Thursday, October 27, 2011

30 Days of Giving Love — a challenge for November (and beyond)

My friend Tim came up with such an amazing idea that I'm stealing it and I hope you all steal it from me.

30 Days of Giving Love — a challenge for November (and beyond)

I’m creating this challenge… for myself, and hoping to continue with it beyond just this next month of November… but I wanted to share it and challenge you all… any of you, to take it on yourself as well. Alter it if you want… but I would also challenge you: if you do alter it, make it more rather than less.

Take 30 minutes out of every single day to correspond with loved ones. Call an old friend for a half hour. Send out 30 texts; can’t take more than a minute to do, right? And for those of you who are really busy in your day and afraid of how this might lead to more conversation in a day than you have time for, just tell someone “I miss you”, “thanks for being my friend… talk to you next week?” or something that doesn’t have to start with “how are you doing this week?” if you just don’t feel you have the time for it right then. I know what the busy-ness of life is like, and I don’t want you other busy-bodies to put this off right off the bat just because you’re afraid of what this task might lead to, as wrong as that may sound.

** Hand-write a letter to someone and mail it two times this month, once during the first 15 days and once during the last 15 days. When was the last time you got an envelope in the mail that had your name and address hand-written on it? Okay, we all get birthday cards and stuff like that… so what about that envelope with a letter that is hand-written inside? The letter can be as short or as long as you like it to be… just get one in the mail to someone you choose. Get creative if you like. Have kids? Make a little card that just says “we love you, grandma / grandpa” to their grandparents and put a little note in there from yourself as well. Have a spouse or a significant other? Even if they live under your same roof, the mail does come to your place too. Send them a letter. Why not?

** Have a meal with a friend at least one time this month. Just you and them. Dinner, lunch… whatever. Maybe even someone you haven’t seen in a little while. Sit down and get to know how their month is going. How their life has been since you last spoke. Our time with other people is what helped make us who we’ve grown up to be. The people in our classes, in our neighborhood, in our own homes. They shaped our decisions whether we know it or not. Even if it was the decision to not be like some other people. It is important for us to spend face-to-face time with other people. Not just phone to phone, text to text, email to email. But to get to see their face when they talk and hear the inflection in their voice. And then to shake their hand before and after or even, hey…. give them a hug.

** Save a dollar each day for your kids. Don’t have kids? Well you can put this into your OWN savings then. Or an account you create for your loved ones. Don’t have any kind of account like that? Maybe it’s time to make one. You’ll want to some day… maybe now is the time to get that going. And hey, if you extend this past November, maybe spend less on Christmas presents and put a little more into that account for Christmas. Whether you tell them you did it or not, that will be a great “gift” for them when the account matures. Whether we like it or think about it or not, life ends. Death is a part of our lives. And caring for our loved ones is a large part of loving them. As much as I hate money and what it means and how it can shackle us in our lives, we do need it… and your loved ones will too… your kids will too… so prepare for them. Look down the road. It doesn’t make you a Debbie Downer or a Negative Nancy to think about that (where are the man names for people like that?)… it just means you are planning for something that is inevitable, at some point down the road.

** Spend an entire day “unplugged”. No social networking. No texting with everyone. No internetting. No gaming. Maybe even no TV / DVR. Shocking, right? Go retro maybe once a week or once every other week. I mean, really retro. Read a book. Read an actual newspaper. Get out and walk around with someone or some people. Are there any “nature spots” near you? Go to the beach, then. Go to the woods a bit down the road. Step back a little bit from all of our devices and allow yourself to breathe in a little bit of what’s outside. Not only can this allow you to re-fuel a little bit, but can also open up your world to some great possibilities for ways of interacting and spending time with people who matter to you.

** Start something new with your family or your friends on Thanksgiving. Something that will perpetuate more interaction with one another. Start a monthly poker game with your buddies. Or a book club. Or a running coffee morning on every third Friday of the month. Just instigate some kind of pattern of being with your loved ones, and put it forth to at least one of them on Thanksgiving Day.

** Save 50 cents each day. Fifty cents. I am not gonna get all Sally Struthers on you, but half of a dollar can mean so little to so many of us, but can make a huge difference when it’s put together with a large pocketful of its compatriots. That is the goal. Save two quarters each day, put it somewhere and at the end of the month give those 15 dollars to a charity. Any charity.

