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According to the U.S. Department of House and Urban Development, over a half a million people are homeless in the USA.

Let that statistic sink in.  

That's people that don't have a place to lay their head every night, they may be living on the streets, cold during the winter and hot during the summer. Food, at times, may be scarce, and many of those that are homeless, are children.

Remember yesterday when I discussed my definition of a gift? Give with no expectations? If I'm being honest, giving to the homeless man or woman on the side of the street is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to giving a gift to the homeless.

I've often been asked, do you give to the homeless? Don't you worry they are going to use the money for drugs or alcohol? Or what if they aren't even homeless and they are pocketing the money and going to a nice home?

I hear the concerns. They are ones I've asked myself over the years. Typically, when I give money to a homeless person, I'm not giving them huge amounts. Maybe a dollar or two.  If I'm worried about how someone spends a couple of dollars, I'm probably not giving for the right reasons.

I also think, what if my one dollar, is the difference between a meal and someone going hungry.  It's not worth my worry to wonder about the negative things they could do with the money.

With that said, this is your journey and maybe you aren't comfortable with giving money to homeless. Okay, I'm not going to argue with you on the matter. There are other ways to give to those in need. Give a bottle water, a gift card to the local coffee shop, buy them a meal, or continue with the gift from day one and make eye contact with them and smile.You'll be surprised at their reaction. Over my giving journey, the most heartfelt connections I had with strangers was seeing those sitting on the sidewalk, asking for money, and not looking away, but instead, acknowledging them and smiling. 

At the end of the day, no matter the beggar on the corner, or your neighbor down the street, we are all created equally and need to be loved.

Day 2 Giving Challenge: The next time you encounter a homeless person, choose to give to them.  Want to understand the services available in your community that serve the homeless, check out shelterlisting.org. 

Did you know... there are a variety of reasons people in our communities become homeless.  Housing affordability, loss of job, decrease income, health issues, domestic violence and racial inequities. If we understand the why, we can work to solve the challenges associated with homelessness.

Chat with your Children: On any given night there are thousands of children that are homeless. With that said, there is a good chance your child will go to school or have a child in their class that is homeless or living in poverty. These children may not be getting a good night's sleep, come to school hungry, they may wear the same clothes day in and day out and may struggle with their behavior and/or grades. We need to ensure our children understand that children in our community don't have the things they have and that life for them is difficult. Chat about ways your child can be kind to these children, and even discuss a way your family can help. Maybe packing an extra snack or helping with school supplies. Whatever the situation, it's not the child's fault and school is their haven, a place for them to be warm and get food. 

Bonus Story: Several years ago, I had an encounter on the way to a Tim McGraw concert. The best part of this story was the kindness of others. Check out a A Simple Way to Stay Humbled and Kind.

Blessings, 
Stephanie L. Jones

Have you joined my free 14 day Summer Giving Challenge? It just started today! Sign up here.

First things first, download and print out the Summer Giving Challenge resources packet!

If this is your first time participating in one of my challenges, welcome.  If you've been around awhile and are coming back for more giving fun, welcome back!

Not to get to down in the weeds, but I'd like to share with you how the Giving Challenge revolution started.  

In late 2010, I read 29 Gifts, by Cami Walker. It was an amazing book of a young women’s battle to regain control over her life after a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. In the book, Cami challenges her readers to give a gift for 29 days. I'll be very transparent, I never understood why 29 days, so it became my goal, starting January 1, 2011, to go beyond the 29 days and do an entire year of giving.  

My definition of a gift was simple, it was to give something and expect nothing in return. If I gave a physical gift wrapped in a bow, I didn't expect a hand written thank you not. If I gave a smile, I didn't expect a smile in return. If I let someone cut in front of me in traffic, I didn't expect the friendly wave back. I think you get my drift.

When we strip the expectation away, giving is freeing instead of what it can be at times, frustrating.  Keep the definition of a gift in mind, through out this journey. The longer you practice giving with no expectations, the easier it will become. 

As I mentioned earlier, I set a goal to give every day for year. Me one person, looking for a way to make a difference in one other person's life each and every day. I went beyond a year, and gave a gift for 522 consecutive day. Whew!

After my journey ended I took a time to reflect what the journey meant. I knew I had to keep giving.  I would say on most days from then until now I've given a gift. I've just stop tracking and sharing my daily giving adventure. 

