Don’t Give Up – Give Back

Photo from W2W Soul

Ever have those days where you’re  just not happy with your life. Out of nowhere, you start picking apart every little thing and trying to figure out why it just wasn’t as good as you want it to be. You know exactly the type of day/mood I’m talking about – you don’t like your job because you don’t find it fun or because you don’t feel like you’re doing enough; you don’t like your house because it doesn’t look the way you want or isn’t in a location you really want; you don’t like your car because it doesn’t have a CD player or because it’s not as new as you want; you don’t like yourself because you don’t feel you’re good enough at anything to consider it your “true talent” or you just feel lonely… The list can go on and on. And thinking about all these things that are “not good enough” for you on those days makes you start thinking about how on earth you can fix it all and it quickly becomes completely overwhelming. The only way to fix your life is to get a better job, make more money, buy a house in the country, buy a new car, and completely change who you are by next week because you simply cannot go on living the way you are any longer. And since that’s practically impossible, you just shut down and want to give up. It’s not worth fighting through all these obstacles, so you might as well just surrender and try to keep on living.

Photo from Mike Duran

Giving up is the easiest thing to do, sure. Surrendering seems like the best alternative at the time, I know, but have you ever stopped to think about why you all of the sudden are thinking all of these things? Where did the thoughts come from? You didn’t really feel like that yesterday or last week did you, so why now? And even if you did think that yesterday or last week, what exactly makes you feel that way? For some of you, it definitely may be time for a job change, a new living situation, etc. But before you go spending a bunch of money on something that may not even solve the issue, ask yourself one simply question: what in your life right now gives you joy on a regular basis? (and video games do not count) It is important to have things in your life that bring you joy on a regular basis – and by regular basis, we’re not talking once a year or when they happen randomly. Something consistent. Something real.

Chances are that you couldn’t think of anything too steady considering where your mind was at – if you did, that’s fantastic and you should probably do more of that and see what happens. For those of you who couldn’t really think of anything (and even for those of you who did), it may be time to invest some of your time in something that can bring you joy. And I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to get joy is to give joy to others who need it, one way or another.

Photographer Unknown

 My suggestion is to find a place where you can volunteer your time to give back to your community, to your country, to the world in whatever way you would like. Pick something, give it a try and if you like it, try to make it a regular thing (once a month is a good goal – once a week if you can). If you don’t like it, look for something else and give that a try. I can pretty much guarantee you that you will see joy increase in your life, whether it’s through appreciation for what you have, seeing the smiles on other peoples’ faces that you’ve been helping, making new friends, realizing that your life isn’t all you were thinking it was and that you were just missing something, etc…. There are some amazing opportunities, people and experiences to be had in volunteering your time to give back, and one of the things you will get back is pure joy – that puzzle piece you were missing for a moment there.

Photo from Alicia Kata

Not sure where to look for opportunities to give back? Here are just a few options that come to my mind:

I’m willing to bet you think the Red Cross only needs medical personnel… But this is very far from the case. If you visit the Red Cross Volunteer Match site and search around your location, you will find various opportunities. For those of you living around Nashua, current opportunities include:

    • Disaster Action Team (preparing food, clothing and shelter in case of disaster)
    • Maintenance Volunteer (janitorial work at a local chapter)
    • Youth Services Administrator (work with youth in Red Cross Clubs)
    • Community Events Coordinator (help plan fundraising activities, fairs, etc.)
    • International Services Intern (working to educate others about fundamental human rights, international affairs, etc.)
    • Health & Safety Sales & Marketing Consultant (assist in promotion of health & safety courses)
    • Disaster Planning Intern (help plan for and prepare for disasters)
    • Office Assistant (front desk and clerical a couple hours per week at a local chapter)
    • Volunteer Management Team Member (Manages and coordinates local chapter volunteers)
    • Community Disaster Educator (give presentations to groups about ways to prepare for and live through a disaster)

If you have at least 4 hours a month to spare, enjoy working with young people and think you could be a great role model, Big Brothers Big Sisters is definitely an organization to look into. Littles are kids of all ages and backgrounds that do not have an older sibling to look up to – some may only have one parent – and they are striving to find someone to look up to. There are two types of programs – Community-Based Mentoring and Site-Based Mentoring. Community-based mentoring takes place about one hour a week and the Bigs and Littles share time together in their community playing basketball, sharing stories and spending time together. Side-based mentoring takes place about one hour a week in schools, libraries or community centers sharing in the same types of activities. You can learn more about becoming a Big at your local Big Brothers Big Sisters website.

Whether you choose to believe it or not, every town and city has people who live every day without a home, not knowing where they will sleep that night or where they will eat. There are many ways you can help those in your own community who are less fortunate than you, and here are a few ideas:

    • Get together any clothing items that you no longer wear (especially shoes and jackets) and bring them to a clothing drop
    • Donate canned goods and food items to a local food pantry or soup kitchen
    • When I was in college, there was a group that got together on Saturdays I believe and we would make sandwiches and bagged lunches before heading into Boston and giving them out to as many homeless people as we could, taking time to chat with them as well. I wouldn’t say this is for everyone and I would encourage you to only do this with a group during daytime hours, but it was definitely a wonderful experience
    • Check in at your local food pantry or homeless shelter to see if they need volunteers. For you Nashua area folks, the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter is always looking for volunteers and they are open every day of the year. Have a look at their website to see where you can help, including areas such as:
      • Sorting donations
      • Unloading deliveries
      • Preparing foods for evening meals
      • Coordinate a food drive in your neighborhood
      • Dinner shift help for serving food & beverages, cleaning tables & washing dishes

While there is definitely a need right in your own backyard for food, clothing and shelter, there is also a great need overseas in third world countries – children either abandoned by their parents, orphans of HIV and aids or slowly dying with no way to overcome the poverty that has stricken their whole country. With organizations like Compassion International, you can sponsor a child for as little as $38 per month which gives that child nutritional meals, education, medical aid, the nurturing care of a local church and the message of Jesus. And don’t worry – you’re not just sending your money away with nothing in return. You will receive pictures and letters from your child – and will also be able to write back! Can’t do it on your own? Pair up with some friends! If you would like to see what sponsoring a child can do, simply check out this video and have your tissues ready.

Again, these are just a couple of ideas that come to my mind, but there are so many more ways to give back in your local and international community. What can you give?

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