2016 Yearly Check-In

I know it’s been a hard year with all the bad news in the news. We lost Bowie and Prince; Brexit, the US Election, and the endless coverage of both were very draining. But I hope if you take a moment to look at your own life you’ll see all the good news that 2016 brought.

Volunteering

275275 Hours – Most of these hours were spent on Crisis Text Line helping people cope with all the bad news in the news. But I also got to experience my first Invictus Games, I volunteered hours giving blood and platelets, I made blankets and scarves, and a few hours here and there doing whatever I could. I can’t believe I spent an average of 45 minutes a day volunteering.

 

 

Charitable Giving

dollar

  • I’d have to go back and add up all the small donations I made this year. It wasn’t much because of the financial struggles in my life but when I gave I gave with all my heart.

 

 

 

 

Personal Kindness

heart

  • This year I really noticed as I sat down to write the nice things I’d done for others the first things that would always pop into my mind were the nice things others had done for me. It just showed me how these easy nice things you can sneak into your week make a huge difference in people’s lives.

 

 

Self Care

  • handI ran a marathon! And I have trained for another one in the beginning of January. The challenges of running long distances and committing to myself has been endlessly rewarding. It makes me feel like I can do anything.
  • I traveled. This year marked my first volunteering vacation and also my first time back in Europe in a decade. And I followed the Dalai Lama instructions to “Once a year, go somewhere you’ve never been before,” with a trip to Austin.
  • I took time to be calm and quiet and pamper myself when needed.

 

How’d you do this year? Are you ready for 2017?

I have big plans for 2017 that I will be announcing here on January 16th. I’m excited for the new opportunities and the new lessons that the new year will bring. Thank you for reading. Happy New Year!

Weekly Check-In

It’s #WorldSmileDay ! I hope your smile is more contagious today than ever!

Traditional Volunteerism

  • 4 hours Crisis Text Line
  • 5 hours My Friend’s Place
    • Jimmy Kimmel’s Yard Sale. I had a great time and ended up in the background of some clips that made it on Jimmy Kimmel’s show. He was there for a long time actually. It was a really good event even though I got a little sunburned.

Charitable Giving

  • $40 – My Friend’s Place. I ended up buying things at the yard sale, because who could resist? I still really wanted those working game show podiums! I just don’t have anywhere to put them. So I got a Christmas tree instead… which I also don’t have anywhere to put.

Personal Kindnesses

  • A new co-worker is also new to the company and the city. I’ve been trying to do what I can to help her get started and navigate all the new.

Self Care

  • New job!!! I’ve already decorated my desk.
  • Exercise. With my new hours I have time to wake up and exercise in the morning. It’s such a great way to start the day. I went for runs, did yoga, and Pilates.

How did you do this week? Share in the comments!

How to find Volunteer Opportunities

 

It’s time to wrap up the Volunteering focused quarter. This one seemed to fly by. It looks like I’m at around 145 hours so far this year, which puts me ahead of last year. Volunteering is my primary method of Being Goode. For me it’s both the easiest and most rewarding. I’ve never donated a lot of money but I always have time to give.

 

People always ask me how I found my volunteer gigs. I think one way is that I always have my eyes and ears open to possibilities. I volunteer for Crisis Text Line because of an article I found in a magazine. I came across the Invictus games because of a news article about Prince Harry. I started volunteering at 826LA/Seattle because I love the author Dave Eggers and it’s an organization he started. I volunteered at the Cincinnati Ballet because I took ballet classes growing up. A friend helped me get into volunteering at the Special Olympic World Games. I see things and wonder if I can help, and then I follow-up.

 

Here are some other ways to find volunteer opportunities –

  • Talk to Friends
    • Do your friends volunteer already? Ask if you can join them. If they aren’t already volunteering ask what they’re passionate about. There could be something you could do together instead of your normal activities.

 

  • Check with Your Employer
    • The company I work for offers lots of opportunities to volunteer. Fellow employees post volunteer opportunities on a monthly calendar that you can search. At other places I’ve worked they’ve posted things on the bulletin board.

 

  • Search for Organizations You Love
    • Is literacy something you care deeply about? Does homelessness in your area break your heart? Do you love the arts? Start from your passion and search the Internet. You’ll likely find a few organizations in your area and their websites will have links to volunteer applications.

 

  • Search by a Skill You Want to Share
    • Are you athletic or have coaching skills? Would you like to share some of your professional skills? Do you enjoy cooking? Can you knit or sew? You can often find a volunteer opportunity by your skills.  Girls on the Run and the Special Olympics both need coaches/runners. Many non-profits need people to help with accounting/data entry/marketing skills. Some shelters offer classes in basic life skills like cooking that you could teach or assist with. You could knit or sew things for preemies or other people in the hospital.

 

Whether it’s an hour or hundreds I think you’ll find it very rewarding. It’s also something you can put on a resume and a great way to meet new people. Often you’ll find that volunteer can be a once in a lifetime experience.

How do you find volunteer experiences?

 

Why Volunteer?

13332710_1007687955933088_2283599129097666209_n

 

 

Someone asked me the other day why I volunteer. They made some other assumptions but I’ll tell you the real story (as well as I can).

I’m also a writer and there is always talk about why you’re are a writer, who really is a writer, and what reasons are valid. The standardly accepted response is; Writers write because they have to. For me it’s not that simple. I could say I write because I have to, because I’m compelled to but I write to put my head in order, and I write to remember, and I write to communicate, and I write to understand things (like Didion). But mostly I write because I love reading and someday I hope to write something that will effect someone else the way that my favorite books have effected me.