** Start the chain of giving. One day in the month, be the one to start the chain, any place you choose. Your local coffee spot. Your Saturday morning bagel store. The pay parking garage you have to go through every day at the office. The toll booth. Somewhere, one day, pay for the person behind you. One time. It shouldn’t cost you more than 5 bucks. And you may never know if they actually pass it on and it becomes an actual chain of giving or not. If it does, that’s great and kudos to the people who kept it going. If not, you did something kind that will affect that person behind you in at least one way: they got something free from a stranger. But who knows what’s going on in their life. Who knows what their day has been like. This one “random act of kindness” could pull them out of a funk they’re in. It could even re-start someone’s belief in human kindness in general.

** Make something for your significant other. Don’t have a significant other? Choose someone else that you love. The point is creating something on your own for someone that you love. Remember when we were kids, it didn’t matter how great your drawing was of something, or if you kept all the glued on macaroni’s inside the crayon lines… it was that you made it for your parents. That was what made it “fridge worthy”. So whether you write a 20 line poem that starts with “roses are red” or you go (yes, even as an adult) to a color-me-mine store and make your spouse a new coffee mug that says “I love you today more than yesterday” on it… make something for someone. Your level of work and time on it is all up to you.

** Every Monday, take 10 minutes to sit and breathe. At any time of the day. A new week is upon you, and we all love Mondays, right? So what better day to just take 10 short minutes to allow the silence to blanket us and regenerate us. Are you a stay-at-home-mom? After you drop your kid(s) off at school, take your 10. have a ton of housework waiting for you right when you get home from their school? Then pull over somewhere and take your 10 in your car. Kids not in school yet? Take your 10 when they go down for their nap. Working types: take your 10 during lunch. Don’t want to “waste” your precious lunch hour on this? Then take one of your 15 minute breaks you never take and do it then. Do it at the end of your day, before you head home. 10 minutes. It isn’t a long time in the scheme of things, but it can be so healing for us. And how does this fit in with “giving love” if it is spent on your own? We cannot be our best for others, if we are not at our best with ourselves. We all need to recharge our batteries. You’ll remember when you’re on a plane, they always tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help someone with their’s. So take 10 to recharge and get into another week of giving love to others.

This is your launching pad. Add some of your own ideas. Change some of mine. It’s not going to hurt my feelings if you do… I just want you to give it a shot. Print out a calendar or get out your iPad or iPhone’s iCal and put something down for every day of November. 30 days of giving love. And don’t forget to take your 10 for you every Monday, too. Some of you will wave your hand at this, some of you didn’t even get to read this far. But if 10 people do this, even for the first 2 weeks of the month, that has the possibility of at least 140 lives being affected by one of your acts of kindness. That’s not too shabby, right? I hope to positively affect the lives of 30 people in November. Bare minimum. Where that number may go from there, only God knows. But that is what I intend for my direct impact to be. And there are two people that I will work the most on this with in November… the people that are right under my roof with me, my wife and my daughter. I don’t dance around the subject: my little girl is why I am here on Earth. Period. I have been sure of it from the moment my wife showed me those two little lines on the “stick”. For those of you parents out there, I assume (and hope) you know what I mean by that… and I don’t want or intend for you to lose sight of them in the scheme of all of this. But the reality of how important all of the relationships in our lives are to us isn’t something we should allow to fade away either.

The main inspiration for all of this is two recent losses in my life: my best friend from high school, Jason and a good friend of mine Amy who just lost her daughter, aged 22. Two very different experiences for me. With Jason, I had allowed myself to get far too comfortable with the idea of our friendship always being accessible. Months could go by and when we re-connected any time disappeared and it was like we were in High School again. But those times in between connections became larger. “I’m just so busy, dude… sorry… let’s catch up next week” “I’ll call you back next week” … we have all said that to people, right? Well, next week will never come for us again. And Jason I am sure knew I loved him just as I know he loved me. But I wish I hadn’t put him off so much. I wish I had spent one less hour doing this or that and taking 10 minutes to talk to him and some other friends instead. On the other end of that spectrum is my friend Amy’s daughter, Alyssa. I never met her. Amy is a fellow photographer and we have become pretty close over some years now and have been trying to get together for a year or so to do photos of her other daughter. And who knows if I ever would have met her eldest. But now I won’t ever have that chance. I won’t be included in the number of people whose lives were touched by her in one way or another. The finality of it all is hitting me in so many different ways. And this is one of the things to evolve from it all. I plan to do a lot more to change my style of living, and how I approach the relationships in my life. This is just a fun way for me (and maybe you) to go about it in kind of an organized and challenging kind of way. Will you do it? Will you at least try it? At least some of you will likely be amongst my many targets in November. How you respond and maybe work it into your own life will be up to you.

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