Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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#GivingTuesday

thumb_img_5861_1024It’s #GivingTuesday! Now that you’ve done all your shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday (and possibly started before or on Thanksgiving), it’s time to turn your attention toward generosity.

#GivingTuesday has been around since 2012, and I’m so glad that it has. I love that there is a day set aside to celebrate the abundance that many of us have. If you’re already on email lists for nonprofits and social good companies, you’ve likely already started hearing from them, either for #GivingTuesday or for their year-end giving campaigns.

I encourage you to think about how you can support your favorite causes and organizations this holiday season. They’re doing important work, and it can be very meaningful to be a part of their mission. And every dollar really does count.

If you don’t already have a plan in place, or know where you’d like to donate, let me tell you about a few of my favorites:

  • Atlanta Dream Center: They protect and support the Atlanta area’s most vulnerable populations, including the homeless, at-risk children and women who have been trafficked or prostituted. I have been a volunteer with their anti-trafficking ministry for the past three years, and love their holistic approach to problems.
  • Habitat for Humanity: They provide safe, affordable homes to individuals and families around the world. Habitat is a solution to the global housing crisis, and while I’ve always had great respect for the organization, it’s in overdrive now that I’ve learned so much more about them. Many of you have probably participated in volunteer activities on their behalf, but they also always need funding.
  • Be the Bridge: This budding organization utilizes resources and conversations to further racial reconciliation. They believe that the Church must become a bigger answer to this issue, and are equipping people to host racially diverse small groups that create open lines of communication.  We should not be having the “race conversation” as only white people or only black people, but as friends and Christians. My friend, Latasha, started this organization because she was willing to have the awkward, but necessary conversations, and build bridges that foster healing. It’s important and timely work.
  • TrueNorth: My friend, Anne, started this organization just a couple of years ago after working with women who had been trafficked and prostituted. She decided that she wanted to work more “upstream” to focus on more of the source and start of the issues, rather than toward the end when women had already been abused. I think that is a terrific strategy! So, she is creating resources and providing information to help individuals and families navigate a sex-saturated culture.
  • Refuge Coffee Company: I love this place. It was started a few years back by my friend, Kitti, and supports the Clarkston community and refugees. Clarkston has been declared by CNN as the most diverse square mile in America. They exist to serve the global community in Clarkston through coffee-related job creation, job training, social networking, and commerce. And by the way, the coffee is terrific!

And, for a more unusual suggestion, take a look around your house to see if you have any gift cards you haven’t used, or have a seemingly unusable balances. You probably do, and I did too. So, check out Gift Card Giver. Whether you have the full amount, a few dollars, or even a few cents left on the card, they can put it to good use! Of course, keep this in mind for after Christmas morning as well.

Happy giving!


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How to Give to Charity With Little or No Money

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 3.15.05 PMIt’s the beginning of the year, so you may feel a little financially stretched after the holidays. Or, you may be like a lot of people who would like to give more to charity, but feel you lack the ability or resources. Well, I’m here to tell you that there are plenty of ways to give with very little or no money involved. All you need is the desire to do so.

One of my heroes, Sheryl WuDunn states in moving her TedTalk, “Research shows that once you have all of your material needs taken care of, there are very few things in life that can actually elevate your level of happiness. One of those things is contributing to a cause larger than yourself.”

So here are 10 easy ways that I’ve come up with to add a little more happiness to your life. I challenge you to pick one and get started this month. What have you got to lose? Probably something you won’t miss anyway.