I don’t have the same clarity as to why I volunteer. It’s partially because I always have. I started volunteering with my family when I was around 8 years old. Some if it is because I get to participate in pretty cool events, I used to usher to see plays or the ballet. Occasionally I’ll be invited by a friend. It does look good on my resume and that’s a real benefit. The first answer that always comes to mind is why wouldn’t I volunteer?

I think really though it’s how I feel when I happen to be in the right place, offering the right help, at the right time. When I feel like I actually might be changing the world.

Why do you volunteer? Are we all just crazy?

Weekly Check-In

Sorry for the absence… I had the worst cold last week that only allowed me the energy to do the necessities. Mostly I just slept as much as possible. I’m still getting over it and have a bit of a lingering cough but at least I’m awake. I had to miss my blood donation appointment though and am hoping I’m feeling 100% soon so I can get back on track.

Traditional Volunteerism

  • 4 hours Crisis Text Line

Charitable Giving

  • $0

Personal Kindnesses

  • I tried my very best to keep my sickness to myself. I avoided doorknobs and touching shared surfaces without breaking out the cleaning wipes. I wouldn’t want anyone else feeling this way.

Self Care

  • Letting myself be sick and just resting is hard for me but I did it. Lots of quality couch time.

How did you do this week? Share in the comments!

Making Sure Your Help is Helping

On Sunday I watched a piece on CBS Sunday Morning – When Disaster Relief Brings Anything But

It was devastating. One leader in the field had a slideshow of disaster relief disasters; piles and piles of unneeded clothing, warehouses full of unused teddy bears and toys. As someone inclined to help it’s upsetting to see that every little bit doesn’t count, that good intention is far from enough, and it reminded me how important it is to think about how best to direct our urge to help. The inclination to be kind is a spark, a wonderful spark, but to turn it into a healing fire it takes thought and restraint and work.

For me one of the harder areas of philanthropy is supporting our troops. I’ve written letters in support drives, sent scarves in care packages, and I clap and say thank you at airports but it all seems very misdirected.

There was an article in the NY Times last year about that – Please Don’t Thank Me for My Service – The article was wonderfully written and reinforced my instinct that I wasn’t doing enough or doing it quite right.

I’m so excited to go to the Invictus Games!  It’s going to be a fun event and maybe I’ll be able to get some insight into how to help. Sometimes the biggest sticking point is that we need those who need the help to guide us. They know best what they need but sometimes they don’t really know what they need.

I run across vets when I’m crisis counseling. I’ve seen PTSD in real life and what it means to be a military family. But I still feel like I’m missing some key, the answer is still in a code I can’t seem to break. What does “I support our troops” really mean and how can I stop it from feeling like a phrase in a foreign language? How do I make more than a beau geste?

Crisis Text Line

CTLlogo

“Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support for those in crisis.”

Crisis Text Line (CTL) was founded by Nancy Lublin in 2013. You can watch her TED Talk. I first found out about it in a spring issues of Marie Claire Magazine. When I first read about it I was immediately excited. It was right around the time that news stories came out about people in domestic violence situations who couldn’t call for help ordering pizza and sending message covertly. There are so many times when it’s too difficult to call for help because someone might overhear or just because sometimes it’s mentally easier to not have to say your problems out loud. I know I’ve had moments when I couldn’t speak without sobbing and texting would have been a welcome alternative.

The other thing that excited me about CTL is that it’s very data driven. I’m a bit of a nerd and think that gathering the data will only help us be better at helping in the future. They publish the data they collect here. You can see what issues come up when, where people are texting from, and even what time of day certain issues come up. If we want to end suicide, hate crimes, domestic and sexual abuse, etc, we need to know everything we can about it. By collecting and sharing the data CTL is helping more than those who text in.

Recently the cell phone carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, & Verizon showed their support by waving all charges for texts to CTL and making it so that CTL will not show up on cell phone statements. Crisis Text Line also works to refer texters to wonderful organizations like TWLOHA, RAINN, & The Trevor Project.

So now that you know how amazing CTL is – what can you do to help?

  • Spread the Word 
    • Tell everyone to text 741741 when in crisis. Anywhere, anytime. You never know what someone might be going through or when someone might need it. It’s nice to know someone is there 24/7 to help when you need it. Post this flyer – CTLTexterFlyer
  • Donate

    • Along with volunteer counselors we have amazing supervisors, trainers, and techs. The backend of the platform is sophisticated and always improving and needs financial support to do that.
    • You can send your tax-deductible donations via Paypal (link here) or by sending a check to:
      Crisis Text Line
      Attn: Finance Dept.
      24 West 25th Street, 6th Fl
      New York, NY 10010
  •  Volunteer
    • Being a volunteer is as difficult as it is rewarding. After an extensive application process about a third of those that apply are chosen. There is a six week training process and time shadowing current volunteers followed by a final exam before you go live with texters. You need to commit to four hours a week for a year. The training is wonderful and full of support as is the volunteer experience week to week. That said it is a huge commitment. There are the four hours on the platform, you’ll have hundreds of challenging and not always rewarding conversations over the year. You’ll need time to debrief and you’ll become an expert and self-care in your own life. It’s challenging to say the least. Conversations can be difficult for so many reasons from tragic situations to people who aren’t ready to accept help to the sheer volume of those reaching out to crisis that may remind you of your own. But. But there are moments when you know you’ve helped someone at one of the lowest points of their life and you feel like a superhero. You can be a superhero!
    • More information about Volunteering can be found here.

 

I’m so excited to be a part of this organization. Please consider getting involved and don’t be afraid to ask any questions you have.