Lend a Helping Hand

Helping hand

One of the most gratifying things we can do with our time is volunteering to help another.  There are so many benefits you will derive when you become a volunteer:  It feels great to make someone else’s life a little brighter.  It’s food for the soul.  It is an opportunity to use your own gifts and talents in ways that you may not be able to express in your regular job.  Being appreciated for all that you do is very uplifting.  When you see other people’s challenges, it really helps to put your own life and problems into perspective.  And, it fulfills the basic human need to know that you have made a difference in the world, that you will be remembered for doing something that truly mattered.

The first thing you need to do is decide what you have a passion for or what special talents you have that you could utilize in helping others.  There are lots of volunteer opportunities through non-profit organizations such as working with hospice, a women’s shelter, a homeless shelter or food bank, animal rescue centers, etc.  Figure out what cause calls to you the most.  Do you like working with children, animals, the elderly, out in nature?  It doesn’t matter whether you can donate your time weekly, monthly, or only a few times a year.  It all counts.

Volunteering to help others doesn’t have to be through an organized agency.  Maybe you have someone in your own neighborhood who is in need.  You could visit a homebound neighbor and just sit and have a conversation with them.  You could offer to cook a meal for someone who is going through a hard time.  You could offer free babysitting help to a frazzled single parent on your street.  The possibilities are endless.

Even if you are at a point in your life where you don’t have a moment to spare, you can still get into the spirit of giving in ways that don’t take any time at all.  Never underestimate the gift of treating people with kindness, or the power of a smile.  You can make someone’s day with the smallest of gestures.  In some cases, it might be the only kind-heartedness they experience that day.

One of my passions is helping children.  For a few years I volunteered at a local children’s shelter one morning a week.  One day, a new little boy who was about 4 years old arrived at the shelter.   The shelter kept clothes in various sizes for all of the children who were housed there, but they didn’t supply shoes.  The children would just have whatever pair they had on when they arrived.  This particular little boy, I will call Timmy, had tennis shoes with laces that had been broken in many places and then they were knotted back together.  They had become so short from all of the knots that they no longer could lace through all of the holes.  As a result, whenever he tried to run and play with the other children, he kept stepping right out of his shoes and had to stop and slide them back on.   I made a mental note to pick up a new pair of shoelaces at the store that week.

Sure enough, when I returned a week later for my shift, Timmy’s shoes were still in that dilapidated state.  I called him over to me and had him sit down and take off his shoes so that I could string his new shoelaces for him.  His eyes just kept getting wider and wider as I worked on his shoes.  He asked me where I got the laces, and I told him I picked them up at the store for him.  Once I had the shoes laced up and back on his feet, I told him that now he could run and play with the kids and not worry about losing his shoes.  He looked up at me with a huge smile and said, “I love you!”, and ran off to play.  The shoelaces only cost a dollar or two.  But the impact they had on that little boy’s day was priceless!  It truly is better to give than to receive!

Time Flies!


Where does the time go each day!?  You probably start each day with the best of intentions and plans of what you will accomplish before the time you call it a night.  It seems reasonable and achievable.  Then why is it that we often fall short of our daily goals and end the day on the frustrated note of unaccomplished tasks and a longer to do list for tomorrow?

To answer that question, we need to take a few steps back.  To begin with, make a list of all of the categories that are important to you to include in your life:  earning a living, exercise, time with family, social activities with friends, travel, volunteer time, and so on.  When you have completed your list, rank them in order of priority.

The next step is a bit tedious, but is essential to the issue at hand.  For the next 3 days, carry a small notebook with you wherever you go (or this could be an electronic notepad on your phone).   Write down everything you do, and how long you spend doing it.  Even tasks that only last a few minutes should be recorded.  At the end of the 3 days, you can then figure out an average of how much time you spend each day on any given event.  For example, add up all of the minutes spent watching television over the 3 days and then divide that number by 3.  That will give you your average daily time spent watching TV.  Once you have computed all of your daily averages, compare that list to your list of priorities that you made for the first part of this exercise.  You may be quite surprised at how much your actions do not align with your personal intentions.

