Friday, December 10, 2010

easy ways to give back right now!


Ok friends, we are taking a quick break from the creative inspiration for another kind of inspiration. For the last few weeks I have been putting together a list of easy and attainable ways to give back this holiday season and not just because "it's that time of the year" but because we are moving into a new year, a time to make promises, changes and to start fresh. And while typically I don't publicly share my resolutions or goals (or even a lot of my personal feelings about things for that matter), this year I am. My one and only resolution for the year is to give- in small and big ways.

While I already give of myself in so many different ways, I ache for MORE, more giving and less of myself. I'm actually tired of me (and this "me culture" that we live in), of always thinking about my little world, the people, the things, the drama, the keeping up, the distractions. Me me me me me me me me me me me- thats how it all starts to sound after a while! I am so ready to re-prioritize this area of my life.

I would like to invite all of you, my wonderful blog friends to join me in making this a holiday and a new year about giving of ourselves. In the months to come I will be providing inspiration, opportunities to get involved and sharing my own journey of using creativity to give back.

To start- I put together a list of easy ways to give back right now- kind of like a warm up for the things that will come next. please note there are no pretty pictures- just my words :)

Often it feels that in order to give its gotta be big (at least this is how I think). You don't have to travel to the ends of the earth to find someone or something that needs you. My dream of working with kids in Africa may not happen tomorrow but I can treat all the other opportunities that come my way as such- with the same follow through, energy, passion, respect and honor. Find someone or something in your life that needs you, that needs your gifts, your time, your skills, your knowledge, your kindness and give like you have never given before- give BIG to them.

Instead of using your your social network to play Farmville, stalk people from high school or report what you ate for dinner -this I AM so guilty of- try using it to promote a cause, raise awareness or even raise money. Word travels fast in cyberspace so why not make it meaningful.

Did you know that right now we are all one click away from personally thanking or sending encouragement to the military? Whether or not you agree with the wars that we are fight- we have men and women whose lives are dedicated to serving our country, who are far away and have families that are affected. Why not send a message, spread some love, reach out and say thank you. I LOVE how easy yet profound this is!

I know it sounds cliche and impersonal but as a former fundraiser for a non profit, I truly know that every single penny counts when it comes to philanthropy and these days there are so many organizations that fit with our individual passions. From buying chickens for a family, to cancer research, to digging a well, to supporting education there are SO MANY opportunities to give. You could even consider giving donations in someone else's name instead of buying gifts!

To find just about any charity organization- visit Charity Finder and look for something that fits you.

If you have ever visited a retirement home, you will know that we have so many elderly just waiting for friendship, interaction and purpose. Contact a local retirement home and find out if there are opportunities to get involved, be a friend or even organize and event. Most assisted living or retirement homes will have an activities director that is always looking for new ideas, activities and programming. Messy graffiti painting might be just what your local retirement home needs!

My husband is really good at this one- instead of just the standard 15% leave a HUGE tip for your waitstaff, slip $20 (instead of $2) to the shuttle driver at the airport or give your taxi driver a big something extra. It is so easy to take the men and women in the service industry for granted, why not show some extra appreciation.

Did you know (according to Feeding America Stats) that EACH WEEK 5.7 million people receive emergency food from a food assistance agency? This number blows me away! Local food banks, food drives, community programs are everywhere- especially during the holidays- and it couldn't be easier to participate and donate to. Find a local food drive in your community or visit Feeding America for ways to get involved to fight hunger in the U.S.

Simple, easy and something we all probably need to do! But instead of giving all the old stuff you don't wear anymore, try to also pull things that you just don't need (like that really pretty jacket that you never wear but it cost too much to get rid of) or consider going shopping for new clothing that you can also donate to a drive. This time of year is a great time to find opportunities to donate clothing (blankets, toys, etc) in communities everywhere. From shelters to schools, take a little time and do some research to see who is collecting.

This holiday instead of your typical shopping, shop for charity- can you believe there is actually something called charity malls? Tons of companies and non profits organizations provide the option to shop and a percentage of your purchase goes to charity. Visit for a list of resources and participating stores.

Are you a good cook, great photographer, talented graphic designer, fabulous handyman or woman? Put your passion and your gifts to use and share them with someone. Offer a free photo session, teach a workshop for free, cook a fancy meal for friends, help a neighbor with home repairs. We all have gifts, something that comes easy and things we are comfortable doing- share them with those around you and expect nothing in return.

As amazing as volunteering, getting involved with programs and giving back is, often it seems finding time in today's world is the biggest obstacle in being consistent. With the holiday madness soon behind us, start now by making a schedule for giving. Do a little research, find some opportunities that inspire you and pull out the calendar and schedule time for the year. Make giving just as high of a priority as the other important tasks in your life.

And last I want to share with you a video of one of CNN's Heroes of 2010- Narayanan Krishnan. As I was finishing up this post, I bounced over to Facebook to find this video on a friend's wall (yep, Facebook can be used for good!). I am so profoundly moved by the simplicity and the power of what he is doing with his passion and talent in India- it is SO inspiring, humbling and a perfect way to end this post, I had to pass it on to all of you.

Narayanan Krishnan is an award winning chef who worked for a 5 star hotel group, he quit his job and moved back home to India to feed the poor.

For more about Narayanan visit CNN


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