I'm a science and nature lover living in Tampa, FL where I work outdoors several days a week (yes, even in the summer heat!) as a living exhibits curator at the Museum of Science & Industry. I also blog and write print articles for Birds & Blooms magazine. I share my home with my husband of 17 years and 4 cats of varying personalities.
29 Gifts - Days 17 and 18 I'm getting ready to go out of town for a long weekend, to see my oldest friend and her family. I'm so excited about the giving opportunities that will be almost too easy to find over the days ahead! But in the meantime...
Yesterday, Day 17, I went to get my hair cut. My hair cuts are simple, take just a few minutes and cost only a few bucks. But the woman cutting my hair happened to have spent time living in the same Ohio town that I once did, and we made a nice connection talking about how much we really prefer living in Florida now. It was a fun 15 minutes, and I enjoyed surprising her at the end with a $10 tip on a $14 hair cut as my gift for the day.
Today, Day 18, I did something I normally wouldn't do. While filling up at the gas station, a man approached me with the typical "we just need enough gas to get home" story. My initial instinct, and in fact what I first did, was to apologize and say I didn't have any extra cash. But then, as I finished filling up my car, I realized my giving opportunity for the day was staring me in the face. I ended up going over and putting $10 of gas in their tank, and chatting for a few minutes. Was it a scam? I dunno. Maybe. But I realized that didn't really matter. It's not my job to decide if someone is deserving of a gift, or control what they ultimately use it for. What matters is the giving, freely and with good intent. Some might call me a sucker for putting gas in a stranger's car. But that's not how I view it, and ultimately, that's what matters.
With real giving, there's no need for second-guessing. The gift, and the giver, are what counts.
I encourage everyone to read your message, Jill. You illustrate a strong point or three about this process--the act of listening to yourself, with the doubt or moment of judgment, and then making the choice from a higher track of consciousness.
29 Gifts - Days 15 and 16 As I celebrated the 2-week mark (Day 15) of my 29 Gifts yesterday, I decided to use the opportunity to share this concept with my mom. Like Cami Walker, she also suffers from MS and deals with pain and challenges on a daily basis. Like me, she loves to give to others. I sent her an e-book copy of 29 Gifts and shared that it had had a great impact on me. I look forward to talking with her about it as she reads the book, and perhaps decides to try the 29 days herself.
Day 16 is also the Fourth of July here in the U.S., so it seems like the right day to give to the women and men in our Armed Forces who help keep us free and safe. I did a little research on Charity Navigator (https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=531) and chose Operation Homefront, which has a variety of programs to support those in the military and their families. My donation/gift is my way of saying thank you to those who help give us all life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness.
29 Gifts - Days 13 and 14 Yesterday's gift was to a friend of mine who's been having a tough week. We meet for lunch and I brought a fun adult coloring book and cute card for her thanking her for being an excellent human being. After a rough day myself on Day 12 where I struggled a bit to stay in a good frame of mind, I decided Day 13 was mine to seize. Having lunch out with a friend was a good start - I invited her spontaneously and we really enjoyed chatting and having a delicious meal. When I left, I felt so energized I was able to come home and get a great deal of work done, ending the day on a very high note. If I hadn't had this gift to give my friend, I may have just stayed home and let the ennui set in.
Today I co-hosted a Game Day at a friend's house. I provided most of the food and the games, as my gift to those who attended. In return, I received a lot of laughs and good stories to tell going forward. As an introvert, I'm usually tired after events like this (even when I enjoy them), and today is no exception. It's the "good" kind of tired, though, and I'm so glad we did it.
I'm halfway(ish) through my 29 days now, and I'm finding that one good thing to come out of this is that I'm more engaged with the world around me, and feeling more accountable for my actions, to society and myself. As I look for new ways to be motivated to take actions to improve my life, this exercise is helping to keep me on track in a thoroughly enjoyable way!
29 Gifts - Days 11 and 12 My gift for Day 11 was to set up a small monthly donation to one of my favorite bloggers (http://www.epbot.com/). Jen Yates is one of those people who works to make a living by being as awesome as possible and then writing about it - which basically describes my dreamiest dream. As I work toward making changes in my own life to make my goals a reality, supporting someone who's already taken the plunge and made the internet a better place through her actions is one of the best gifts I can think to give.
