Moving Forward By Giving Back

As we close out the year, I find myself firmly rooted in gratitude. In many ways, 2020 has been the most difficult year of our lives. Like a rollercoaster ride with a side of whiplash, we are weathering an unraveling of our economy, navigating and adjusting to life during a pandemic, and we collectively survived the most contentious election in US history. The uncertainty blended with mixed messaging topped off with a healthy dose of unbelief, doubt and skepticism has made for a bone-tired, weary people. Gold stars for everyone, Oprah style.

Weary? Yes. Defeated? No. In fact, hope exists everywhere in our everyday moments. You just have to look for it.

Think about it: Weariness and hope are not mutually exclusive. In fact, Hope is the empathy Weariness is seeking. Hope says, “I see you, Weariness. Breathe deep. I will hold space for your exhaustion. In the meantime, I believe ‘This too shall pass’. Come, rest awhile.” What if we chose to treat our weariness with that level of compassion? What would be different as a result of a kinder, gentler approach?

2020 has brought an avalanche of change, and real change is messy. It has been an unearthing of sorts, shedding what was in preparation for what is possible. This year has given us a plethora of opportunities to take inventory of our lives, let go of what isn’t important, and refocus on what matters most. What matters most to you?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what matters most to me lately. I started 2020 with a lens of gratitude, but really dug deep this spring when the first lockdown rolled around. I used April to lead a daily virtual gratitude challenge with my friends, and carried forward the gratitude practice into the 20 leadership classes that I facilitated throughout the year. That experience, hearing from 300+ people about what they were grateful for, was both humbling and inspiring. Some shared a love for the relatively benign – cold beer, duct tape, and soft beds – and others poured out their heart, one going so far as to share they were grateful for the 20 years they had with their son before he died. Raw, real, and fully human.

To honor the abundant blessings I have been given and the gratitude I feel for being given so much more than I deserve, I have felt an urge to give back. With so many in struggle, I felt it was more important than ever to ensure my donations on Give To the Max Day MN were going to causes that would make a difference in real, meaningful ways. We can’t move forward without giving back. There is still time to give this year, it is never too late. Check out these worthy organizations that made my list:

K-Love – K-Love is a Christian radio station that makes my daily play list. I chose to donate to this organization because I have been a life-long recipient of “little miracles” and truly believe He can do more than we can ask or imagine. I am living proof, and this music and message makes my life so much better.

Home for Life – Home for Life is an animal sanctuary committed to give all special needs animals a literal “home for life”. I first discovered HFL through the story of Raha. It broke my heart, and I made a commitment to myself to support this organization for the remainder of my life. Every animal deserves to be loved with dignity and quality of life.

Wags and Whiskers – Wags and Whiskers is a volunteer run animal rescue, and the organization that brought me my baby girls, Vivian and Josephine. Animal rescues are forever in need to food, toys, litter, treats, medications etc. Every dollar helps.

African American Leadership Forum – With a focus on developing the leadership capacity of Black leaders across Minnesota, the AALF is a cross-sector network of Black Thought Leaders, Influencers, Builders, and Ambassadors whose mission is to foster a just society that works better for all Americans by addressing disparities in Economic Development, Health & Wellness, Education, and Family & Culture in the Black community. I chose to support this organization to ensure we continue to diversify the leadership influencers we have in our local community in a visible way.

Little Free Library LTD – The Little Free Library system in Minneapolis just brings me joy. Books, reading, and writing have always been a huge part of my life and learning journey and I believe that knowledge is power. Their newest initiative, Read In Color, is about diversifying the books on the shelves of the little free libraries and ensuring that the available books are representative of the immediate population where the installation is housed.

Reclaim – I have personally benefited from having a trusted relationship with a mental health professional, and Reclaim does the same for the LGBTQIA+ community. They work to provide financially and culturally accessible care to queer and trans youth and their families, as well as train practitioners and partners in the community to create systems of change at the intersection of gender and racial justice. Everyone deserves to feel understood, and access to mental health services should be a basic human right, not a privilege.

Huge Theater – The arts have largely suffered in silence throughout the pandemic. Music and theater have played an incredibly important role throughout my lifetime, and ensuring that local improv theaters have a chance at survival is up to us. This donation was given in honor of my high school friend Sean who is their managing director.

Northfield Arts Guild – I have several friends that are artists, and most are in struggle this year. Look around your home – what would your morning be like without coffee in your favorite hand thrown mug? What if you didn’t have that favorite piece of art on your wall? The everyday beauty we get from art can not be replaced. This donation was given in honor of my friend Emily who has worked at the Guild for years.

Tell Me: In what ways are you feeling weary? How do you give back when you are in gratitude? What are you hopeful for in 2021?

Join Us: If you are looking for a guided, intentional way to start 2021, join me at our visioning workshop, Courage Rising. Tickets available now.

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