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Paying It Forward: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Paying It Forward: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
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Photo courtesy of www.pixabay.com

BY JILL MATLOW

A few weeks ago, I experienced some disappointing circumstances that made me question the universe, something I rarely do. I mentioned these circumstances to a member at my yoga studio who replied: 

“That’s because Mercury is in retrograde this week”.

Huh?

I had two epiphanies that day at my yoga studio: 1) I’m not as enlightened as other yogis (since I had no idea what ‘Mercury being in retrograde’ meant ) and 2) these disappointing circumstances were now behind me as I had already returned to my life which was pretty good.

Walking down the streets of NYC or turning on the news, I’m reminded that not everyone is as fortunate or blessed as I am. As a result, I’ve realized that the older I get, the more I want to give back to those less fortunate, through donating my time and/or donating goods.

Volunteering your time is such an easy thing to do yet I’ll often hear people say that they’re too busy. But ask yourself: “Can you devote a few hours once a year for a worthy cause”? I always think it’s best to start out small and build from there.

The choices can be overwhelming and sometimes you don’t know where to begin. The trick is to find the volunteer initiative that really speaks to you on some level be it emotional, physical or intellectual. When the planets align (and I don’t mean Mercury), the rewards are so great—you reap what you sow and then some.

For those of you who want to couple your volunteering efforts with a physical workout, some options include: the Breast Cancer Walk, MS Walk, AIDs Walk, to name a few. Habitat for Humanity (habitat.org) is also great for people who are into home repairs, building and painting.

Maybe doing something physical just isn’t your thing. Donating blood is also a great option. I donated blood right after Hurricane Sandy as blood drives are often compromised after natural disasters. Are you registered to be an organ donor? I truly believe no one should ever be on a ‘waiting list’ for an organ they need for a better quality of life. For more information on organ donation, please visit www.organdonor.gov

(Side note: Did you know Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead was the recipient of a liver transplant years ago? He now does a ‘donor rap’ at the end of each show encouraging his audience to become organ donors.)

Along those same lines, being a bone marrow donor is another avenue you can take. Foundations such as The Icla Da Silva Foundation (the largest recruitment center for the Be The Match Registry in the United States) recruits over 38,000 new potential bone marrow donors every year, with a strong focus on minority communities. More information about this foundation can be found at www.icla.org

Perhaps being physical or having a fear of needles has prohibited you from seeking out the above volunteer opportunities. Don’t throw in the volunteer towel yet! You might be better suited to something that speaks to you on an emotional level. The Pajama Program had that effect on me.

Since it’s inception in 2001, The Pajama Program has provided more than five million new books and new pajamas to children in need (many still living in group homes and shelters with the hopes of being adopted). The Pajama Program has 60 chapters nationwide in all 50 states (and Puerto Rico) and also operates four Reading Centers: New York, NY, Yonkers, NY, Red Bank, NJ and Atlanta, GA.

I love children and decided to give The Pajama Program a try a few months ago and I’m so  glad I did. My heart fills up every time I see how grateful these children are to receive new books and new pairs of pajamas, things we so take for granted. If you can’t volunteer to read with the children, you can still donate to this wonderful organization: www.pajamaprogram.org

If you feel that devoting time to a walk or volunteer gig is still not time-effective for you, another way to give back is by donating items you no longer need, a win-win scenario for you. If you’re like me, having clutter around just creates unnecessary stress. Why not free up some of that crowded space in your closets and homes? If you’re not sure where to begin, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo is chock-full of excellent tips.

Many people wait to ‘downsize’ when they find that they may be moving from house to apartment, or even apartment to apartment, but why wait until then? Walk over to your closet now. Do you really need 5 black tee-shirts? What about the shoes you bought, wore once, and tossed right back into your closet to collect dust?

Fifteen sets of sheets (do you really have that many guests visiting?) beach towels from the 1970s…you get the picture. Should we talk about the 27 mugs you’ve collected over the years? How much coffee are you drinking?

There are so many people out there who are always in need of clothes, shoes and other items taking up unnecessary space in your homes. It is such a cathartic feeling to load up a big garbage bag of these goods you really don’t need and donating them to someone less fortunate who does.

(True confession: I still haven’t been able to part with my concert and tie-dye tee shirts. Baby steps…)

Dropping off the garbage bag(s) of goods is effortless. You can usually schedule a pickup with Salvation Army or if you live close by to shelters or thrift stores, they’re also places that welcome your donations (many tax-deductible) with open arms.

With so many choices out there, what type of volunteering or giving back have you done in the past that has provided you with fulfillment? We always love hearing your stories and sharing your information with others. I think Aesop said it best in the following quote:

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”

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Jill Matlow
Jill Matlow spent much of her career working in many different facets of the healthcare industry writing marketing proposals, creative briefs and tactical plans. She is thrilled to now be writing articles geared to baby boomers who are nostalgic about their past but still hopeful about their futures. While music is her first passion, writing comes in a close second.