For Day 12, I prepared a "Christmas in July" box for a dear friend of mine. We live 1100 miles apart and only see each other every few years, but we love to exchange birthday and Christmas boxes each year. We probably spend more time on finding the right gifts, wrapping them just right, and packing them for each other to enjoy than we do on a lot of our family members. ;) We both love giving those boxes as much as receiving. Her birthday is in March, and Christmas is obviously many months from now, so I decided to add a "Christmas in July" package this year. I'd already starting accumulating things for her Christmas box and decided - why wait? It was fun to take my Christmas wrapping paper down from the shelf, create a personalized "Christmas in July" card, and get it all ready to go. I know she'll be thrilled to receive it, but my own joy in creating it was just as thrilling.
I absolutely LOVE the giving spirit of Christmas. As Scrooge so memorably says, "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." So, fellow Scrooges-Who've-Seen-The-Light, why not join me in celebrating Christmas in July this year too?
Today (OK, yesterday - I'm late posting again!) I was pleased to give the gift of publicity to a program that benefits the hungry - Plant a Row. This program encourages gardeners to plant an extra row in their garden and donate the produce to local soup kitchens and food pantries. It's simple in concept and supports local families. What's not to love?
As a writer for the Birds & Blooms magazine blog, I have the potential to reach thousands of readers across the U.S. and Canada. It's my hope that this blog post will encourage others to give the gift of healthy food - and hope - to folks in need in their own communities.
29 Gifts - Day 9 Today was a three-gift kind of day.
I started by taking a craft project I'd created for the Birds & Blooms Blog (Clothespin Flowers) to a friend when I visited her for work reasons. She's one of the kindest people I've ever met, and she deserves a great deal of happiness. My little flower craft wasn't anything special, but it will liven up her work space and be a reminder of how awesome I think she is. This was a gift of pure friendship.
Another close friend, and my closest co-worker, comes back from a 10 day vacation tomorrow. I left a small bouquet of zinnias cut from the garden on her desk, along with a "Welcome Back!" note. Returning to work after vacation isn't really fun, no matter whether you like your job or not (and lately, we do not). But flowers, with their cheery colors and happy faces, should make the transition a little easier. This gift was one of cheer and hope for a good tomorrow.
Finally, I had a chance to do a very spontaneous gift. A third friend of mine went through a difficult situation today - a kitten she was caring for as part of a foster program died suddenly. It was a shock, and of course very sad. To get her out of the house, her partner brought her to see me at work (and they brought me a smoothie, which was nice, of course), and we just chatted for awhile. After she left, I took some time to send her a series of baby sloth photos on FB (we both consider the sloth to be our spirit animal), one after the other, with funny (at least to me) commentary. I offered her the gift of distraction, (via cute baby animals) and empathy.
Some days, you get the chance to give multiple gifts. And those days are extra special, because it means you yourself had enough energy, strength, motivation, and kindness to send your extra out into the world. Rather than running to keep up, you're overflowing and need to share. Giving as a way of life isn't always easy, but some days it is. And those are days to treasure.
29 Days of Giving - Days 7 and 8 It's interesting to note that when you're a bit of a homebody, it can seem more difficult to find opportunities for giving spontaneously. Because I happily work at home and stay at home all day some days, it means I have to think a little harder to find opportunities to give.
Yesterday, Day 7 for me, I gave a small gift (a Grumpy Cat magnet) to a friend, one to whom I've never given a gift before. (We're not really close enough to exchange Christmas or birthday gifts.) I decided not to explain why I was giving the gift, but instead just offer it in the spirit in which it was truly intended - a little something to make someone smile. That's exactly how it was taken, I think, but I'm trying hard with this gift-giving not to worry so much about how the recipient thinks of me, but instead how I think of myself. It was a fun little gift that I enjoyed giving. Sometimes it's that simple.
