Making a Difference: Six Small Steps to Happiness
If I could read every word of Your Special Gift by Max Lucado right here, I would. It is one of my most favorite children's books in the whole world because the metaphorical story it relates is so simple, yet profound. When the cute little wooden people of Wemmicksville wake up one morning to find gifts for each of them, each perfectly suited to the recipient, at the foot of their beds, as well as a worn-out traveling family in their midst, they rush about excitedly trying to help, but without their gifts. Hans the Baker brings clothes, while the mayor tries to fix a wagon wheel. Nothing works, so in desperation they visit their carver, Eli, who tells them he gave them the special gifts knowing the travelers were coming, so that they could use their own talents to help them. "Do the most what you do the best," he counsels them.
In life, there will always be those weary travelers needing help. Many of us avoid helping, or give up with little effort because we don't think we can make that much of a difference, or because we've tried and seen no actual effect, or maybe because it was too hard. But, believe me, if you have even a seed of a desire to help others, if you "do the most what you do the best," you will meet with success, and be much happier for it.
But how do you know what you do best? It sounds easy enough, but so many moms I talk to are so wrapped up in cleaning and chauffeuring and kids' classes that they don't know what truly makes them happy, and knowing that is key to knowing what you do the best. Part of the process of enjoying service is finding out what truly moves you, what makes your heart feel light.
So, if you want to find happiness through service, to be a Mom Making a Difference like these women, here is what you need to do:
Step 1: Find out what makes you happy and what you're passionate about.
This can be easy or super hard. Go into a room away from the kids for 15 minutes, taking two pieces of paper, a pen, and laptop with you. Shut the door, and make a list of the things that make you happy, the things that, when you do them, make you feel like you're nearing your true potential, or a truer state of peace or joy. While making this list, you may want to identify why certain things make you happy, as Karen Walrond, author of The Beauty of Different, did. Identify any patterns or similarities. For instance, on my long list of things that make me happy I have "RVing," "boating," and "having dinner in the canyons," so being outdoors must be something that makes me happy.
Step 2: Know what you're good at.
This is probably easier than step one. Just get out your resume. List any and every skill or talent that comes to mind.
Step 3: Identify what you're passionate about.
Make another list of the things you're passionate about. Pull up your favorite magazine or newspaper's front page and note which stories most get you riled up. It doesn't have to have anything to do with any charitable cause, per se.
Step 4: Cross-reference those three lists.
What items or patterns are on both your happy list and your skills/talents list, and what are some ways they could be used to help causes you're passionate about? For me, "writing" happens to be something on both my happy list and my skills list. Helping children happens to be something I'm passionate about, so I write about service, other women helping children and the organizations they work with, education, and service projects we've done. Brainstorm.
Step 5: Make another list.
Now make a list of possible ways to help that use your specific talents and skills and that address something you're passionate about or that makes you happy, keeping it to no more than 10 ideas so that you don't get overwhelmed, and making sure they're specific and small. List any friends or acquaintances you know who are experiencing difficulties, or go to VolunteerGuide.org, click on the "...in 15 minutes" option in the upper left-hand "make a difference..." menu, and then select the cause that most resembles your "passionate about" list. Or go to HelpFromHome.org or Sparked.com and enter your cause, your skill, or your happy thing, in the search box.
Step 6: Do the first thing on the list from step 5.
Have you gone through the steps and figured out your happy list, passions, and skills? How did it go?
List photo courtesy of Flickr.
Feature, gift photo courtesy of Flickr.