Tis the season for extra hours dedicated to my non-profit organization where I volunteer. We provide outerwear (coats, snowpants, boots) to kids in need. We have served over 400 people in three weeks.
We are exhausted. Inventory-wise, money-wise, personally and emotionally. It is overwhelming to see first-hand, the need, the poverty, the circumstances of so many -- too many people.
I know wherever you go you are being bombarded with requests for donations. You check out at a retail store they ask you "would you like to donate a dollar to St. Jude?" "kids with autism?" "Alzheimer's research?" You name it -- BOMBARDMENT. We are put in a position to say no at every turn because most of us are just getting by as well. Salvation Army bells are ringing at every corner, food pantries have bins at every grocery store, headlines constantly read Food banks need your help. Every time you see this, hear this, read this, you feel this. Eventually, it takes its toll.
Everyone needs your help. Hell, even you need your help.
We're becoming numb to needs. We have to, otherwise, how will we get through the day? There is so much need that we throw our hands in the air because we can't fix it all. The news is wearing on us, too. Stories of horrific tragedies, disasters, etc. -- all of which have a place to donate should you choose to. $1 here, $5 here, it adds up. How can we do it all? And that little voice in your head telling you how fortunate you are to have a roof over your head, healthy children, food on your table, that voice keeps chiming in, it's just a dollar.
I find myself saying DAILY -- please just let me win Powerball so I can help everyone in need. I can't help it. I am a fixer by nature. I know what it is like to struggle and I want to help anyone and everyone in my path. But I simply cannot. Admitting this is difficult. But it's true. I simply cannot do it. So I volunteer.
As I handed a pair of Princess pink snowboots to a little 5-year-old girl a few nights ago, she hugged them tightly in her arms and said, "I love these more than anything." Her smile lit up the room and my heart. It brought me back to earth. That's why we do what we do. That little girl might remember that moment and pay it forward some day. We can only hope. Another little girl, slightly older, tried on her boots and they did not fit. She said, "I think I can get one more winter out of the ones I already have so you can save these that don't fit me, maybe they will fit another girl somewhere.." That right there is proof that there is hope for the future. That little girl is wise beyond her years. That little girl gave me the energy I needed to push through another volunteer night.
On Saturday, I sat down and made my grocery list of things I needed to make our Thankgsiving dinner. As I continued on with my to-do list, I could feel my shoulders tightening, my teeth gritting, my blood pressure rising. How in the world am I going to get it all done? I have to work this week, volunteer, go to school programs, clean the house, get ready, blah blah blah. I got in the car and drove to the grocery store. It was so cold out. I cranked up the heat, turned up the music and made my way to the store. As I was driving, I noticed there was much more traffic than usual. Was there an accident? Why were so many people lined up in the road? What were people doing standing out in the freezing cold weather with their little children? As I inched closer through traffic, I realized it was the food pantry. Today was the day to get your turkey dinner from the pantry. Chills went up and down my spine as I saw babies' breath freezing in the air as their mothers held them in line for what I can only assume would be hours. I am an asshole. I couldn't help but think that. I know that seems harsh but that's the first thing I thought. First world problems lady -- yep -- that's me. Here I am complaining and stressing in my head about having to go to the store to buy my Thanksgiving groceries, and having to balance work with cooking, and running my kids to their extra-curricular activities. Perspective. The great silencer. I have invisible duct tape over my mouth now. I have a pasta strainer in my brain now to drain out the insanity of the things I was thinking just before I left the house. Remember to be grateful. Ok. I got it. I'm grateful, I'm grateful. Sometimes we just lose our way, don't we? Aren't we all just doing the "best we can"?
Our job as human beings is to live our lives to the fullest, make the most out of what we are given, maximize our happiness, health and brains, and hopefully somewhere along the line, show kindness to each other. We need to free ourselves from the burden of thinking we have to fix everything and everyone. We need to start with ourselves and work on fixing us, and making us the best people we can be, and then pass it on. Life is hard right now, but there is still beauty in every corner if you look with both eyes open, there is still hope in our hearts that things are getting better, there is still laughter and happiness if you allow there to be, there is still a bright side of things should you choose to find it. Whether you are in a position to help others because you are in a good place, or you are in a position to get help because you are hurting, I hope you can reach out and touch someone's hand, and hold on tight, ask for help, give something to someone, make amends with family, visit a neighbor, donate some clothes you don't wear, invite someone to your Thanksgiving table who might not have anyone. Something. Anything. We determine the world we live in... every single one of us. We might not be able to change the world completely, but we can make our little section brighter.
Until next time, take care of yourselves, be kind to yourselves, find happiness, joy and love within yourselves, so that some day you might pass it on.
Happy Thankgsiving to you and your family!