When I was a teenager, I had a bunch of odd jobs. In fact, besides babysitting, my first gig ever was as a Campbell’s Soup Kid at the Diet Pepsi Tournament of Champions. You know, those people dressed in ridiculous costumes with giant heads who run out onto the basketball court at halftime and dance around looking like idiots? Yep, that was me.
I remember getting into costume in the new Charlotte Coliseum’s bathrooms – the ones with the automatic flushing toilets. By the time I was done assembling my petticoats and ginormous head, the toilet had flushed 15 times and everyone in the restroom was quite alarmed. At 14, I would have been humiliated to show my face, but thanks to that plastic head, I didn’t have to worry about it.
I also worked at my uncle’s printing shop, the local Quincys, the Charlotte Observer, and Visionworks. In between jobs, I detailed the cars of any adult willing to pay $20.
What did I do with all that money? In high school, I bought endless tanks of gas so I could drive around listening to Ani Difranco. I spent a little at the local coffeeshops, and I’m sure I bought a nice pair of jeans in there somewhere. I did save some of it for my first semester at college. Of course, at 17, with a full ride and fully convinced that the world was my oyster, I thought a good use of my savings was $200 in must-have books and a nice comforter for my prison-issue dorm bed.
But mostly, I bought presents.
I was a pretty depressed kid. But, I ABHORRED depressed kids. As you might imagine, this was something of a conundrum. Pretty early on I latched onto the sage advice that if you’re feeling bad you should do something nice for someone else. And guess what?
Nothing improved my mood like stumbling across the perfect something, or making the perfect something, and delivering it to someone else who seemed in need of a little lift. Obviously, as a teenager, most of my gifts were given to my friends or close family. But I got the taste for giving.
As I got older, I found I could help people I didn’t know that well – a formal dress for a babysitter’s daughter, a balloon for the exhausted child and parent being dragged through Target at 10pm. Little things. When I was feeling particularly shitty about my life and my purpose in the universe, handing a stranger’s child a $1 bottle of bubbles in the parking lot did more for my outlook than $150 worth of antidepressants. Thank God, no one ever said “No.”
I’ve been really lucky. Down here in Tennessee, we call it being blessed, but you can call it whatever you like. Over the last decade or so, anytime everything seems really desperate, someone has come through with some perfect something. Something that makes everything seem better for the moment. Sometimes it’s been a casserole. Sometimes it’s been money (years ago, on his birthday, Mike found a huge check in his school inbox from an alum – just when our roof was leaking into our childrens’ bedroom). Sometimes it’s been babysitting from someone who made us feel like we were doing her a favor by letting her hang out with our kids. Sometimes it’s been hand-me-downs, or free professional advice, or a load of groceries, or a scholarship, or a gift card, or a haircut. You get the idea. The point is, we’ve been BLESSED.
And that’s AMAZING. But it’s also humbling. ‘Cause, guess what? For all the attention that the difficulty of saying “No,” gets, saying “Yes,” can be equally as difficult. Because, well, Pride. It feels uncomfortable to accept blessings when you don’t feel like you are blessing in return.
I’m no longer at a place in my life where I can wander through Target handing out toys. I miss it. I’m fortunate enough that once a year I can manage a meal for the homeless and a donation to Momastery’s Love Mob (if you don’t know about that, PLEASE click here – you’ll be glad you did.) In fact, not being able to give gifts/money away is the single Most.Sucky.Part. of being broke.
So I’m sitting around, in a kinda dark place, feeling both blessed and encumbered by my blessedness, and suddenly I think, “Wait. I might not have the resources, but I have the platform. ” And it occurs to me that though I might not be able to do it myself, we might be able to do it together.
Maybe there are other people out there who are struggling with Purpose today. Maybe there are other people who want to do something for someone else, but ending world hunger, or homelessness, or any of the other HUGE problems just seems like too much. Insurmountable. Exhausting. Impossible. Maybe there are people (like me) who are captives in their own homes and don’t get an opportunity to shine a little light on a stranger. Maybe there are people who have only a dollar to spare, people who are desperate to spare it, people who know they need the lift lifting others provides, who don’t know how or where to spend their goodwill.
So here’s my idea:
Write to me.
Here’s my real live email address: jen (at) jenwallworkdominguez(dot) com. (substitute symbols for parenthetical words – I’m trying to avoid spammers)
Let me know if you need help. Let me know if you know someone who needs help. Let me know if you need to help someone else.
Help might be a handmixed CD or playlist (we still do that, don’t we?), an encouraging card, a care package, flowers, or a gift card – anything that says, “I see you. You are not alone.” It doesn’t matter whether you are able to send a batch of brownies and a handwritten letter, or a $500 Visa gift card. I promise you, doing something, anything, for someone else will make your day. And if you need help, please, don’t be afraid to say so. It’s ok if you’re not desperate; you don’t have to be out on the street. Perhaps you just need a little pick-me-up, or help with a birthday present for your child, or reassurance that the world is a good place.
I’m not a wealthy girl. Please, don’t send me emails asking ME to help you with your mortgage. That will make me cry in bed. I have enough problems with keeping my own house. I’m just a poor chick with a blog that has a solid readership. However, I’m willing to be a matchmaker. So bring it. Bring me your need to help. Bring me your need for help. And I’ll do the best I can to match them up. Until July 31st, 2015, I’ll match them up. Let’s get our lifting ON, people.
The more people we have involved the better it gets. Yes, caring for, and depending upon, other people requires a fair amount of trust – but my therapist would be proud of me.