Friday, July 15, 2011

Guest Blogger: Erin Turtel

This is a guest post by Erin Turtel, a writer, active volunteer and art instructor. This is her beautiful, heartfelt post about making a difference. She graciously allowed me to share her great post with my readers. You can follow her on Twitter.

This was also cross-posted on the amazing SeeYourImpact blog.

"Save a life, Spread Hope, Make an Impact"

by Erin Turtel

Ahhh…Summertime, and the living is easy…The heat of July brings with it an impulsive rush to the beach , lovely lazy baseball games, delicious scent of freshly cut grass, joyous romps through backyard sprinklers, and of course, more chances for barbecue, burgers and beloved ice cream. Not to mention flip-flops. A welcome escape. As we enjoy the company of family and friends, the thought lingers in the back of many minds…will we be able to cover the mortgage this month? Should we really be going on vacation?

As I sit at my kitchen counter, scanning job sites on the internet, I wonder when this sluggish economy will break free – and give me a break. So many friends and neighbors getting laid off – hard workers, straight shooters, bright and interesting people…no real reason other than the bottom line. Money is tight, all around – from businesses to breakfast nooks.

Easy for anyone to fall into a bit of blue. Self-pity. And with good reason. So how do we refocus? How do we regain the energy necessary not only to move forward, but to succeed in the face of hardship? How do we begin anew? Give it away. Give the pity away. Give hope. I gave mine to

Look around. If we break out of our shells, our cocoons, our safe harbors – what happens? Look around and see… feel… how fortunate we are. Truly. And then give it away. Even if you have “nothing” to give, give it away. Feels absolutely amazing.

Gratefulness, once embraced, changes our entire outlook. Oh my goodness, am I ever blessed. Or, lucky. Whatever you want to call it. No job, losing my house, even a trip to the food bank – where I once was the biggest and most frequent donor. Hard. Seriously hard. But Lucky.

What occurred to me as I drove away with literally a trunk full of staples was: how fortunate we are to have these resources, to have this support system. Friends have pitched in, too – with childcare, dinners, gift cards, treats and adventures. Times are hard for everyone, and yet we still have so much to give – all of us.

I not only found an enormous outpouring of support – but discovered first-hand the great importance of community infrastructure designed to bolster people in my situation. My community just knew. They were aware. They opened their eyes, and their hearts. And gave without strings. I was floored, stunned by the outpouring of love I’d received. But I didn’t know how to give back. Thank you notes, of course. Volunteering, absolutely. But how to provide this sense of security – this gift of hope – to someone else like me?

When freed from my self-pity, it finally dawned on me, that this amazing safety net doesn’t exist in many places across the globe.

Its not usually top of mind, but here in the U.S. we have a tremendous support system to fall back on in tough times. Most of us have trouble swallowing the idea of taking unemployment insurance, or going to a free medical clinic – or even accepting dinner made by a neighbor. But its there, all around us, ready. All the time.

Not so in Sierra Leone. Or Nepal. Or even Guatemala.

When I opened my eyes, the question of how to demonstrate my gratitude suddenly became obvious. Something new. Something that would spread the gift of hope I was so blessed to experience. Give it away. Though a part of me felt I shouldn’t continue donating in the face of so much hardship within my own household - ”God helps those who help themselves” came to mind – I realized that here in America even those of us scraping by can still share.

And in giving we can all thrive. A small gift – just a few dollars – can have a tremendous impact for a family in a developing nation. Though I’d been searching for quarters on the floor of my SUV to cover gas just a few weeks prior, my decision to give $10 to SeeYourImpact lifted the yoke from my back, opened my heart to happiness, and most importantly helped another human being facing hardships I knew I’d never encounter.

In being a support to someone else, you bolster your own strength and glean inspiration. But the best part – you make a real tangible difference. Be a pillar, even when you are worried about your own. Save a life, spread hope, make an impact.

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