Give a gift to 29 Gifts. My co-writer, Angel Stork, and I are looking for new giving stories that are under 2000 words. To submit your story for the book, simply POST it in the Great Giving Stories For Inspiration Discussion Forum here: http://follr.com/Communities/29Gifts/Discussion/20587
*PLEASE ALSO EMAIL your submission to email@example.com (Microsoft Word or just paste your text into the body of the email)
Today I had the chance to give some gifts. I visited a few people next door and also neighbours. I asked them how they are. They are feeling better now. Thanks for your prayers. I also had the chance to play with a girl 5 stones but I have forgotten how. The girl giggled as she too does not know how to play yet. But she is learning. She was happy to have us spend some time with her.
I received a gift that really touched me. The woman who lives next door to me speaks Spanish and I speak English. We've exchanged smiles but haven't been able to go much beyond that. I take a medicine that makes my hands tremble. It's hard for me to get the trash out to the dumpster. About a week ago I was trying to lift a heavy bag while controlling the shaking in my hands. The woman next door saw me from her window and rushed out to take the bag from me. I tried to tell her she didn't need to do that, but she was insistent and carried the bag to the dumpster. I thanked her both in English and the few words of Spanish I know. She just smiled, put a hand on my shoulder, and said, "It was the right thing to do." I hope I remember her kindness the next time I see someone struggling physically or emotionally.
I visited two friends last week. They were happy to see me and my girl. We shared some experience washing clothes, taking care of kids. Also I had the chance to chit chat for some time forgetting all my worries. I also had visited my friend for chanting nama for prayers.
29 Life Lessons: Reflections On Living and Giving is the much anticipated sequel to Cami Walker’s New York Times best-selling self-help memoir, 29 Gifts: How A Month of Giving Can Change Your Life. 29 Life Lessons includes personal stories from Walker and members of the 29 Gifts global community, self-help prompts, and creative giving tips.
29 Life Lessons tells the story of the growth and evolution of a global goodwill movement. It is part memoir and personal essay, part self-help workbook. Some of the stories will have visuals to support them, such as photos, drawings or other art. Authors Cami Walker and Angel Stork artfully weave colorful giving stories from the 29 Gifts global community members to illustrate the transformative power of giving in all areas of our lives.
The following nine “Slices of Life” categories will be used as sections to help organize the content for the reader. In addition to moving “real life” giving stories, each book section will include prescriptive giving tips and creative "lessons" to help readers more fully open to the natural reciprocity of the universe. *Personal Growth and Self Love *Health and Well-being *Creativity and Self Expression *Calling and Career *Abundance and Wealth *Family and Friendship *Love and Romance *Spiritual Growth *Community Connections
Future books could be rolled out from each category, each with a collection of personal essays, netting a total of nine additional titles in a series.
Cami Walker founded the www.29Gifts.org movement in 2008. She lives in Denver, Colorado with Charlie, her 5-pound rescue dog. Her writing has appeared in O magazine, Oprah.com, Women’s World, Psychology Today and others. Walker was interviewed on the Today Show, NPR, and many podcasts.
For 29 Life Lessons, Walker will collaborate with co-writer Angel Stork, an original member and contributor to www.29gifts.org. Stork has been a spiritual teacher and coach for 30 years. She is a published author and blogger living in Northern California.
How to Submit: Sign up at www.29gifts.org and post your 2,000-word personal essay in the "Great Giving Stories for Inspiration" discussion category. Please also email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yesterday I visited my friend and spent some time with her and her brother making them laugh with my stories of cooking.... yeah my cooking was too salty as I have started using the other salt and no idea how much to put. The other day I forgot to put and always do not taste it to see if it is good..... so no salt curry..... My friend is not able to go outside as she cant walk far. So most of the time at home only.
In chapter 12 of #29Gifts I read a piece of prose at a friend's birthday party. My editor chose to only include part of the piece. Here is the full story.
River Rhythm by Cami Walker
The green river before me makes me forget for a moment all we've done to it. When you see it from a distance, out of its current context, you miss out on its shame. The reddish-orange rusty hubcaps and sunken beer cans. It's sad, sad molecules now something closer to H2WhoKnowsWhat. The swooshing sound of flowing wind on water that helps to drown the sorrow it surely must feel when it remembers what it used to be. Underneath the surface, squishy bright green algae tries to cover the scars left by endless feet wading at its shore.
The yellow leaf that drifts by on top is a symbol of the river's hope that someday soon we'll all wake up and stop filling it full of muck. Even though I didn't know this river at its birth, I have a sense of its former self. Awash with happy flow. Crystal clear with life. Its memory held inside the rocks rubbed smooth with time and the tallest trees that have stood witness to its toils.