It has always been my hope that the giving isn't about me and my gifts, but that my stories motivate others to get involved and start giving.  There are so many ways to give and I'm a big believer that sometimes the smallest of gifts have the biggest impact.  A simple smile to a stranger could change the course of their entire day.  An encouraging text or email to a friend may come at a time when they need it the most.  

I'm grateful for you to join me on this journey. It may just change your life like it did mine. I'd love for you to share with me and others how you are a making a difference, as I truly believe, 1 can make a difference but all of us together can change the world.

Day 1 Giving Challenge: Let's start out with one of those small gifts that I mentioned. Smile at everyone that crosses your path today.  

Did you know... there has been multiple research studies on the benefits of smiling? Smiling can improve your mood, lower blood pressure, be a stress reliever, improve relationships and may even help you live long. So, don't just smile today for the giving challenge, flash your smile everyday to feel the positive effects.

Chat with your Children: If you are a parent, I'd love for you to get your child involved in the giving challenge. A new school year is coming up and just think about the impact your child could have on classmates just by smiling at them.

Bonus Story: Check out a recent blog story I wrote on how smiling helped build my confidence.

Blessings, 
Stephanie L. Jones

Friends, I did something last week that a couple of years ago I wouldn't be caught dead doing.

I went out in public with no make up on, sweatpants, my Thursday socks (yes, they say Thursday), and sandals. In my mind's eye, I was quite the sight. I hadn't intended leaving the house until a couple of book orders came in. I knew if I didn't mail the books on this day, it would be a couple of days before I could. I hate to disappoint my customers.

As I entered the post office, I flashed a smile to an elderly man in the lobby. He smiled back.

I chatted with the postmaster, joked with the FedEx guy that came in, and after I mailed my books, when I went back through the lobby the elderly man was leaving. I again smiled at him and held the door open, as he was behind me.

He commented, "It's a gorgeous day outside. I'm glad I rose early and mowed the lawn."

"I bet. It's going to be a hot one, but I love it."  I responded

Parting our separate ways, he said, "Keep smiling. It looks good on you."

His heartfelt, kind words made my day. 

I bounded back to my car and then took a selfie. You see, stripped down with no makeup causes me all types of insecurities. I feel ugly.  For years my husband has always told me he thinks I look better without makeup. I've never believed it. But I always knew he didn't marry me for my looks, because he'd seen me at 3:00 a.m. in the police academy with no makeup, hair slicked back in a tight bun, going on no sleep.  If he could like me then, he must be a keeper.

The man's words hit me and got me to thinking about inner beauty.  I was self-conscious going into the post office, but one of the simple gifts I know I can give is my smile. It's a way for my inner beauty to shine and part of the clouds of my insecurities. I realized that smiling, a free gift, raises my confidence. 

I reflected on the years that I've been on my daily giving journey and how smiling at strangers, especially making eye contact and smiling at homeless people, even if rejected and receive no smile in return, has grown my confidence. But what I've found, is more times than not, even those frowning or appearing to be in a mad mood, smile back.

Do you have insecurities? I'm sure you do! Think about how giving, even a smile, can help you build your confidence, push you to step out of your comfort zone, and see yourself like others see you.

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

"The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

Have you ever considered what you could give away when you travel?

Candy, gum, a magazine, or maybe just a smile or an offer to help a newbie traveler through the airport.

On one or more occasions, I've given all the above and the joy the gifts bring to my travels are better than any souvenir I could purchase.

Awhile back I started carrying, in my travel bag, two copies of The Giving Challenge. If I encountered someone I thought might enjoy the book, I'd sign and give them a copy.

Some people end up following me on social media or sending an email, thanking me for the gift. Others I never hear from, and that's okay. But what happened recently was a first.

If you've flown Southwest you know there are not assigned seats. Walking down the aisle, I looked for a friendly face to sit by.  As I passed a row, a 4 Things Tote by Shop Forward caught my attention. Shop Forward gives back to nonprofits through every purchase, to date, raising over $3.1 million. 

Because of the bag, I was confident the lady sitting in the window seat must be a fellow giver.

I plopped down, we chatted about the bag and then our conversation turned to Shop Forward's #PimpinJoy line of clothing. I shared with my new friend, how I'd been wanting to buy some of their clothes, but I was on a self-imposed no clothes shopping ban for a year. Why? I realized I had too many clothes and I needed to be grateful and content for what I owned. I now use the money, I'd spend on clothes, for foster children or other children in need. 