  1. Use Charity Miles to earn money for charity when you walk, run or bike.
  2. Donate your hair. I’m actually in the process of growing my hair out in order to donate it, and have had a few friends do the same. I’m still doing research on which charity to give it to, so I’ll keep you posted. But this is a great way to support cancer patients, by providing hair that will be turned into a wig.
  3. Through Fit for Food, Fitbit and Feeding America have teamed up, along with Joel McHale, to donate meals to those in need. You burn calories via Fitbit, they give.
  4. Donate things like airline miles to a charity who can use the travel bonus for their staff or beneficiaries.
  5. Spring clean. Like me, you probably have way more stuff than you need. But chances are, someone else may want or need it. Clean out your home and donate your excess to Goodwill or another local charity. I recommend giving to places where you can actually meet the recipients. This will motivate you to de-clutter on a regular basis knowing that there is a real need, and a real face, that needs your clothes and household items. And if you need any motivation in this area, I suggest you read 7: A Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.
  6. Have extra…anything? If you’re like me, you’ve stayed in a hotel at least a few times. And what’s your most popular and consistent souvenir? Probably the toiletries. I had a gallon+ Ziploc bag of unused toiletries. Then I found out that the organization I volunteer for can use those items in their weekly outreach. The same goes for blankets, suitcases and things like that for people who may not have a permanent home. Realistically, you can probably find a charity for anything you have. You just have to look, and ask.
  7. Don’t use your smartphone. The UNICEF Tap Project will help give clean water to children in need when you open their app or page on your smartphone and leave it alone. Each minute without you using your phone results in a larger donation. (It will drain your batter, though, so keep it plugged in while running.)
  8. Give consistent time. This is probably the idea that first came to mind. But, besides money, it’s probably the item you feel you have the least to give. And that’s ok. As we’ve pointed out, there are other ways to be a solution. But, before you dismiss it, let me say two things. First, we prioritize what matters to us. If you really want to volunteer your time, you can likely carve some out during your week or month. It just has to matter enough to you. Second, you might want to check with your favorite charity to see if there is an option that fits your current lifestyle. You don’t know until you ask. For example, through Out of Darkness, I write letters monthly to a woman in a long-term recovery program. It’s something that doesn’t take a lot of time given my schedule and other conflicts, but it provides her with a source of comfort and encouragement consistently each month.
  9. Give inconsistent time. Maybe you have a skill that can be utilized infrequently, that would still be a huge help to an organization. Like to clean or organize? Are you a business professional that can consult? Do you have first-hand industry knowledge that could benefit others? Can you teach a seminar? Have a couple extra hours one month to run errands? I’ve had friends do all of these things. And I personally consult on public relations, advertising and social media for my friend’s organization. I probably only do it a couple of times each year for a few hours, but it’s beneficial to them.
  10. Buy well. There is no shortage of this topic on this blog. I’m a HUGE proponent of utilizing the money you’re already going to spend on something that has a bigger (and better) impact. Luckily, we see this form of social enterprise everywhere now. This can be anything from clothes to dinner out to eyeglasses to comforters to chocolate to sports gear to flowers to .  . . really almost anything these days. You get the point. It’s easy to do. It may take some habit changes in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll become a pro in no time. And you’ll feel better about where your money goes each month, which is priceless. Here are some resources to get you started. And, I’m an avid Amazon shopper, so when I use that site, I use Amazon Smile to donate to my local charity.
  11. One to Grow On: Give your life event. Charity Water can probably be credited with starting this movement, but many others have done similar things. If you’re reading this post, it’s likely you have a birthday. You may even have an anniversary, or something else you celebrate regularly like a holiday. Those are super easy ways to let others in on your desire to give and tell them about your favorite organizations. Charity Water asks people to donate their birthdays by setting up pages on their company website in order to help build a well from small donations in lieu of birthday presents. I’ve seen similar things for Christmas presents, and even read about a couple who asked their wedding guests to make small financial donations to their favorite org instead of bringing gifts. Last year, I had my friends donate $10 Chick-Fil-A gift cards to Out of Darkness for my birthday. This way the women could be taken out of the house for a treat without it being a financial strain on the house moms, staff or budget. As discussed above, I can imagine that you, like me, have enough. So, why not use these events as opportunities for others to have enough as well.

 

Well, that’s my list. What else did you come up with, or have you done? And if you do any of these, or anything else, let me know how it goes!


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I’m Buying HOPE, JOY and PEACE This Holiday Season

This is a repost of a blog I did last year about this time because it’s a message that still resonates strongly with me, and I hope it will with you too. May your holiday shopping be full of hope and happiness for all.

 


 

136159002

A few months ago I read Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma. I wasn’t expecting the book that it turned out to be, but it was still very good. It sort of turned out to be a Bible study on justice. I would definitely recommend it, and not just for those passionate about the issue like me, but even for the mildly curious. I learned a lot and will be marinating on it for a long time to come.