I sit here wondering what this river thinks about those who play at its side. Does it look up and see the little blonde boy with the red shorts and sunburned nose and feel proud of the joy it's giving him? Does it giggle when it tickles my feet? Does it wonder at the crazy family with its baloney sandwiches and fritos? Does it marvel at the lovers who've come to make out at its banks? Does it see all this happy activity and think the sacrifices it has been forced to make are maybe all worth it? Its pained state somehow ok?
I lean back on my elbows and close my eyes to ponder what this river knows about each of us. I bet it can testify to more of our lives than we'd believe possible. I bet it remembers the aqua blue headband you wore the day you met your husband on the bridge upstream. It could probably tell you the secret ingredients in your grandma's tart apple pie that she used to bring to the family picnics by the big oak tree on the north shore. I bet the river even knows that you used to steal packs of bazooka bubble gum from the corner store if the cashier wasn't looking when you went with your dad on a quick beer or cigarette run -- you in your yellow and black polka-dot swimsuit with the ruffle across the butt and river sand between your bare toes.
As I dose on the riverbank and let the flowing water ease my sadness, I think to myself what a perfect companion it really is to us all. It listens but doesn't judge. It understands but doesn't preach. It embraces us in familiar acceptance and reminds us that when we're all gone back to the earth and the light that made everything out of nothing, it will still be here. Flowing. Singing our song.
My giving journey began as a personal challenge in anticipation of my 40th birthday earlier this year. The challenge was to spread 40 acts of kindness in the 40 days leading up to my 40th birthday. Throughout the 40 days, I collected supplies for a local animal shelter, volunteered for local organizations that feed and clothe needy children, wrote letters to the military, left goodie bags for the garbage collectors, and so much more. I started an Instagram page, @Fabfortykindnesschallenge, and kept track of my good deeds there.
This challenge was a game changer in both expected and unexpected ways. I knew I would gain more from this journey than any of the recipients of my acts of kindness would. As a stay-at-home mom, whose to-do lists look pretty much the same from one day to the next, this kindness journey gave me a renewed sense of purpose. Like so many others who commit to a month or more of giving, my challenge didn’t stop after 40 days; it became a way of life. My forty days of kindness helped me see that opportunities for giving are all around me, and opened my heart to respond to those opportunities.
Once my 40-day kindness challenge was over, I started to feel like something was missing. Although kindness had become a habit, I wasn’t actively looking for a NEW giving opportunity every day. After reading 29 Gifts, I understood: I was still giving when giving was easy but I wasn’t giving intentionally. I knew I needed to start again; and as Lent approached, I decided to start another 40-day giving challenge. Instead of giving something up for Lent as is the usual custom, I was going to give for another 40 days.
The outcome I didn’t expect from this little challenge of mine came from the Instagram page I had set up to track my acts of kindness and the giving challenge. I was following inspirational people on Instagram, and had gained some followers of my own. Social media had become an avenue to share my challenge with others, with the hope that if just one person completed a challenge along with me, I would have doubled my efforts for that day.
But it was about to get bigger. In late March, when I was in the midst of the Lenten giving challenge, I received a direct message on Instagram, which said:
“Angela, my name is Drew Myers. I’m the producer/host of the Defining Audacity Radio Show. I wanted to gauge your interest in coming on my show. We can record a 20-minute interview over the phone any time. Let me know if that would interest you at all. I want to discuss your kindness challenge.”
My initial reaction was “No, thanks, I DON’T want to come on the radio and talk about my challenge. I am not a public speaker, and there’s no way I could give an interview. And, anyway, why me? There are SO many other people who ‘do good’ on such a larger scale! Why not talk to THEM?” But a small part of me saw this as an opportunity to share my story with an even bigger audience and perhaps inspire other people to do something like this. So I accepted Drew’s invitation to come on his show.
Over email, Drew shared with me a little about his radio show. The Defining Audacity Radio Show, he said, “encourages people to #liveonpurpose, to stop saying ‘I’ll just do it tomorrow’ and start living a bold, adventurous and intentional life.” Drew said the show had recently been putting an emphasis on showing kindness and he wanted to share my journey because he thought I was “over-the-top intentional about showing kindness.”
If the 40-day kindness challenge was a game changer, then talking about my kindness challenge on the radio was a walk-off home run! After conquering a huge fear of public speaking, I now felt bulletproof! I was ready to live intentionally in all other areas of my life as well. At Drew’s suggestion, I made a “Life List,” a list of things I want to do in my life (think: Bucket List, but with the emphasis on the “Life” part). I now wake up every day with a sense of purpose and intention. Instead of thinking “Ugh, what do I have to do today?”, among my first thoughts every morning are “How am I going to make this day count?”
