TreeBranches

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

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

2014There is a natural synergy with the holiday season and the spirit of serving others, but January tends to be a month when we take on self improvement, self development and other individualistic pursuits. This year, I’d like to challenge you to consider adopting a service way of life instead of restricting service and philanthropy to November and December. Below are five ideas meant to get you thinking about ways to weave the spirit of service into a glorious start to your new year.

Consider trying one or two, but please don’t try them all. This will be a great year and I want you still with me come February.

  1. Take the time to notice the people around you. Many people are especially lonely following the holidays. Start in January to take more time noticing and engaging with the people around you and not treating those moments as mere transactions. This is something I often fall victim of as I can get caught up in my own thoughts and schedule. The smile, word of encouragement, or simply valuing their presence may be the only positive interaction they receive that day. Often people with numerous loving personal relationships tend to assume that everyone else has them with equal abundance – they don’t.
  2. Share your story. The New Year tends to bring on goals, aspirations and pressure to achieve perfect lives or perfect versions of ourselves. We have all been through some measure of difficult times and have failed to meet this ideal. I was an overweight adolescent, struggled with the early years of surrendering my life (and sleep) to motherhood, and still battle shame from a failed first marriage. It is important to share our failures with others just as it is important to show success to the world. People need to know they are not alone and more importantly that perfect lives do not exist. Don’t hold your story back if an appropriate moment to share it as a service to someone arrives.
  3. Try to burst out of your bubble. I consider myself a “glass half full” kind of person which in the past prompted me to turn away from topics that brought with it inherit negative emotions. I filtered my news consumption to just enough to be aware of what was going on in the world, but not enough to draw me in emotionally. I was concerned that if I knew too much I’d be emotionally engaged, but unable to help in ways that mattered or on the many things that might need my attention. In some part, this is exactly what happened when I started opening myself up to more information. I do give more financially now than ever before. Still, I know there are limits to how much I can do and for how many different things. But caring is also an act of service. This January, make a commitment to learn more about the world and how your actions (or lack of action) impacts that. I can’t and don’t serve all the things that move me, but I can align things like my consumer spending and political affiliations with my beliefs. If you are like me and hiding in a safe and uninformed bubble, spend this month making small or large steps to let the world in.
  4. Get active. Do you really want to go to the gym in January? We all know it’s going to be like a crowded zoo that will be cleared out significantly by February. I know there are many gym promotions in January so feel free to join now, but don’t start going until February. Spend January getting active in your community. We all have different passions so I won’t tell you how or where to serve, but use the spirit of the new year to push you forward and get you active. Let one of your new goals be to serve your community in a tangible way. Set a specific amount of time to volunteer and commit to it. I can promise it will be a lot easier to achieve this goal than your average New Year’s resolution.
  5. Out with the old and in with the new. This January you probably have many new gifts and toys around the house which has left some great quality items that have been replaced for newer models. Consider drawing a line in the sand and declaring your home a place where you have ENOUGH things and don’t need any MORE. That doesn’t mean that you never get new things, it just means you commit to donating things with every new purchase or gift. Do you have enough in your home? If so, spend January gathering things for donations and choosing the organizations you want to give them to.

What are some other ways you plan to focus on service in January? Tell us below. You know you want to. Happy January and serve on!