There is Black Friday, Cyber Monday and I recently learned that today is Giving Tuesday. Of the three days mentioned today is my favorite day because is focuses energy not on consumerism which, no matter how hard you try, can never fuel or feed your soul like generosity. In generosity there is a feeling of reciprocity which comes in many forms. You do an act of service, a random act of kindness or donate money and what you are doing is giving of your time, money and resources for the better good of a community and of the future. Giving is another way of expressing gratitude. By giving, we receive more beyond knowing that we are contributing to something greater than us, but the fact that, when we focus our energy on good, we receive good in return.
I was raised in a family where community service, volunteering and giving back is a core value. Community service comes second nature to me and I have always enjoyed it. Over the course of building my career for the past 8 years, I haven’t been able to give back to the community to the extent that I dreamed I would when I was a teenager. Choosing to balance my life last year has changed my life and called for me to be mindful on how I lead my life going forward. My new long-term goal, to continue to develop my voice and develop myself as a motivational speaker, has led me down an interesting path this year. In fact, it has shaken the foundation of the life I was building since college.
This year I had the opportunity to speak on three occasions to various groups of teenagers. I have really enjoyed each group that I spoke to, and I have learned a lot about myself as a speaker. I feel I am on the right path to something bigger beyond my dream to be a filmmaker and perhaps beyond my vision for myself as a speaker.
A woman I met a few months ago presented the most recent opportunity to me to both volunteer and speak to at-risk teenage girls. For the past four Saturdays, I worked with a program called Awaken Arts. It’s a non-profit organization that is built on the foundation that “Creativity is the Catalyst for Healing the Soul.” Through the program we provided arts mentorship to at-risk teens. The boys and girls are broken up by sex, and each weekend we guide them in an art project as a large group and then break them into small groups to learn a new art form. I taught improv.
I didn’t know what to expect going into the program, all I knew was the stories of the students from abuse, violence, drugs, lack of guidance and/or poor decision-making. The experience of being a mentor was AMAZING. Through the process of working with the girls and hearing their personal stories, I felt a deep sense of compassion for them. It has always hurt me to hear of the struggles and challenges people experience in life, but specifically for those who experience them at a young age. The optimist in me did my best to help them as a group and one on one to see the lessons that they can take from their past to help leverage their future. I advised them to let go of the stories from their past that they are holding on to, to forgive themselves and share their story so they know they are not alone. By the end of the program, I was proud of all of them for their growth over the four weeks. Despite the dark moments from their past, I am inspired by their bright visions for their future. These girls can still dream in a way that we lose as we grow older or as life slaps us in the face or figuratively speaking, when we slap each other in the face. Of all the teens I have worked with in service, over the years, this group of girls has profoundly affected and changed me in a way I cannot describe. I am thankful for the experience and thankful for what I have learned from working with the girls.
Today, on giving Tuesday, please take a moment to think about the abundance in your life from beyond money to love, friendship, belonging, support and imagine your life without all or some of the mentioned items. There are people in this world who you don’t know and people in this world that you do know, who are lacking in one or many of these blessings. Take a moment today to pause and give back to your community for no other reason than the simple fact that we are all human, we all struggle and someones struggle today may be your struggle tomorrow.
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