Picture yourself in my kitchen two nights ago. My husband and I just got home from work. I came into the kitchen a little later than him. I’d just hung up my coat and was starting to think about dinner. Here’s the exchange that followed.
Him: “Were things really crazy getting the kids out this morning?”
Me: “No, not really? School had a 2 hour delay because of the weather. I had extra time.”
Him: “Oh, because you left the cereal out on the counter.”
Me: “Oh ok. Sorry.” (Meanwhile I’m wondering where he’s going with this conversation.)
Him: “…And then I saw that you put the milk away in the pantry.”
Me: “Wow. I really didn’t sleep well last night.”
Sleep matters. For most of us, it matters a lot. The only thing that makes being sleepy better is getting more sleep. I want to make that clear because this post will not help you with being sleepy. It can ONLY help you with being tired. Being tired is a completely different animal than sleepy. Tired is more about energy and motivation. Sleepy is about a physical need to restore your systems. But it can be hard to distinguish them from each other. The chart below has some examples that might help you tell them apart.
|“I wonder if anyone would notice if I got 15 minutes of sleep here at my desk.”||“I don’t really feel like taking a nap, but I do feel like laying in my bed.”|
|“I keep trying to get online, but the light from the screen is giving me a headache.”||“Wow, have I been on this site for two hours? I can’t get anything done today.”|
|“Where did I put my keys? Not again!”||“Since I’ve gotten up and gotten my keys, I should probably head to the grocery store. But man, I really don’t feel like it!”|
|“God, please give me the strength to feed these kids tonight.”||“Why can’t these kids feed themselves yet?”|
So are you sleepy or are you tired? If you’re sleepy, stop reading and at least rest your eyes. If you’re tired, read on.
- Chances are good that you will be getting up tomorrow. Life is short, but more than likely it will be pretty long. It’s probable that you will get up tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. Point being – You are going to have a lot of waking hours to pass time in.
- You will be putting in work. If you have any obligations such as family, friends, and/or a job you will be performing work during a large part of your waking hours. Point being – Doing things that need to get done is going to be a required part of your day every day.
Can we agree on these two things? Sounds simple.
Getting up and putting in work will likely happen every day of our lives. We are going to do it regardless of how we feel about it. But what if putting in work partially feed us with energy instead of merely draining it? That’s basically what “inspired action” is. Inspired action is also a type of work but it’s work that feeds us emotionally. That’s different from plain-old “action” which is work we have to do because we’re awake and we have responsibilities. In many small ways, we can shift our thinking toward viewing work as inspired action. Most if not all of that shift has to do with intentionally trying to serve others. This can be done in small ways while doing your daily routine. Inspired action leaves you more connected and energized. Since we’re going to be awake and putting in work anyway, it just feels better to be serving others.
And it makes us A LOT less tired.
Don’t believe me? Try it for three days. I don’t mean taking time off from your job to do more community service. I’m talking about serving as part of your normal day. Easy examples are letting someone in front of you in traffic, correcting a small problem for someone on your job, or getting a meal on the table for dinner. Consciously and intentionally think of everything you do as service and then see how you feel.
Are you tired enough to try it?
Like any mother, the safety of my sons is constantly on my mind. So this week has been scary. I’ve wondered if there is an entire US state where I should not send my sons to college. I’ve wondered if a place that I associate mostly with Mickey Mouse is a place where the law can’t protect their lives. I’m not an expert on these cases. And this post isn’t about that. If I’m being honest, I’ve tried not to follow the cases too closely. They scare me too much. They make me feel small.
I was reminded by a friend on Facebook that individual lives may feel small at times, but they are powerful.
This was his response to one of my status updates.
“Think globally, act locally. If everyone looks after their family and friends, a geometric progression suggests everyone is better off and taken care of.”
Here are six things we can do whenever we’re feeling small.
- Be still. Notice that I didn’t say pray. Prayer is speaking to God. Stillness is allowing time to listen.
