How are you making a difference? Pay it Forward..pass it on.

With the start of the New Year, resolutions of how we are going to change our lives are running through all of our heads.  We took a poll of our newsletter subscribers  just after New Years to find out what their most popular resolutions were and not surprisingly, a solid 35% of them were concerned about their weight and physical appearance and were going to try and do something about it.  30% said that they no longer make resolutions and the balance were made up of career changes, better parenting and more patience. One resolution that was not to be found anywhere was how they were going to start giving back.  This is something that I know we all think about it and we talk about but often we just don’t get around to doing anything about.  We are all very busy people, kids to look after, careers to advance in, family and friend commitments to fulfill but we forget how powerful our impact really is.  The devastation in Haiti is the perfect reminder. Consider the difference we could all make if we even committed one single day (and I know we all have one day) in a year to make a difference.  There are so many ways to cause change for others and maybe we all just need a good solid kick in the butt to get moving. Kind of like your own personal trainer (that lives in your head and you don’t have to pay $75.00/hour to).  By committing to this, you also set yourself up to be an amazing role model for your kids. There are lots of ways to make a difference even as a family.  Here are some things that we have done that make it incredibly easy to make a difference:

  1. Invite a bunch of friends over brunch.  We all do it, and many of us do it often.  Who doesn’t like food?!  When everyone calls and asks what they can bring, tell them instead of a bag of bagels or a bunch of flowers, let them know the charity you chose to support that day and tell them to bring a small donation that they can then drop in a box that you leave by your front door.  No one needs to know how much anyone gave, everyone feels good about having done something positive and you are still hanging out with friends and you didn’t even have to find the time to make a difference. It’s all rolled in to an activity that revolves around eating and having fun.  Could it be any simpler? We did this for Crohns and Colitis one day nd we raised $1000!  It was incredible.
  2. Loot Bags.  This one is my biggest pet peeve! We all get those loot bags filled with items from the dollar store that break within five minutes of owning them or are just so useless that they immediately hit the garbage can.  Our take on it?  Every year, we take that $5.00 that we were going to spend per child on a loot bag and we donate $4.00 of it to Sick Kids hospital.  We then spend the other $1.00 ordering a batch of star cookies with our childs name or initials on it and wrap it up as a loot bag item.  Then we go to vistaprint.ca and we order a stack of postcards (free postcards I might add) that tell the parent/child that in lieu of a lootbag filled with small items, our child has chosen to donate the money to sick kids and we throw in a thank you for coming to the party.  This gets attached to every cookie. This teaches your child an incredibly valuable lesson and the parents without fail compliment us on this novel idea as they ALL hate the dollar store loot bags.
  3. Volunteer Volunteer Volunteer!  There are so many ways to do it and so many organizations that can use your help.  As a family, we do a once a year food drive for our community where we help deliver meals to families on holidays.  I can’t even begin to explain the feeling that you get when you ring the bell at a basement apartment that you have been asked to deliver to and they open the door and you see three children sharing a mattress on the floor in the living room and the parents mattress right next to it.  This is happening where you live. In areas that you never would have imagined.  But they are so appreciative of the donation that you walk away with the feeling that what you have done has really made a difference to someone.  You get to see the end result of your time and effort.  They are usually so incredibly thankful that you can’t help but feel like you have made a difference.

There is an amazing organization out there called Ve’Ahavta.  This is an organization whose goal essentially is to fix the world one person at a time. I decided to volunteer with this organization one day to see what they were all about.  The experience was beyond words.  I was asked to arrive at the midtown offices at 6am.  We then loaded up a van filled with coffee, snacks, sandwiches,socks, gloves, hats, sweaters and jackets.  All of these items were donated by people like you.  We then proceeded to drive around town with an incredible  Native Canadian man who took us to places that you didn’t know animals would hibernate in let alone people.  He knew which bridge to find the homeless people under, he  took us to dumpsters where he knew they liked to frequent, he knew which subway grates (no idea how to spell that) that they liked to sleep on to keep warm.  It happened to be -24 degrees celcius that day and I was frozen out there, but these people were sleeping out there in light jackets and sleeping bags (those were the lucky ones).  We went from one homeless person to the next offering them coffee, snacks and sandwiches to get them through the day.  We offered them clothes to keep them warm.  What astounded me the most aside from how people live in MY CITY was how different these people were than what I had imagined.  Don’t get me wrong, many were drunk, many were high but ALL without exception were courteous, appreciative and more incredibly would not take from us more than the bare essentials that they needed to get through the day.  They all said “save it for the other guys, they need it more”.  I was shocked, I just naturally (and very incorrectly) assumed that when something free was being offered, they would be greedy.  Not the case.  The day was eye opening for me.  I finished at noon and those 6 hours of helping out have completely changed me and my impresion of the homeless people on our streets. Six hours.  Even if that is the only thing you do in a year to make a difference, I know you have 6 hours.  Pick a cause that you are passionate about and commit to helping them at least once a year.  You might love it so much that it becomes twice a year or even an on going commitment.  Teach your children about charity by setting up a charity box at home that the kids can drop loose change into.  Our kids already have it ingrained in them that any extra money that they find in the house and a small portion of birthday gifts goes into the charity box that is going to Sick Kids hospital because not all kids are as lucky as them.  It is an amazing way to teach your children compassion for others, but truthfully, I do it selfishly for the high I get from knowing I made a difference. Some handy links for mking a difference: Ve’Ahavta Charity Village Jack The Donkey– Just clicking through the site helps charities raise money!  An amazing site! World Vision -Haiti Relief Do you give back?  I would love to hear your inspirational stories in the hopes that it helps inspire others.  Share your stories please!

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