There were a few things mentioned in the book that stuck with me, but none more than what I wanted to share with you now. Did you know that it costs approximately $21 billion to get clean, safe drinking water to everyone in the world? If you weren’t aware, almost 1 in 7 of the world’s population doesn’t have access to this most basic need. $21 billion. I know, right, it sounds like a lot—like a whole lot! It sounds like scratching our heads and calling summits and raising money and finally reconciling ourselves to the fact that $21 billion is impossible to find in a world drowning in debt. Sometimes it sounds like giving up.

And then I found out…

The National Retail Federation estimates that over $600 BILLION will be spent in November and December this year. I’m sorry, what? That’s just this season. When I think about it, that makes me sick. In fact, the contrast in those two numbers has literally haunted me since I’ve read the book.

I think about people I know that rush around trying to buy gifts, any kind of gifts, for the people on their Christmas list. Mostly those are close family and friends, but usually there’s at least one obligatory gift on there as well. I think of gifts that aren’t bought out of need, but out of courtesy. I think of the stress so many people feel when it comes to the holidays. It seems to be more about putting anything under the tree that caring about what it is, as long as you’ve checked that box.

Something. Has. To. Change.

I love the holidays. I love the chill in the air, and the warm drinks. I love watching Christmas movies. I love decorating my apartment. I love seeing twinkle lights go up everywhere. And I love buying gifts. Gift giving is one of my love languages. It makes me happy to see the look on people’s face when I give them a gift. In fact, the anticipation of seeing their faces when I give them the gift makes me happy! I have always tried very hard, whether it’s a birthday or Christmas, to find the perfect gift that will make the recipient smile. It’s a challenge that I relish.

And, if I do say so myself, I’m pretty good at it. But the last few years, ever since pursing justice myself and learning more about supply chain and slave labor, I’ve tried to challenge myself in a new way. I try very hard to find not only gifts of meaning, but gifts that do good or do not perpetuate slave labor. I’m also an environmentalist, so I try to cut down on packaging and reuse when possible. So, really, I thought I could pat myself on the back from up on my high horse—until I read those statistics.

Now I’m trying to figure out how to do more. I can’t completely give up gift-giving, because I love it so much, but there is more I can do. For one thing, I can help educate you. What if we all started buying differently? What if we started contributing more and consuming less? What if we took a hard look at the real difference between shopping and giving? What if the presents had real meaning, not just for the recipient you know, but those who created it or will benefit from the purchase? What if?

Here is an awesome video by Advent Conspiracy to help illustrate. In fact, they have a lot of great personal and church resources to help you explore this idea. I’m looking forward to reading their book this season.

As I said, I don’t have this all figured out, but I’m trying. I want to contribute, not just consume. I want buy better and think better and live better. And even more, I want that for everyone else. I want it for you, and those you know, and those around the world who don’t have clean water or adequate shelter or who live in fear. We all share this world.

The holidays are a season of hope. Hope, joy, peace—we see those words written on everything this time of year from cards to commercials. What if they weren’t just platitudes? What if we added those to our Christmas list? What if, when we started buying gifts, we kept those three words in mind? Will the things we buy this season promote hope or joy or peace? If not, then let’s not buy them. Find a better alternative. I bet there’s one out there.

Here are a few places to help you get started:

Purchasing on Amazon? Use Amazon Smile

Purchase with Purpose

Free2Work

Not For Sale Store

Better World Shopper

Greater Good

Free to Shop

World Vision Gift Catalog

Fair Trade USA

Ten Thousand Villages

Charity Water

Kiva

Living Water International

International Justice Mission Gift Catalog

Notes From a Thoughtful Life

The Good Shopping Guide

Ethical Consumer

 

There are so many more, though, so keep looking! And if you need to go the department store route, you could even institute your own TOMS-esque one for one model. For example, if you give someone a shirt, donate one as well. Challenge each other to be better, think creatively and give more.

Give gifts that tell stories, and write yourself a new one in the process.

______________________________________

And here’s a great article from the TODAY Show about families who try to put more meaning into gifts and the holidays.