Today, Day 8, I gave a much bigger gift, financially. I donated over $100 worth of much-needed kitten food to a local animal rescue that I have great admiration for (St. Francis Society Animal Rescue here in Tampa, https://www.facebook.com/StFrancisSocietyAnimalRescue/). We adopted two of our cats from this group last year, and from time to time I make cat toys or blankets to drop off for their fosters. I wanted this gift to be a bit bigger, though, and one that took effort on my part. Clicking the buttons on Amazon was easy, but $100 is a big enough amount of money for me to make an actual difference in my budget. Somewhere along the way over the next week or two, I'll have to give up or economize on something else in order to make this gift fit.
And that's OK. Not every gift should inconvenience the giver - just the opposite. But occasionally, we should give something that makes an impact on us as well, something that takes a little more effort. It reminds us to be humble. It reminds us of all we already have. It reminds us that our world works best when we share and connect. It reminds us that conscious giving matters, that it makes the world a better and fuller place. And it makes our lives better and fuller too.
Day 6 of my 29 Days of Giving Today I took the time to recognize a few of my co-workers who have been especially helpful over the last few weeks. Of course I thanked them at the time of their help, but today I went a step further and wrote up their good deeds to nominate them through our formal peer recognition program. This way, their helpfulness will be shared out at our all-staff meeting for others to hear, and they will receive a paid hour off next month as well.
I'm always complaining at work that our peer recognition program is underutilized (because, you know, I never get nominated no matter how hard I work), but it occurred to me today that it was time to "be the change I want to see in the world" and start using it myself. Just saying thank you is one thing. Spending a few minutes to ensure these folks are recognized on a wider level is a mindful conscious gift I can give back to them. It's the difference between acting and reacting (i.e. complaining).
I've also set myself a new goal of completing at least one of these nominations each month going forward. My workplace causes me a lot of stress and unhappiness, but I can try to take actions to make things better in the present while also striving to find something better in the future. For me, "better" means creating a happier environment whenever it happens to be in my control, and this kind of gift is simple but meaningful. It takes a few extra minutes of effort, but creates a better situation for everyone involved.
Day 5 of my 29 Days of Giving Today (OK, yesterday - I'm a little late with this entry but the gift-giving was done on time!) I was thrilled to be able to give the gift of support to one of my favorite online artists. I've been following her on Facebook for ages, and her daily posts combine the fun of puns with adorable animals - what's not to love? I've been most impressed with the fact that years ago she set herself a challenge of producing and sharing one piece of art every single day - and she's done it and continues to do it! She's never charged for her art, instead sharing her progress with the world as she finished school and honed her skills.
Now she's Kickstarting a book, and I was so happy to be able to support it. I also took the time to send her a personal message on FB for the first time, letting her know how much joy her art brings to me. This world needs positive energy like hers, and supporting her allows me to share in that energy and send it out to seek a wider audience.
Day 4 of my Giving Challenge Today was my first day of giving something non-material, and it felt a little strange - like it didn't count or something. But I gave the gift of my time and knowledge, and did so willingly and with good cheer.
My day job is a little odd - I work as a butterfly gardener and technician at a local science museum. We raise all of our own butterflies for display, and care for more than 40 acres of grounds and gardens to support our butterflies. I usually spend the first couple hours of my morning (before the museum opens to the public) gathering butterfly eggs, checking on plants, and enjoying the peace of the morning (as much as I can - I am NOT a morning person). This morning, more than 1.5 hours before the museum was scheduled to open, some guests had arrived and were looking around part of my exhibit, since it's outside and not locked behind the museum doors. This older couple and their grandson(?) were clearly interested in the exhibit, and enjoyed looking around and discussing what they could see. I stayed quiet and more or less hidden in a locked part of the exhibit, since I wasn't in the mood to interact with people (I never am in the morning).
After a few minutes, though, I realized these people were truly engaged in the exhibit, and asking "I wonder if" kind of questions to each other. I recognized that this was my chance to give for today. I came out of "hiding" and spent the next 15 minutes chatting with them, answering their questions and sharing information. I let the conversation draw to a natural close, rather than making an excuse to escape to my lab or office. The older gentleman in particular was clearly grateful and interested in everything I had to say.
Giving of ourselves can seem easy enough, but it's doing it with an open heart and loving intentions that make it a real challenge. I met the challenge today, and that's something to feel good about.