In 29 Gifts, Mbali asks Cami to think, “What’s easy to give? What’s hard?” For me, it was easy to give gifts that were anonymous, and difficult to give gifts that made me more visible. And yet, here I was, talking about my acts of kindness on the radio and sharing my radio podcast with friends on Facebook. As a result of my being bold and sharing the story of my kindness journey with people that I knew, I received comments from friends who listened and were inspired to think they could do something like this too. One of my friends said her 8-year-old son listened to my interview and then spent the next day planning some random kindness acts that he could do. If the goal all along was to reach one person, then I had proof of success right there!
In this new undertaking to give daily and to spread kindness wherever I go, I really feel like I am starting to make a difference in the world, or at least my little corner of it. I know that I am a better wife, a better mom, a better daughter, sister, and friend. I’m a better PERSON. And all of that happened because of a little kindness challenge that I began in order to overcome the dread of turning 40.
Submitted by Angela Stanley, Wake Forest, NC, Stay-at-home mom to 2 boys and creator of the Fab Forty Kindness Challenge.
The biggest gift of my life came as a huge surprise. His name is Henry Zane Walker-Foster. My sweet son who turned three on March 5th, 2016. The night I gave birth—an emergency c-section under general anesthesia—was dramatic, to say the least. My potassium and magnesium bottomed out and Henry arrived on this planet six weeks early. Who knew such a magical being could arrive in a tiny bundle. Since I don’t have a single memory of the actual birth thanks to the anesthesia, it was baffling to wake up a little blue swaddled baby on my chest.
My second husband and I were not planning to have any children, and I did not enjoy pregnancy. My son is a miracle because we both almost died getting him here. I was 39 when I made a mistake with my birth control one month. I vomited so much during the week prior to when my period was due, I suspected immediately I was pregnant, in addition to the “morning sickness”—which really lasted all day. My breasts and belly were swollen and I felt some general tiredness. The fatigue was normal for me due to my multiple sclerosis. The other symptoms were too much to ignore.
I had a history of miscarriages, so worried, I went to my general practitioner on a Monday. She examined me and did a blood test. The results were negative. She also told me I had a blood condition called RH-, which means there are pathogens in my blood that attacked the fetus. Thus the explanation for my four miscarriages. She gave me a shot of a drug that was supposed to protect a fetus, if I decided to carry a child.
When my doctor came back with results--not pregnant. I was relieved. I was taking a lot of medication, including a once-a-month IV infusion for my MS. All of my doctors recommended not trying to move forward with a pregnancy, but my heart would not let me let go of the idea that, maybe, somehow a child would be part of my future. I was working as a freelance motivational speaker, traveling a lot to tell the 29 Gifts Story. My second husband, and I were living in Santa Cruz. I flew out to do a speaking gig and when I got home Thursday my period was now late and I was still puking. I did not know it at the time, but it would be my last speaking gig after three years of traveling I would literally be grounded.
I went to the doctor again, this time with my husband. My regular doctor was booked so we saw an older guy who didn’t know my history of miscarriage. He came back in after the blood test was done smiling.
“The test was positive. You’re pregnant, congratulations.”
My response was to burst into tears in shock “Oh, my God! We can’t have a baby.” Then I ran out of the exam room. My husband got me calmed down a little in the truck on the way home. “Maybe we will be a family,” I said to him hopefully.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but carrying Henry would be the biggest accomplishment of my life, and we would not look like your typical family. My (now separated) husband was a drinker. He was a binge drinker. He would stay sober for weeks, but would then go on a bender. It made getting through the pregnancy even more challenging.
My first concern was to get into my regular GP within days. She told me I needed to go off several of my medications, but she wanted me to stay on my pain meds. My age, MS and slightly nutso tendencies combined with the hormonal mess I became would prove to make it a rocky road, to say the least. I considered aborting the baby, and two times had procedures scheduled, and each time I couldn’t make myself go through with it. I knew the little boy growing in my belly would be even harder than it was to write and publish my fist book, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change your Life. I often describe the process of writing book as being “pregnant” and “giving birth.”
After consulting with some OB specialists, my husband and I made the commitment to see the pregnancy through to the end because there was a little being growing in my belly who deserved a chance at life.
