Though I am swearing off the word “unprecedented” due to 2020 overuse, I think we can all agree that it’s been a strange year, across the world and across disciplines. And here we are again, preparing for s’more distance, following a week when we’re asked to remember to be thankful for all we DO have.
For many of us, this Thanksgiving was, um, different. And whether you spent your holiday meal with loved ones via cyberspace, ate a few slices of deli turkey solo or shared time with family (of origin or choice), I hope you were able to take a few (or a few hundred) moments to be grateful for all you DO have, like a meal; a warm, safe place to put down your head at night; or the strength you are finding in the face of the unexpected. If you are able to dust yourself off and keep on keeping on (if you’re here, you are!), you may want to count your blessings for that, too.
In last week’s Campowerment.com session with Expert Meditation Instructor Anne “Sussy” Sussman, I learned of different approaches to gratitude across ancient wisdom traditions. Anne shared the Buddhist practice of “gladdening in the heart” by reflecting on a series of fortunate circumstances. Of the Hindu practice of giving without expectation. Both jumped out at me.
In Florida with my family, I’ve been searching for s’more inspiration for leading with gratitude (and not just thinking about it). So, I went to my mom (Grandy)’s bookshelf, and came across one of her favorite books, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, by Cami Walker.
It’s a beautiful, real-life story about how the author’s Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis at age 33, which came the day after her wedding, turned into the most profound and inspiring time of her life. After crashing her own pity party, Cami’s friend, a Medicine Woman, gave her a most unusual Rx: Give away 29 gifts in 29 days, and see what happens.
In pain and facing a debilitating future with MS, Cami listened, delivering an active service to someone in need, every single day for a month, to remind herself of how much love and kindness she still had in her heart and soul, to give away, even during a time that challenged her to the core.
Those simple acts of giving, and ultimately receiving, completely changed Cami Walker’s experience of life. There is so much power in this, on both ends.
Giving small and giving big are both giving back. In the book, Cami’s Medicine Woman friend tells her: “No matter how much we have materially, we never think we have enough, or we’re good enough. Instead of getting lost in a sense of lack, once we realize we are part of something bigger, it becomes clear we have many gifts to offer the world.”
By the time I got to page 15, I had committed to take the 29-day challenge myself. Today is Day 14, and my soul has not felt this good since, oh, about March 15.
So far, I’ve given away three physical gifts, and 11 gifts that have sent me sharing human goodness with friends and strangers who I’ve felt could use a boost. Over the weekend, my sister Jojo and I suited up and made lunch for 30 firefighters, who diverted us to the local ER, to instead, share our gift with the medical staff who’ve been working tirelessly, ‘round the clock, for months.
I invite you to challenge yourself to see what it feels like to give a piece of your heart and some kindness away, as we prepare to close the door on this year that has taught us all so much about ourselves and each other.
And if you need even more more more inspiration for gratitude, for giving and for how to share in the bliss it brings, I recommend Anne Sussman’s book: “The Bliss Buddy Project: How Sharing Gratitude Increases Joy,” HERE 😉