- Cook for someone. Sure you can eat some too, but cook with the idea of serving and nourishing another. Any recipe will do.
- Seek out a child. There is something about a child’s energy that neutralizes defeat.
- Find art that moves you. My favorite book is Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I find it hard to believe that a person could weave together a story so complex and vivid. It reminds me that humans are capable of beautiful things. Sometimes I need the reminder.
- Take up someone else’s cause. We all have struggles that are unique to our position in life. Help someone else with theirs. Embody the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
- Serve in the way that only you can. If you aren’t sure what that is yet, refer to #1 on this list.
What do you do when you’re feeling small?
About a week ago, we had an opportunity to talk with college-bound teenagers about money. We had their full attention once they saw the charts of average starting salaries for different fields of study. Clearly graduates from some fields (mostly in the hard sciences and technical disciplines) made much more money than others. Some fields required additional graduate degrees and that meant a potential for larger student loan debt.
We still encouraged the students to follow their talents and passions. We talked to them about how passion would play out in the long run which was loosely defined as 10-15 years into their career. It’s passion that drives people to work harder, smarter and network better. Then those passionate people get promoted, make more money and far outpace their peers financially. Passion is still an important factor for long term financial success.
Honest Conversations About Money
So why even give them the starting salary data if we still think they should consider any field they like? The point was to have an honest conversation about money. It was to help them make an informed decision about which field to pursue. It’s a complex decision. We also discussed the social and emotional impact of making more or less money than their peers at any stage of life. We acknowledged that some jobs would always pay less than others even if they’re successful at them. This talk was to help them make decisions about their life and the role money will play in it. Deciding how important each factor is to them is something they will have to do on their own.
Even as adults we are often left uninformed about the social and emotional factors surrounding money. When I was single, it was hard to make decisions and place priorities on my money. Should I save more for a rainy day or take a trip with my family? When I got married again it became even more clear that I needed to learn and communicate my financial needs better. I say “needs” and not “wants” because how much we derive pleasure, connection and/or security from money is core to who we are. These factors aren’t simple preferences that can be ignored. This is something you may already know if you’ve ever managed money with someone that doesn’t share your financial values.
Luckily, there are resources to help us get informed about our financial preferences and have more honest conversations about money with each other. The link below will take you to an online tool that will ”find your money mind” and uncover your personal biases about money’s value. A friend suggested this site to me and I wanted to pass it on.
Three Types of “Money Minds”
- Happiness: The Pleasure Seeker
- Committed: The Giver
- Fear: The Protector
Once you take the quiz for yourself you can also take it with someone you manage money with. This will give you insight into your collective priorities and styles. You will also get communication tips to have better and more honest conversations about your needs.
So what does this have to do with service? Everything. Money has a huge impact on our relationships and resources. Our relationships and resources will have everything to do with how and who we serve.
Who else wants to have an honest conversation about money?
Oh Saint Valentine – sometimes we love you. Sometimes we hate you. And we know very little about you. There may have even been two Saint Valentines. But one of the saints died on February 14th. Why we celebrate his (or their) legacy of love is the subject of much debate.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a saint.
When I look across my life it is hard to ignore that there are things I regret. I’ve hurt people. I’ve failed to be the person I hoped I was. Thanks to God that hasn’t been my whole story. I’ve also loved deeply. I’ve been fiercely loyal. I’ve encouraged and protected.
People are complex and they are neither good nor bad. We can’t be a “good person” nor a “bad person”. All the things we do are part of who we are. I’m working to make peace with that. I’m working to forgive some of my past faults and focus on my current actions.
“Legacy” appears as just a word, but embedded in that word are a bunch of questions.
- What will you be known for?
- How will your life have mattered?
- Who did you serve?
Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to work harder at answering those questions. Every day we can get up in the morning and have another shot at building our legacies. I hope you have a great one!
How are you spending your Valentine’s Day?
