Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Year of Giving

365 Days of Giving, aka Project 365, was one of my early morning “crazy” ideas (it might be a good thing that I don’t have too many of these!). Without much planning, or much insight into what it would actually take to accomplish, I set off on my journey of giving. There was a lot of doubt initially on whether or not it was feasible with a full-time job that requires traveling, an active social and family life, and the responsibilities of home. But I took it day by day and got creative in fulfilling each day’s commitment. 

The blog outlines how each day of the Project went but the Project did so much more! I knew I wanted to get my family and friends involved to show them that giving can be easy and simple, and lots of fun. They amazed me, not just with the amount of support they gave me, but with how involved they became in the Project. There were times when I thought I was going to have to skip a day and they came in with their encouragement and support to make sure that didn’t happen. They committed to days and events and joined me at many service projects. Some of them gave back for the first time, some gave back more than they ever have, and all of them had a great time giving back. There aren’t enough ways or words to express my gratitude towards everyone who helped out. I’m truly humbled by all that you’ve all done for Project 365 – THANK YOU!!

To all the service projects I was able to join this year – THANK YOU! You are all making a positive impact on our community and it takes a lot to go from randomly helping out to committing to helping out by setting up organizations to do just that! While each of these organizations had their own unique goal for making a difference, as a volunteer I got to see the widespread effect of these many organizations. The people behind these organizations are inspirational and they make it so easy to go out and give back.

Even though this Project was all about giving I feel like I got the most out of it. I learned a lot about myself. Helping people has always been something I’ve done, but not at the level of this Project and not in the many ways that this Project has allowed me to help. I learned that once I set my mind to accomplish something there’s really nothing that will stop me from reaching that goal. I learned that compassion for others and caring about others can be shown in many ways and I’m so grateful that it is something that feels natural to me. Everyone knows that smiling is contagious, but I really saw the impact of a smile this year and the difference it can make in another person’s day. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m the quiet one but this Project helped me open up to so many different people in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever done before.  I’ve made many new friends and I think most of them will be lifelong friends. I’ve learned that we can become really creative in our efforts to give back and make a difference, and that no idea is a bad idea if you keep in mind the people you are helping. I’ve learned that my greatest joy comes from giving to others, whether it’s listening to their stories or meeting their needs. 

What next? Even though the Project is over giving back has become a constant in my life, I don’t think I can stop now! I will continue to volunteer with some of the organizations I’ve helped out at so far, and will continue to find new organizations and more ways to give back. I won’t be writing a daily blog anymore but maybe I’ll write a monthly blog instead. To the wonderful supporters who read the blog – THANK YOU!! I didn’t expect all this support but I am so grateful for it and hope that you’ve found some ways to make a difference in your community (and I’d love to hear about how you’re making a difference!).

I started 2011 with one goal in mind – to give back every day. Now, 365 days later, I’ve completed this goal and have discovered that giving is a passion for me. It’s not something that you do for the applause and attention; it’s something you do because you want to, because it’s from the heart.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day 365

It was the PERFECT night at SafeHouse!! It started with some conversation with the man who lives under the bridge - he told Cindi and I the story of him getting hit by a pick up truck, and explained what egg custard is since neither of us has ever heard of it.

The crowd was smaller than usual, it being New Year's Eve and all, so I said hello to a few more people before heading inside to help make grilled cheese sandwiches. There was no church serving tonight, but the group visiting there and a few of us volunteers were more than happy to help put something together!

While doing that and having random NYE conversations with one of the ladies outside it seemed like something was going on there tonight, especially since some of my family members SHOed up! I was asked to come inside for something and walked in to see cake and cards set up in the serving kitchen! Once getting through the thank you's, the hugs, and some cake we started making plates with cake, sandwiches and bowls of potato soup.

We served the meal, had some conversations with a few more people inside, hung out with the awesome group staying there (Happy Birthday David!!) and of course the best volunteers anywhere!

