Showing Up To Serve

I woke up this morning before both of my children, a rare occurrence when you are a parent of tiny humans with constant needs. Lying in bed, I soaked in the stillness and quietness of the moment, knowing it was fleeting and appreciating it even more because of that. I let my mind follow my breath (not the other way around for once) and felt a sense of calm that I had been missing, and welcomed it in like an old friend I hadn’t connected with in a while.

Life has held a certain heaviness these past few weeks with all of the natural disasters, catastrophes, human hate, and political unrest. And on top of this global load, we have also lost dear friends and family members to illness, accidents, and time and chance. As an emotive person, I finally hit a point where I felt empty of tears from it all. I needed space to heal, rest, and reconnect so I could contribute and continue on. I couldn't show up.

And maybe you’re feeling some of the same heaviness, too, for your own reasons. Heaviness generally makes us want to protect ourselves, shrink inward, and even hide from it all when life feels like too much to process and handle. But we were not made to shrink and hide.

We were made to show up and serve.

This is the great equalizer and common denominator, no matter who you are, where you live, or what circumstances you find yourself in: You have the powerful choice to decide your mindset and take action (or stay in inaction) accordingly.

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You decide how you show up.

You also decide if you show up or sit out (even if this doesn’t feel like a choice sometimes, it always is).

And showing up is the first step toward the difference you can make through service.

American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead, is known for saying “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” 

Service starts with the desire and the willingness to be a change agent and advocate, whether that’s at home with your family or on a larger community or global landscape.

This month, we’re highlighting the value of service and how you can make a difference. We’ll share a new model that highlights Four Levels of Impact, and invite you to dive in with us this month to explore how you can start where you are to do something that matters!

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Four Levels of Impact

We want to encourage you to live a life driven by intentional influence so we’ve created our Four Levels of Impact model in partnership with Lead With Intention® to show you various ways to make a difference. We know that everyone is at a different place with their available resources and their ability for commitment. That’s why this model welcomes any level of involvement and simply starts with acknowledging “Yes, I can do something beyond myself. Yes, I will start where I am now and try.”

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Level One: Contribute

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Whether it’s donating to a cause you believe in or volunteering your time at a local nonprofit, you have something you can contribute. Don’t talk yourself out of giving if your wallet is empty or your time is already stretched. Find one thing you can do for another person and start there. My friend, Sarah Thompson, started the Sacramento Kindness Campaign by baking a single quiche for someone in need, and now her movement changing lives through sponsoring bigger projects. What’s your quiche moment? One simple action can have lasting ripple effects.

Level Two: Serve

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 Serving becomes personal because it is based on connection. When you devote your time, energy, and resources to helping someone else, a bond is formed and lives are changed. Consider what drives your desire to serve and then partner with an organization or help an individual. Each community has needs that are often unmet because we lack awareness of the need or don’t know where to start. Two great sites we recommend are Just Serve and Volunteer Match, which lists many one-time and ongoing service opportunities. Start here to get connected and see where your service leads you.

Level Three: Organize

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As you notice a need, begin to explore solutions. Whether it’s a local issue or a larger systemic problem, talk to others about why it matters and begin to brainstorm sustainable solutions together. Then connect with these passionate people and organize around the cause. It could be anything from launching a fundraising campaign to planning a day of service or holding an open forum discussion to raise awareness about a community issue. Another local friend and immigration attorney, Tiffani Sharp, founded Willow Tree Roots to provide socioeconomic empowerment to women living in vulnerable conditions internationally. We’ll be sharing more about Tiffani’s journey later this month in our next Millennial Spotlight podcast so you can learn how her idea became a reality when she was willing to mobilize her mission.

Level Four: Move

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If you’re ready to do more and feel called to serve domestically or even internationally, you may consider uprooting to have a more cross-cultural service experience. In our first year of marriage, Joel and I partnered with a non-profit and moved to Amman, Jordan to serve as volunteer teachers in local schools. While we had traveled to many other countries before, there was something totally different and life-changing about becoming a resident and expat, not just a visitor or traveler. Through our longer-term commitment to service abroad, we were able to make a bigger impact and share some amazing experiences together. Opportunities like Teach for America, AmeriCorps, and The Peace Corps all organize longer-term projects in various locations if you’re curious about moving somewhere new to have a more in-depth service experience.

Showing Up Now

 For me, this time of year is particularly significant. Spiritually it represents the hope and promise of something more. Something different that is life-changing and powerful. Something that we must learn to be now and model for our children, families, coworkers, and community members, even when the world feels raw and heavy.

Whatever level you are at now, it all starts with the choice to show up and the desire to serve.

You decide what role you want to play and what impact you make.

…as a curious community member wanting to contribute?

Do you want to be a victim holding a torch with bridges to burn?

Can you be an advocate for social change and revolution?

Are you a passive onlooker unsure of what to do?

Do you want to be an engaged citizen who is ready to make a difference?

Showing up makes the difference.

Even if you don’t have answers or know how to help.

Start by asking the questions. Then listen and respond with compassion.

Simply start where you are and choose to show up and serve.

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More Ways To Make an Impact

Here are some great sites that will help you on your journey to making an impact through service. Feel free to leave comments on other resources or ideas you have as well!