Like ripples in a pond
I am 100% understanding that I do this all to myself. Every time I don’t say no, when I already had a million things planned that week, but I make space for it, when I’m stressed out to the max, but I think about how that other person needs me to help, so I do. I know I do this.
I get the comments, “How do you do it with all those kids?” or “When do you find the time?” And to be quite frank, I don’t know. But I do know that it keeps me up at night thinking, well, if I don’t do it, who will?
Lately, I’ve needed some fresh air from all of the awfulness that has been 2016. Aside from the crushing world events, and the refugees, and amazing people dying, and this god awful election season – I lost my dog. And to some, that may seem really trivial, but I really miss her, so to fill that hole, I’ve just plugged along, filling in any moment I have to dwell on it, with giving back to some degree.
I had only planned on doing the winter coat and boot drive at my kids’ school. As awful as it sounds, I hadn’t planned on helping a family this winter. It’s not as easy as one would think. Aside from being patient (which is not a strong suit of mine) awaiting information on the family to get the wishlist rolling, I have to coordinate with a lot of people to get a fundraiser started. Then solicit people to come and keep a running tally. To worry endlessly that no one will show. Then worry that I won’t be able to get all of the items needed for the family. To take hours to create the wishlist and hope that the sizes match the kids, or that the style is similar to their own. To hope that my decisions don’t further remind them that this is a charity. To believe that this will go as smoothly has it has the past few years. Then to hope I don’t fail.
I don’t care about the minor inconvenience of coming home to dozens of boxes dropped off by the UPS guy. Or the dozens of boxes that take up major space in my house. In the past, I’ve walked past the growing tower of items and smile, knowing that I’m really lucky to have surrounded myself with friends who care. Every time I take on one of these projects, it’s a great reminder that I’m doing okay in life. I know good people.
So I took on a family this year anyhow. I have a fundraising event scheduled at Club One on November 13th, and it’s smaller in scale than the past. Four hours of spinning upstairs, four hours of different classes downstairs, no 7 hour marathon. I’m taking a big chance by having it at the other gym I teach at, versus the one I’ve always held events at. As much as I love Club One and the people there, Alexander’s has always been family, and they always turn out to help a family member.
The family this year is a single mom with three kids. Two girls, 10 and 9, a boy, 6. Their gift wishlist is very standard, except for the fact that they’re also all asking for bikes since their previous ones have been stolen. I had my bike stolen as a kid. I remember that being the first time I ever felt real anger and sadness at the same time. So I put that on the list, and some bike locks.
The story takes a really sad turn, when I read further down the email that the mother’s best friend had been recently murdered. She left behind a four year old boy. The mother took that boy in, and asked if she was allowed to add him to the list.
He wants all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I think about how I’m overwhelmed in life and then I think that life is just too damn short to not help. To skip this year would leave me with regret, and I don’t ever want to live my life that way. I can’t stop reading the news, and feeling all the feels, and even sometimes funny cat videos aren’t enough to take away that feeling. But I have the full power within me to change even the smallest thing.
When I was a kid, I used to think I could change the world. That’s a really ambitious thing, I was told. So instead, I look to my neighbors. I may not be able to fix the world, but I can at least assist someone near me. And like ripples in a pond, it always grows bigger than just me. I’m the first ripple, you are the many that follow, and by the time it hits the family we’re helping, and they tell their friends, it’s beyond to the other side of the shore. That’s what keeps me going.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, too, by the news all over social media, or are disgusted by the way things are going as of late, let me help you feel better. On days when I bite my tongue so many times as I scroll past vitriol and blatant hate and ignorance, I look to my next big project. Here it is. Here is a chance to have a mental breath of fresh air. We have the chance of changing five lives. Please tell me we can do this.