It was definitely the perfect end to this project! Looking forward to going back tomorrow :)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Day 364

It was a quieter night at SafeHouse today, everyone's getting ready for the new year!

I spent some time talking to a gentleman about the winter shelter program - the rules, the program, and his thoughts on it. We then talked about how his job search is going, he's hoping that he'll have better luck after the holidays. Keeping my fingers crossed for him.

I also spent some time talking to a gentleman who wasn't feeling too well this evening. He's been feeling sick for a few days and today has been the worst! He told me about his day, he usually gets 3-4hrs of sleep a night, works a labor intensive job during the day, and is helping out at SafeHouse most nights. He doesn't eat much and is usually exhausted by the time he gets home.

I wish I could do more to help someone like him who's doing all the right things to get his life together to the point of exhaustion! For tonight all I could offer was a cup of hot soup, some green tea and some conversation. Hope he feels better soon.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 363

It was a fun night at SafeHouse this evening!

The group there today was amazing! They started by serving hot chocolate, then had a wonderful service, cooked some good food, and ended the night with smores around a bonfire!

I had some great food conversations, helped a gentleman figure out how old he is, did some cloud watching (and saw rainbows!), caught up with a gentleman I had not seen in a few months, and handed out shelter tickets at the end of the night.

Hoping for more conversations tomorrow :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day 362

There was no church serving at SafeHouse today, but some of the amazing staff there put together a meal that had everyone wanting seconds, thirds, and more! It was a simple meal: delicious soup, toasted bread, and fruit. The soup was the house favorite - I think it's a secret recipe!

We only had a few volunteers today too, so it was a busy night of getting everything into plates, bowls, and cups, serving, and of course having a lot of fun while we did all of that. I had a few minutes as we were serving to say hello to different people, and only had a few conversations before everyone came inside. So I'm definitely looking forward to an evening of conversations tomorrow :)

Kid and Hema - you guys are the best!! Thank you for coming with me tonight.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 361

It was a really really cold day in the city - thank goodness for the group serving there tonight! The doors were opened early to get people out of the cold, and the volunteers with the group made hot chocolate and served everyone while they were waiting for service to start. And they were making hot soup to serve with dinner!

I went inside and said my hellos to as many people as I could before it got crowded, conversation topics included weather, rainbows, leprechauns, and frogs! One gentleman spoke to me about doing good for others (even if it's just a friendly hello) no matter what kind of day he has had. He has a wonderfully positive attitude about everything and it's so refreshing to talk to him!

Since this has come up a few times :)
...the project will be over in a few days...all that means to me is that I won't have to write a blog at the end of the day. I still plan on volunteering about 3-4 days a week, primarily at SafeHouse but also Open Hand, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Global Soap, and Books for Africa, and then any other opportunities that interest me. This project has made a huge impact on my life, there's no turning back now!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day 360

The past few days have been emotionally draining but my night at SafeHouse was a welcome break from it all, filled with some good conversations and helping in the kitchen. I started off catching up with a gentleman I haven't seen for a few weeks. The last time I saw him he told me that he would be moving in to a winter shelter and would not need to come to SafeHouse for meals while he was there. But he stopped by today to socialise and it was great catching up with him.

The gentleman who lives under the bridge shared food stories with me :) We talked about fried chicken, butter milk and corn bread, and his all time favorite seasoning - Mrs. Dash lemon pepper seasoning. I'm definitely going to have to try this one out!

Before I left for the night I had a cathartic discussion (I think discussions can be cathartic, maybe). This gentleman talked with me about relationships in his life and the emotions that arise when some relationships end. We talked about making life altering decisions and how those decisions are clouded by emotions, as well as how sometimes it's better to wait and control the emotions before making a decision. We talked about trust and respecting yourself and the other person, because any relationship without those things will fall apart. He was talking specifically about his relationship but this is the basis of so many relationships.

As this project comes to an end, I'm once again reminded of how much this year has given me...