that individual.

Bake your neighbor some cookies.

Everybody loves cookies, and sharing some with your neighbor is a great way to start a conversation with them. Bringing over a hot plate of chocolate chip cookies will give you a few minutes to ask about their family and how everything is going in their lives. You can even use this visit as an opportunity to offer to help with anything they may need, like raking their leaves or carpooling for school.

Reaching out to those around you doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming, but the relationships you develop will help to brighten your life like a newly blooming tulip or a vase of beautiful red roses.

Author: Brindisi Olsen Bravo

Brindisi has been writing professionally for small business for almost four years. In college she studied Advertising and Women’s Studies. She has written for a variety of clients about a range of topics including marketing, technology, healthcare, career development, education, charity work, and more. Brindisi is passionate about helping businesses establish their digital presence online through written content and social media strategy.