Here is another from LearnVest, a money budgeting site if you’re looking for a more frugal point-of-view.

One more from journalist/activist, Nick Kristoff, whom I greatly admire.

 

DID I MISS YOUR FAVORITE RESOURCE? PLEASE ADD IT IN THE COMMENTS SECTION! I’D LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT IT.

 

(Note: Amazon links are affiliate links.)


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Shopping vs. Giving

136159002A few months ago I read Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma. I wasn’t expecting the book that it turned out to be, but it was still very good. It sort of turned out to be a Bible study on justice. I would definitely recommend it, and not just for those passionate about the issue like me, but even for the mildly curious. I learned a lot and will be marinating on it for a long time to come.

There were a few things mentioned in the book that stuck with me, but none more than what I wanted to share with you now. Did you know that it costs approximately $21 billion to get clean, safe drinking water to everyone in the world? If you weren’t aware, almost 1 in 7 of the world’s population doesn’t have access to this most basic need. $21 billion. I know, right, it sounds like a lot—like a whole lot! It sounds like scratching our heads and calling summits and raising money and finally reconciling ourselves to the fact that $21 billion is impossible to find in a world drowning in debt. Sometimes it sounds like giving up.

And then I found out…

The National Retail Federation estimates that over $600 BILLION will be spent in November and December this year. I’m sorry, what? That’s just this season. When I think about it, that makes me sick. In fact, the contrast in those two numbers has literally haunted me since I’ve read the book.

I think about people I know that rush around trying to buy gifts, any kind of gifts, for the people on their Christmas list. Mostly those are close family and friends, but usually there’s at least one obligatory gift on there as well. I think of gifts that aren’t bought out of need, but out of courtesy. I think of the stress so many people feel when it comes to the holidays. It seems to be more about putting anything under the tree that caring about what it is, as long as you’ve checked that box.

Something. Has. To. Change.

I love the holidays. I love the chill in the air, and the warm drinks. I love watching Christmas movies. I love decorating my apartment. I love seeing twinkle lights go up everywhere. And I love buying gifts. Gift giving is one of my love languages. It makes me happy to see the look on people’s face when I give them a gift. In fact, the anticipation of seeing their faces when I give them the gift makes me happy! I have always tried very hard, whether it’s a birthday or Christmas, to find the perfect gift that will make the recipient smile. It’s a challenge that I relish.

And, if I do say so myself, I’m pretty good at it. But the last few years, ever since pursing justice myself and learning more about supply chain and slave labor, I’ve tried to challenge myself in a new way. I try very hard to find not only gifts of meaning, but gifts that do good or do not perpetuate slave labor. I’m also an environmentalist, so I try to cut down on packaging and reuse when possible. So, really, I thought I could pat myself on the back from up on my high horse—until I read those statistics.

Now I’m trying to figure out how to do more. I can’t completely give up gift-giving, because I love it so much, but there is more I can do. For one thing, I can help educate you. What if we all started buying differently? What if we started contributing more and consuming less? What if we took a hard look at the real difference between shopping and giving? What if the presents had real meaning, not just for the recipient you know, but those who created it or will benefit from the purchase? What if?

Here is an awesome video by Advent Conspiracy to help illustrate. In fact, they have a lot of great personal and church resources to help you explore this idea. I’m looking forward to reading their book this season.

As I said, I don’t have this all figured out, but I’m trying. I want to contribute, not just consume. I want buy better and think better and live better. And even more, I want that for everyone else. I want it for you, and those you know, and those around the world who don’t have clean water or adequate shelter or who live in fear. We all share this world.

The holidays are a season of hope. Hope, joy, peace—we see those words written on everything this time of year from cards to commercials. What if they weren’t just platitudes? What if we added those to our Christmas list? What if, when we started buying gifts, we kept those three words in mind? Will the things we buy this season promote hope or joy or peace? If not, then let’s not buy them. Find a better alternative. I bet there’s one out there.