Now you have the information you need to make adjustments.  Where is time being wasted each day on activities that don’t rank high on your priority list?  How can you expand your time spent on preferred activities?  It is usually quite surprising to people to see the reality of their time allocations versus what they would estimate as true.

This is a crucial first step to effective time management.  Knowledge is power.  Knowing where your time actually goes is essential in order to make good decisions and changes.  Use this information to begin to structure your days according to your own plan rather than just reacting to life’s distractions and falling into routines and habits that are actually draining your energy.  When our daily activities align with our objectives, we will feel like we are in the flow, energized and engaged.

Give it a try!  In doing so, you will give yourself the gift of more time!


Photo by Enoch Hsiao on Unsplash

Walking Meditation

This is one of my favorite ways to reduce stress and reconnect with my own inner compass.  It is an especially helpful tool for people who can’t do the traditional types of meditating that involve closing the eyes and trying to clear the mind.  In our modern day, fast paced world we are living in, slowing down the mind is a near impossibility for most people.  I recommend trying this method out a minimum of two days per week to help balance out the craziness of life.

Find a spot in nature where you can walk for 45-90 minutes (if your health allows).  The farther removed from traffic, buildings, and such, the better.  Walking on a beach, on hiking trails in the mountains, in a beautiful park, whatever is available to you where you live is the goal.  Ideally, if it is safe, you would walk completely alone.  Walking with a dog or companion is fine.  But if a friend accompanies you, it is important that you both be on the same page, and you agree that there will be no talking on the walk.  Set your phone to airplane mode.  Even if you vow not to look at your phone during the walk, when you feel or hear messages coming in, it will distract your mind to wondering who it is from and whether it was important.

As you begin your walk, you will likely be in distracted mode.  You will be partially aware of your surroundings, and your mind will be spinning with a million thoughts, to-do lists, problems, frustrations, etc.  For the first 10 minutes or so, just let that be.  Allow your mind to do its ping-ponging back and forth between all of the concerns in your life.  Think of your mind like a small child that is demanding your attention.  It needs to feel heard and acknowledged.  Also notice that these thoughts you are having aren’t new thoughts.  They are the same thoughts you’ve been rolling around in your mind for days, weeks, or even months.  When you really think about it, having these repetitive thoughts hasn’t resolved your stress.  It is just perpetuating it.

After about 10 minutes, tell your mind thank you for keeping track of all of those items for you.  Let it know that you are going to disconnect from that endless loop and focus on your surroundings.  At this point, you aren’t trying to stop your mind from thinking.  You are taking control and creating a new subject matter.  Begin to focus on your surroundings.  Notice the grasses, plants and trees.  Notice any wildlife in the area.  How many different colors are in your environment?  Are there any clouds in the sky, and what are their shapes?  Contemplate the mysteries of nature.  As you look at a large tree, you might wonder how many insects, birds and squirrels call that tree their home.  As you pass by a spider web woven in the grasses that has the morning dew drops clinging to its threads, you notice the beauty of that creation.  Watch a bird soaring overhead and imagine what it would feel like if you could fly like that.  Imagine that sense of freedom and what your perspective of the world would be from that vantage point.  You get the idea…use your imagination and keep your mind busy with a childlike wonderment of your surroundings.

The combination of the exercise, fresh air, and a sustained break from your normal mental loops create an opportunity for you to release some of the stress you’ve been carrying with you.  After practicing this walking meditation for a while, something magical began to happen for me.  Towards the last 5-10 minutes of my walk, when my thoughts were starting to return to my normal mental chatter, I would suddenly get a brilliant insight.  From out of the blue, I would see one of my problems from a whole new perspective.  I would come up with a solution and an action item to finally get that issue off of my list.  If you’ve ever had the experience where you’ve wrestled with a problem on your mind all day to no avail.  Then, after a good night’s sleep, your first thought upon waking in the morning is the perfect answer you were looking for.  This walking meditation has the same effect.  Our best insights don’t come from a place of tightness and spinning, they come following a time of release.

Try to include this healthy practice into your weekly routines.