I got a very bad infection in legs from walking barefoot on a hospital floor, which put me on bedrest after a 10 day hospital stay while they pumped liters of IV antibiotics into my veins trying to save both me and the baby. I also developed dangerously high blood pressure, yet another complication. I found myself needing a wheelchair for the first time and was put on bedrest, which was a huge challenge for someone who was used to flying all over the country speaking for MS Society and other organizations.
Our team of doctors saw me through several psychiatric hospitalizations in Santa Cruz until they suggested we move home to the Midwest where we had family support. We decided we would make Denver home again. My parents and one of my two sisters lived just three hours away in Western Nebraska. My husband had a brother in Denver. Denver was where we met. I arrived VERY pregnant and very mentally unstable on Christmas eve 2013 by plane and my parents picked me up in Denver. My husband stayed in Santa Cruz with the huge task of pack up what we could bring back.
I was kept on opiates-- wich i dont take today because the extra 45 pounds, my MS and the high blood pressure combined left me in constant pain. My ex and I were struggling in our relationship due to his alcoholism and my hormonally induced insanity; there was abuse on both sides. But one thing we agreed on was to do we would get this little being to the planet. I was shocked when the ER ushered us straight upstairs to Labor and Delivery. The lead doc on the team came in with the anesthesiologist, saying they were going to have to change our plan.
The birth plan was to be admitted to the hospital for two or three days so the doctors could take me off certain meds, then have a c-section. Henry had other plans. Instead my ex rushed me to the ER because I started having contractions and after talking to the team of doctors, they decided to deliver right away because both the baby and I were in danger. This would mean a month long stay in to the hospital for tiny Henry as he was slowly detoxed on Methadone, fed through a tube and generally cared for by the nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. My mother rushed to Denver and between my husband, myself and my mom, one of us with Henry much of the time. I could not get out of bed so the nurses would bring little Henry in so I could hold and bond with him.
The morning after waking up a new mother, a social worker, showed up in my room. I was still heavily sedated and thought she worked for the hospital. Kathy Jeffery, she was a small black woman with serious attitude. She handed me a business Card and it said she was with the Department of Human Services. She started asking me questions about why Henry was born addicted, which made me uncomfortable. I told her my doctors were all aware of all all substances I was on and that, including the opiates and medical marijuana she seemed concerned. I also told her I wasn’t feeling well enough to talk and that I would feel most comfortable having an attorney present before I answered more questions. I knew DHS was child protective services, and they had the power take my son.
The truth is my husband and I were not prepared to be parents. We were living off my disability income (both unemployed). Plus there were police reports from the domestic violence. I knew as I listened to the DHS investigator question my husband and mother outside my room. I recall yelling at them several times to NOT answer questions without a lawyer, but they didn’t listen. My disruptive behavior earned me a “sitter” which was a security guard who sat in my room and recorded every time I peed, who came and went from the room and what was said. I made it my mission to befriend the guards. One drew me a picture of an angel. Another Left me a little cross. Another bought Henry a tiny shirt with the hospital logo on it. The nurses were also phenomenal. Despite my best efforts and doctor care, my mental condition deteriorated as the stress of DHS intervention continued and post-pardum depression took over. I went into the bell jar and saw no way out. Depression so crushing. I do not even remember giving birth to my son, but I’ll never forget the day I was told by Kathy Jeffery and some other social workers and doctors who were supposed to be looking out for the best interest of my “case” filed into my hospital room and told me to temporarily sign over my rights to Henry. He was finally eating on his own and, though still on methadone he was deemed healthy enough for the hospital to release him into the care of two foster parents who had six other kids. My husband and I were crushed by the state’s decision. We spent six months together after the birth, visiting Henry weekly together for two or three hours a week.
When Henry was six months I had another mental breakdown because my husband told he was leaving me. I ended up in an institution for two weeks this time. When I got home, the house was cleared out the house of everything in our nursery – the crib, the bottles for feeding. Everything. He took the bed from our spare room, one of our sofas. There was a sticky note on our little family picture that said, “I love you. You will be ok.—K”
He told me over the phone while I was locked up that he was leaving me to pursue custody of Henry on his own. By this point, Henry had been moved to a second foster home where he was an only child. He really thrived in their care. He was off the methadone and growing, though he was still small for his age. This couple taught Henry to swim as an infant and showered him with love because they wanted to adopt him. The caseworkers for the state had told us Henry would be adopted when he turned a year If one of us could not parent him.
One day, I had an emotional breakdown in the bathroom after one of the visits. The case workers called 911 and I was taken to the hospital and placed on yet another mental health hold. This time I was out before the 72 hour hold expired. I came home and realized the friend who I had asked to look over my house had actually stolen my credit card and charged it up and he took and pawned my wedding and engagement rings from Kevin, a computer, several digital video cameras, two expensive cell phones, countless other items, my identity and dignity. Neighbors told me he had a party and there was a parade of shady both men and women in and out of my house. I had to call the police to have him removed from my home.