It’s hard to ignore the elephant in this month – Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day stirs a variety of emotions for people (and not all are positive emotions). I feel blessed that Valentine’s Day sits in the middle of our glorious February. It reminds us that we get to decide what a day focused on love means. We get to decide how we spend this month and with whom. We get to live our unique versions of love.
I encourage you to focus February on serving those you love. As in January, you will find this month’s service ideas below. Try them if you feel inspired or create ones of your own.
February Service Inspirations
1. Make a special Memory game and give it to a loved one.
- Select 10 photos of you and a special person together (or places you’ve been together).
- Print 2 copies of each photo in 4×6 for 20 total pictures.
- Paste each photo on an index card. Make sure each index card is the same color.
- Trim the extra photo around the edges of the index card.
- Play Memory with your loved one revealing moments together at each turn of a card.
- Let them win (optional).
2. Prepare an Emergency Kit for your family or someone else you love.
- More information can be found at http://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit . Pray you never need it. But make sure those you love would be ready.
3. Stock someone special’s car with healthy snacks.
- Custom made trail mix and water are great ideas. I like almonds, cashews, and dried cranberries but there are many options out there. It’s inevitable that they will end up in their car hungry or thirsty. That’s when they’ll think of you.
4. Give flowers or a plant.
- This might seem cliché, but I’m a firm believer in the power of nature to heal and restore.
5. Give them your undivided attention.
- This shows up in almost every list. It is one of the very best ways to serve someone. Anyone. It is especially a good way to serve those you love.
Who do you love?
How would they want to be served?
Serve Simply Service, by sharing or tweeting this post. Thanks in advance!
A few days ago, I was talking to an online friend (that I don’t know well in real life). He was dealing with suddenly becoming internet famous and not knowing how to adjust to it. I have absolutely no experience in being famous so I could only offer my real life experience of adjusting to divorce and remarriage. Throughout the conversation I kept referencing things my husband and I had recently discussed. He asked, “Do you two typically have such deep conversations?” And this is where Deac comes in.
Let me tell you a little more about Deac. He sleeps a ton, but when he’s awake he has a lot to say. He is sarcastic and witty. He is short tempered and fiercely loyal. He has an ongoing vendetta with my super sweet mother that happens to not be “a dog person”. He thinks he outranks the kids and they should constantly “freshen up his water”. And he has apparently lived a life full of celebrity interactions and coincidental brushes with current events. We talk about Deac and what Deac told us often. By often, I mean every day. By every day, I mean several times a day. It’s funny. We like it.
And it allows us to not take life so seriously.
Service can seem like a serious topic. It gets people thinking about the big things in life – love, legacy, and purpose. But it doesn’t have to be so serious and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. Below are 10 easy ways to serve in 5 minutes or less. So you can start serving right now.
10 ways to serve in 5 minutes or less
- Tell someone a joke. Laughter is good for the heart.
- Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “Hey I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes”.
- Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
- Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
- Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
- Pray for someone.
- Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
- Teach someone something. Anything.
- Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. I admire how much patience you have with me).
- Give someone you love your undivided attention.
This is just a start.
What other ideas do you have?
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. - Aesop
Protect. Survive. Teach. This list sums up my parenting goals in their simplest form. I focused more on the first two goals (i.e. protect and survive) when my boys were younger. Let’s call that phase of life “provival”. When parenting in provival mode most of the life lessons you teach are meant to stop your kids from hurting themselves. Other lessons teach them key life skills (like not going to the bathroom in their pants) that help you all stay sane. I remember that phase well and have great sensitivity to those with young children currently parenting in provival mode. Protecting and surviving is probably all you have the mental, physical or emotional capacity for so I will tread lightly with offering tips for kid friendly service projects. These projects are meant to be quick and easy and to plant the basic principles of service in your child’s heart. Do them if and when you have the energy for them. Don’t feel bad for a second if that time doesn’t come until your child is much older. Practicing service can never come too early, but it can also never come too late. Serve on!
