No, this post isn't about how I've become more well rounded after pigging out on junk food during the hurricane (though, I did do that!). Rather, I do think it's so important to be a well rounded person - A Renaissance woman (or man, for you few male readers out there), if you will.
I created this blog primarily to indulge in my love for fashion, yummy food, and all things fabulous in life; however, this wouldn't truly represent me if I didn't have some sort of positive, quality of life-boosting message sprinkled in here every now and again.
So today I want to talk about volunteering. Call me crazy, or old fashioned, or whatever you want, but I just don't think we focus on this as much as we should as a culture. I like a good party, I love football, and all other things a typical late 20-something from the South enjoys, but why doesn't anyone ever talk about their volunteering? I don't know if it's that it's not happening, or that it's not "cool" to talk about, but I think we need to get a conversation going and start taking some ACTION.
In no way, shape, or form am I in the financial position to give money to charity. That's just something I can't give at the moment, but I can give my TIME. Thankfully, I can often also offer my expertise in situations where it is warranted. In the past year, I've become increasingly involved with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. For the local chapter, I now sit on their committee, I'm on a speaker's bureau to offer my personal and professional thoughts in public forums, I run a monthly support group for patients and families impacted by blood cancer, and I've started facilitating the training for a FABULOUS program called First Connection. First Connection is a program that pairs up newly diagnosed patients (and/or loved ones) with volunteers who have been through similar experiences. One of the best things you can get when you're living with cancer is to hear from someone else saying, "Yes, I KNOW what you mean. It sucks" and to know they also got through it. I have now talked both my mom and my dad into giving their time to do this program and I know they will touch so many lives. I am so happy and proud that they are going to do this soon. :)
Maybe some other time I'll share parts of my cancer story (that would be a LONG post), but if you know me, you probably know I'm an almost NINE YEAR survivor of Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Woot woot! I want so badly to give back in as many ways as I can because I feel so blessed to be on the other side of cancer now. When I was first diagnosed, my grandmother gave me a prayer necklace. It's a little box on a chain that you can write a prayer to keep around your neck. Every now and then I'll open it up and look at it because it reminds me why I'm here. Yep, I'm getting all existential on you now! ;) Anyway, in 2003 I wrote, "Dear God, I pray that you will help me get through this cancer and someday help people because of it." Well, that prayer came true, and I am so so thankful. :)
I attribute all of my humanitarian-like tendencies to my upbringing. My parents and other family members, most notably my grandmother, have fostered this sense in me from way way back. I vividly remember doing the Adopt-a-Family during Christmas for other families - going into their homes with meals, presents, and smiles - and seeing their faces. Wow. I can honestly say we grew up spoiled in many ways, but I always knew it and knew I needed to balance that by giving to others. I remember in middle school doing the St. Jude's Math-a-Thon too (man, I wish I still had that tshirt!!). Anyway, the same people who fostered this early on are the same people who continue to model this behavior today. My mom continues to organize adopting families for Christmas with her co-workers and raising money for local animal shelters. If I'm involved in any type of charity event, my parents will drop everything and drive to be there. My grandma is very involved with her church and is a Stephen Minister to people in her congregation.
For some reason, at this point in typing this post, I became tearful - and I just think that when you surround yourself with amazing people and see firsthand the good you can do just by offering your TIME, it fills your heart so much that you well up with happy tears and you feel like you might burst (in a good way).
That being said, for those of you who volunteer - GO YOU!!!!! For those that don't yet - try it, seriously. If you don't know where to start, contact me and I'll help you find something (seriously, that would be fun for me :) ). I'll help you find something that meets your passions, strengths, and time available.
If you volunteer, comment below and tell the world how. It's ok - BRAG A LITTLE! Seriously, do it! We don't talk about this stuff enough and I want to hear!