I would later realize this friend had a problem with meth and had a relapse during this time. I should never have trusted him to look over the house I can see now, but hind sight is 20/20. I found the pawn receipt at one point while trying to put my house back together and called them. Nothing was left and the police did nothing with any of the information I provided. They had bigger fish to fry than catching this guy.
This story isn’t done but wanted to post it… will update it later...
Occasionally I get to work with famous people. Angelique Kidjo came to see me via a French restaurateur I have known for many years. She and Angelique have known each other for an equally long time. Angelique was in town for a performance at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, touring and stressed, so my friend sent her in for a massage and healing session. Angelique was exhausted. Months of touring through many different cities, keeping odd hours, sleeping in hotels and handling ‘road’ food were wearing enough. Back home in Benin, her father and one of her brothers were dying. And Angelique could not yet go home. She talked about her life and her inner conflict between her current commitments to appearances and to being with her loved ones. It was easy for me to think she could just chuck it and say, “I have to be with my family.” I would. My job was not to push her (life was doing that), but to help her to relax and to let go of her stressful attachment to time and space and people for a short time. After her treatment I walked Angelique out to the car, where she immediately got on the phone. I felt a bit sad thinking how little control she had over her life. Had my French been up to par, it might have registered with me that she was calling to arrange a ticket for me to her performance that evening. Chagrined, I realized how little time “off” she had just had, and yet she did not hesitate to get on the phone to do something for me. I saw a few more clients that day for massage and spiritual coaching. I finished about 7 that evening without much energy left for more than a meal and a walk around the block. But a small insistent voice inside urged me to go to Angelique’s performance. By the time I arrived and found a spot for my car on the north side of the Berkeley campus, I was very late, certain I had missed most, if not all of the show. That night Zellerbach thrummed with happy, dancing, jumping and howling folks of all ages, colors and sizes. Within minutes of my arrival, Angelique introduced the band (each player from a different African country), and gave each time to display their talent and share the unique sound from their culture. She talked about the roots of rhythm reaching the heart of all cultures, the power of music to unite people around the world. After another exciting piece, she stopped again to talk with the audience. A hush stole over the room as she told us to be kind to one another, that if we are to change fear to love in the world, we must begin in our hearts and at home, and to remember to actively, deliberately “love the people you love and tell them you love them often, today…” because “you never know when (if) you will see them again.” I realized then what a great and noble act Angelique is in all aspects of her life. She did not dramatize or bare her personal grief and emotional conflict. Instead, she gave us a powerful reminder of our slender connections to this life and to those we love. It struck me that she had transformed her personal tragedy (the immanent deaths in her family) to a universal call to active love and unity, to be real in relationship, and to heal the old wounds that separate us from one another. I was humbled to realize how one person can influence thousands of people all over the world, every day through her music and messages of love, peace, justice and compassion. In Shamanic Healing work we often drum for others. Our teacher encourages us to “put people on the drum” as a way to build power and transfer or send that energy to those in need. Angelique’s concert was such a building and transference of power—the power of love. The evening soared to and end with a hundred or more people cramming onto the stage to dance with Angelique--children, grandmas, guys in suits, hippies, students--a fairly complete slice of humanity. I would have joined them but for the hundreds more jamming the aisles, dancing and whooping all around me, gleefully blocking my path to the stage. The joyful uproar of drums and voices had shaken the tension and smallness out of me and I gladly lost myself in the crowd.
When I graduated massage school in 1991, I told my class that my goal was to heal the world, one massage at a time. I believe that each of us hold the power to change each other’s lives in some small way. Small things become big things. I figured each person who received a relaxing, rejuvenating massage would go home a kinder and gentler citizen, a more loving spouse, a more present parent, a more self-respecting being. Imagine hundreds and thousands of people transmitting and receiving love, peace, charity, encouragement, justice and hope. Keep going. Imagine the small changes making bigger changes in the way we treat each other as nations, ultimately to how we relate to the living entity that provides everything we need for life: Earth.
Some of the greatest service we offer to one another is in our transformed pain. This is the path of the wounded healer in action--to take our perception of injury, apply the magic of personal alchemy (time+pressure+insight+courage) and work it into a blessing for another. As we heal deep emotional pain, we open to deeper love, an energy that travels back and forward in time, changing our self-concept and rippling out into our sphere of humans. Thank you for reminding me why I am here! And Brava, Angelique!