- Handing out happy: Join in with your child to make “Happy Awards” out of paper and any other art supplies you have around. This can be a very quick project or more elaborate based on your time, supplies and energy constraints. Once done, take the awards along on your next errand run. Allow your child to nominate people displaying happiness and give out their awards. This act of service is sure to brighten up everyone’s day and make grocery shopping a little more fun!
- Walking and serving: Help keep your community clean and beautiful. Take a 15 minute walk with your child around your neighborhood looking for litter to collect. Make sure to bring a plastic bag and plastic gloves for collecting trash. Depending on the age of your child they can be in charge of identifying trash only or actually be a part of the collection/disposal of the trash.
- Drawing with a purpose: Turn coloring time into a service project by dropping your child’s finished masterpieces off at a local hospital or nursing home. There is nothing like the beauty of a child’s creative mind to add a little joy to someone’s day.
- Running a mini-food drive: Have your child ask family, friends and neighbors for non-perishable food donations. They can even make an advertising sign to help promote their cause. Be sure to take them along when you drop off donations to your local food bank.
It still seems strange to me that Peyton Manning chooses to shout out “Omaha!” while calling plays. To me, it’s a tame word for him to have chosen. I probably would have gone with something like “Eagle!” or “Raptor!” or even “Dragon!”.
This week’s post is being written from Omaha, Nebraska. As a girl from New Jersey, I’m not sure I ever expected to end up in Omaha (or Nebraska for that matter). We are staying in a part of town called Old Market which is filled with mid to high end restaurants, boutique shops, and many (read: many) art galleries and art inspired stores. The area has lovely historic architecture that is really beautiful. It’s the kind of place I could visit over and over again. So I’m not sure what I expected from Omaha, but I know it has far exceeded my expectations.
I’d have to say the same thing about the feedback I’ve gotten from you on your passion for service. In the last month, I’ve had all kinds of conversations about what service means and how it is playing out in your lives. I’ve also uncovered ways to serve and organizations that weren’t previously on my radar. Thanks to all who have shared these. I’ve compiled a list of ways readers are serving that have recently come my way. Maybe some of these will become additional inspiration for your next act of service or even your lifelong service mission. Or maybe not.
Either way, I know you’re serving in some very important ways already. (Visit these posts if you think you aren’t serving anyone because I bet you are). I look forward to learning more from you all so please keep sharing. Serve on!
WAYS YOU’RE SERVING
- MLK Day of Service (http://mlkday.gov/): Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” On the MLK holiday, we are being challenged to “take a day on, not a day off”. Go to this site for information on group events and ways you can support in your local community. I know many of you will be doing this on Monday!
- David’s Hope (http://www.davidshope.org/): This came to me by way of a local Police Chief. His wife has made several trips to Kenya to do community development for a small rural town. He will be making his first trip this Spring. I like their website because in addition to donating money and going on mission trips, they refer to prayer as a distinct way you can serve their organization. If you can’t find the money or time to serve right now, maybe prayer is a contribution you might be interested in.
- Acts (http://actspwc.org/): This is a local Virginia non-profit so you may need to research other organizations similar to this in your area. What I found interesting about this organization was that it has a volunteer job called Senior Link Caller. The Senior Link Caller makes phone calls to homebound seniors in the community. Calls are to check-in and connect, and to assist with referrals to resources if they have any immediate needs. This was passed on to me because I lost my grandfather last year and wrote a post about it. The thinking was that it might be time for me to call someone else’s grandfather.
- Tigerlilly Foundation (http://tigerlilyfoundation.org/): I recently met the founder of this organization. Beautiful woman! She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. Since her recovery, she has built a non-profit organization that focuses on financial and emotional support for women between the ages of 15-40. I’m thinking about running in their 2014 Pink Boa race.
- Life Missions (http://tlc-missions.com/): My cousin left Thursday on a mission trip to Nicaragua with this organization. She will be serving on the medical team. Go Tammie!