Here are a few places to help you get started:

Purchase with Purpose

Free2Work

Not For Sale Store

Better World Shopper

Greater Good

Free to Shop

World Vision Gift Catalog

Fair Trade USA

Ten Thousand Villages

Charity Water

Kiva

Living Water International

International Justice Mission Gift Catalog

There are so many more, though, so keep looking! And if you need to go the department store route, you could even institute your own TOMS-esque one for one model. For example, if you give someone a shirt, donate one as well. Challenge each other to be better, think creatively and give more.

Give gifts that tell stories, and write yourself a new one in the process.

______________________________________

And here’s a great article from the TODAY Show about families who try to put more meaning into gifts and the holidays.

Here is another from LearnVest, a money budgeting site if you’re looking for a more frugal point-of-view.

One more from journalist/activist, Nick Kristoff, whom I greatly admire.


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Dear Sponsor Child

my sponsor child, Tumaini

my sponsor child, Tumaini

Dear Tumaini,

It’s hard to believe, but this week you become a teenager! I hope that your day is filled with joy, health and much celebration.

When I began sponsoring you just over three years ago, I must admit, I was a little nervous. I thought I would be better at sponsoring a girl because I was one, once upon a time. I knew girls around the world were treated terribly in some countries, and I wanted to help ensure the life of a girl in one of those places would be better. So, you were a bit of a surprise to me, a mystery.

I roamed through the store trying to figure out what gift to send you as an introduction to myself. What did I know of 10 year-old boys? Better yet, what do I know of 13 year-old boys! I’ve never stopped roaming the aisles puzzled by what I could send that would make you smile. I hope my meager offerings make you laugh, or at least tell you how crazy we Americans really are. But I know that anything I send in those padded little envelopes doesn’t compare to the one gift I provide that matters above all else: hope. I am humbled by that thought. I am proud knowing that my small, monthly donation could help not only change your future, but give you one.

I am so very happy to see new photos of you thriving in your community. I love that your favorite school subject is math, when my math is terrible. I’m excited that your even able to stay in school, be well-fed, help your family with chores and stay healthy. I know these are not guarantees in your part of the world. They are things I take for granted, but you help remind me that is not the case everywhere.

As you grow, I also keep coming back to one thought: I want you to be a man who treats everyone, especially women, with compassion. I pray that because I am a woman sponsoring you, you will grow to have a different view of women than many other men in Africa. I think this is a privilege I did not recognize at first. Though I am very distant from your part of the world, I have a hand in shaping your views. I can help show you what kindness looks like. I can give you a glimpse into my faith as you are developing your own. I can provide needed assistance to your family and community not just because I am able, but because it is my honor.

I have other wishes and dreams for you, though I’m not entirely sure I should:

I want you to be filled with a sense of justice.

I want you to remain healthy.

I want your family and those you love to be spared from suffering and disease.

I want you to grow up, and have options in life.

I want you to know true joy.

I want you to finish school.

I want you to be generous to others.

I want you to have a deep faith, knowing that God’s promises are meant for you too.

Most of all, though, I want you to have your own wishes and dreams. And those come from having hope.

As you turn 13 this week, I am praying for you. (I hope the package I sent you reaches you in time, but if not, you can celebrate then. I’m a pro at dragging my birthday out, so enjoy it!) Turning 13 is a big deal here in America, and I would imagine it is there in Kenya as well. I hope you are showered with affection from your friends and family. I want it to be a day you’ll remember. Know that I am thinking of you, miles away and what feels like worlds apart. I hope we are able to meet in person one day, but if not, I’m happy knowing we both celebrated your thirteenth birthday in our own way.

Happy birthday, Tumaini!

_______________________________________________________________________________________

I sponsor Tumaini through World Vision. After comparing a couple of different websites, I felt it was the best option for me because the monthly donations benefit not only the child, but the family and community. Of course, I wanted to give a child a better future, but I think that is best accomplished by supporting the entire system. Second, I am interested in their other programs like disaster relief, micro finance, clean water, education, and more, all through the lens of faith. So, it also made my giving more simple. I have been happy with my sponsorship and other one-time gifts on issues like those mentioned, and would recommend World Vision to anyone. They have a very holistic approach, which I appreciate. If you are interested in sponsoring, though, please think about it carefully and make sure you are in a financial position to do so for an extended period of time.