Before we knew it, a man took the middle seat and our conversation ended.

I noticed she was reading so I figured she may enjoy my book. I pulled a copy out of my bag, signed it and handed it to her. I think she was a bit shocked by my gift, but extremely grateful.

She departed the flight in Nashville and I stayed on to continue my way home to Chicago. 

A couple weeks later a package arrived at my home. I hadn't ordered anything. Ummmm?

I opened the bag and inside was a #PimpinJoy t-shirt. I cried!

I'm the giver. Surprised gifts don't venture my way to often.

My new friend included a card that said, "I wanted to thank you again for the book you gave me on the airplane. I enjoyed it and have already passed it on to my daughter. I remember your story about not buying new clothes this year, so I thought you would enjoy this shirt and together we helped a disabled vet build a home. #PimpinJoy"

Oh friends, there is so much I loved about the thoughtfulness of the gift and note, but discovering the purchase helped a Veteran was a cherry on top.

I love our Veterans. So much so, my next book, The Gratitude Challenge will help fund a monthly Veterans breakfast. 

Many times, our gifts go out into the world and never come back. And that's okay. We are to give with no expectation. But sometimes, they come back in the form of a t-shirt and a new friend.

Giving Challenge: Next time you travel, pack a couple of gifts to give away to a stranger. 

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

“The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life”


What is America? It's the title of a book I featured last week and did a giveaway for a copy. Congratulations Joyce V! You are the winner.  

How did the winner enter this contest? They replied to my newsletter (sign up here for future giveaways) and they shared what America meant to them. Here are some of my favorites.

What “America” means to me is… a country full of history, magnificent scenery, and abundance of variety in landscape & people. It’s a place I call home. I treasure that our founding fathers not only prayed and included God in forming this great country but were also thankful for His favor upon them. America means freedom in so many ways. A few among them are the freedom to worship, freedom to pursue my God given dreams & passions, freedom to live where I want and travel east to west and north to south, and freedom to create wealth or live simply. America is a representation of God’s grace in person! ~Kim 

What “America” means to me is…my homeland. For many years I’ve heard it referred to as “the land of the free”, “land of opportunity”! Even in the midst of all of the present turmoil, it’s still all of that. A place where many many folks from all over the world also want to make it a place to call home. We are so blessed to have much more than so many other countries. ~Joyce

A land built on the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors, providing us with the greatest freedoms that any land has ever known. Most of my family heritage is based on 1800’s immigration, but I am grateful for all who forged this amazing nation! ~David

America means freedom, opportunity and hope. It is a symbol of courage, taking risks and standing up for a cause. Our forefathers risked their lives for a higher good, greater life and fought for family and future generations. America truly means the land of the free and home of the brave! ~Jeanne

America means freedom and opportunity.  America is a place where people should be able to come to and be LOVED. America represents hard work and determination. America should be seen as a place that is SAFE, but we all must do our part to make it so. -Kayla

What “America” means to me is… we are always bigger than we think we are.  (And in this case, “big” is a good thing — not like a dress size or a price tag.) Decent, hard-working immigrants made their homes in this “new world” and managed our original 13 colonies just fine …. and they believed that they would be better off if they could somehow govern themselves without the hand of a distant, far-away kingdom managing their affairs.  Our colonial ancestors saw that if only they could work together (“united”) for a common cause for their own common good, they (and now “WE”) would all benefit. Instead of complaining about how small they were in number ….or how poor they were in resources… our ancestors bonded together in a big way to gain their independence.  America means that even immigrants and people lacking in resources … people who might feel “small” or powerless …. can stand united for the greater good.  

I think BIG when I think of America.  Partner with others and work hard for a common cause … and we are all better off! ~Victoria

Freedom of choice and a sense of pride. ~Karen

Freedom at the price of veteran's lives who love this country so much that they are willing to sacrifice their life to keep it free. God Bless the veterans. ~Maria

Freedom. One word seems so simple, but our great country was built on this basic principle. While we may not always agree with each other, we have the freedom to express our views without repercussion. The formula works. Just look around and see how many people want to come to our great nation.  From this one word comes the right to pray to our God, support the political candidate of our choice, and attend the school of our choice . . . and that's just the beginning! ~Jerilyn

What does America mean to you?  I'll be sharing responses all week on social media!

Happy 4th of July!

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

“The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life”