- Pets On Wheels (http://www.fpow.org/): This is another local Virginia organization, but if you do a search there are likely similar organizations closer to you. Pets On Wheels connects pets with people living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. A friend’s dog used to be a part of this program which was just another way this family dog shared love and served. He is nearing the end of his life and time with his family. She reminded me of his service this week in a tribute to him. I think our dog might be a perfect candidate for this program too. Something I’ll have to talk to him about.
- Learning to cook: My hairdresser told me last week that she has a New Year’s Resolution to learn how to cook better and serve more home cooked meals to her family. She invited a friend over to teach her a new dish which I thought was a great way to learn and spend time with someone. Needless to say, she was very proud of the meal she served that night.
- Caring for graves: At the start of the holiday season, there is an effort to place wreaths on the graves of soldiers in many cemeteries across the county (US). Driving to the airport a few days ago, Arlington National Cemetery was still a beautiful tribute to our soldiers with the wreath covered tombstones in glorious display. During the rest of the year, you can find volunteer opportunities to maintain and beautify soldier’s graves all across the country. This is a passion of a fellow reader.
- Serving your Parent Organization: If your child attends a school, there is a pretty good chance you have a PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) or something similar that supports the teachers and administration in making the school the best it can be. There are a variety of ways to serve from time donated to fundraisers to serving on in a Board or Committee leadership group. If your children are grown, this is still a place you can serve the schools that helped build their foundation. I heard from a passionate grandmother that has been in a PTO for over 25 years.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of walking my extremely wonderful and recently divorced friend through setting up her eHarmony profile. I was impressed with the depth of the questioning process. One of the questions took a long time to answer because it steered our conversation off-topic. It asked her to select the type of religion(s) or spiritual affiliations that she seeks in a potential mate. There were many options and she could select all that she would be willing to consider. One option was “Spiritual, but not religious”. She had a hard timing imagining exactly what that meant.
I shared with her my perspective though I’m not in any way suggesting that this is an official or all-encompassing description. It is just how I view the distinction between “spiritual” and “religious”. For me, the word “spiritual” refers to a core set of beliefs. The most universal is the belief in a supernatural force that exists in the world. Spiritual people may call this God, the universe, or many other names but it always relates to the idea that there is an unseen order in the world. This order can’t be proved empirically or through our senses, but a spiritual person still believes in this concept. I view “religion” as the particular set of rules and rituals that a spiritual person guides their life path by. So in that sense, all religious people should be spiritual. But all spiritual people don’t have to be religious. They may choose to pursue their spiritual path on their own and without engaging with organized religion.
There are other concepts that are typically believed by “spiritual people”. Some examples are:
- Faith that positive things will occur. (Also called “trust in the universe” or “setting intentions” and many other names.)
- Giving thanks for what you currently have.
- Believing that life is a series of lessons and that negative things happen for the purpose of teaching those lessons.
- The importance and power of setting time to build a deeper spiritual connection. (This is called by many names from prayer to meditation to advanced yoga practices.)
When I think of the last bullet, I realize that I’ve tried all three of the examples and have absolutely felt a deeper spiritual connection while doing them. I now see serving others as a spiritual practice similar to prayer. There are three things that I look to get from my prayer or meditation time. At times, I have experienced each of those things while serving.
- It clears my mind of the non-stop internal chatter. When I’m focused on serving others, I’m also enjoying the rare mental silence that allows my heart to awaken with spiritual awareness.
- I’m not focused on myself or the importance of my place in this world. I feel part of a system that connects us all at our core. This concept reminds me of a quote I once read (but can’t for the life of me remember who wrote it) that described people feeling like individuals to waves feeling separate from the ocean.
- There is a peace that comes over me. It is like I briefly understand my place in the world before my mind wakes back up and starts telling me how important I am again.
I know these are very hard concepts to get across through writing, but I believe that many have experienced these through their own spiritual practice. I hope some of you have experienced this through the practice of service. If you have, I’d love for you to share it with me. I’d love for you to share it with others. No pressure though, I’m happy to have shared a connection to you just because you chose to read this. Until next week, serve on!