Category

Giving

Category

In January 2016, I met Don and he gave me a gift, that touched me so much, I wrote about it in my book, The Giving Challenge

In short, I was in Washington, DC on business, hired Don to drive me to the airport, and on the way,  I realized I had no cash, only a credit card to pay him. At the time, he only took cash. I said a little prayer, and when we got to the airport, without knowing I didn't have a way to pay, he told me the ride was on him, a gift he wanted to give me.  

In awe that God had answered my prayer, I snapped a picture, as I never wanted to forget Don and the moment, a gift connected me to a stranger.

After publishing The Giving Challenge, I've been on a mission to meet Don again, tell him the story and give him a copy of my book, where I share our story.  I'd tried to hire him in the past, but he was booked.

Finally, this past week, success!  Oh friends, when we arrived at the hotel to drop me off, I shared with Don about our former meeting, his gift, and showed him his story in my book. His reaction would have been a viral video moment, but with no video recording, I soaked in the moment, as Don removed his glasses and wiped the tears from his eyes.  

We hopped out of his vehicle, hugged, snapped another picture, and scheduled a time for him to pick me up the next day to get me to the airport.

I'm confident it wasn't a coincidence that I met Don or that he gave me a gift. I know God spoke to him that day, Don listened, and for reasons, yet unknown, our paths were meant to cross.  

Over and over on my giving journey, I'd feel God nudge me to help someone, and 100% of the time, even many times uncomfortable, the stranger I asked if they needed help did. I'm not perfect, and I miss opportunities to give, but I've learned that many times, we can be an angel on earth, helping those in need, and sometimes it's a gift from a stranger, in the form of a free ride.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of "The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"


Years ago, in an annual review with my boss, she didn't have any constructive criticism for my work performance, but she did have a personal recommendation.  

Stop apologizing.

When she brought up the topic, I was a bit stunned. As she gave me examples, I could see her point.  

For example, I might be out of the office and my response to an email or a phone call would be delay and I would begin my response, "I'm sorry it's taken me a little longer to get back to you."

She said, "There is no need to apologize. You were out of the office.  Only apologize for actions that really need apologizing, like you make a mistake, then your apology carries more weight."

Over the years, I've worked hard to eliminate, I'm sorry...out of my vocabulary, unless it's really needed. For example, if I don't immediately respond to a text, I don't start out my text, "I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to you."  

People may expect an immediate response, but if I'm timely, especially given my extremely packed schedule, there is no reason to apologize. 

Even though her advice was given years ago, apologizing is still a habit I work to break. I'll often start an email with an apology, and then I'll consciously ask, "Why am I apologizing?"  Usually there is no need for the apology and I'll delete my words, address and respond to the email. 

Over the next week, take some time to evaluate your words. Do you apologize too much?

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of “The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life”

Note: I wrote this blog because I've missed sending out the last two Giving Gal Gazettes. At first I wanted to apologize to my following, but being fully transparent, it's not that I didn't want to send out my newsletter, it's that I've been totally buried with my day job, working on speaking proposals, editing a 65,000 word book, meeting with coaching clients, working on my own book, traveling and oh yeah...taking a little time to give to myself.  As I thought about it, I had nothing to apologize for and I'm hopeful, you were okay with the break, and happy to receive this edition in your inbox. Thanks for your continued support, as I pursue my big dreams and help others do the same!

I learned the hard way on how to give this last challenge. If I'm being honest I should have started the giving challenge here with "find a way to give to yourself."

We tend to give, give, give to others but never take time to give to ourselves?

When I was on my Giving journey, giving a gift every day for 522, when I missed a day I was both devastated and relieved.

Why?

I was tired! What I realized is, that if I want to serve and pour into others, I myself, must be healthy, both mentally and physically. Be rested, both body and soul. I could be happy for what I'm giving but also in my own life.

After my 522-day journey, I took a break to rejuvenate and I loved learning and finding new ways to incorporated ways to give to myself regularly.

When I picked back up on my daily giving, I incorporated self-care because when we take care of ourselves, I've found, we can give more to others. An idea that many have a hard time believing and putting into action. I get it! I've been there.

I learned from my mistakes and now each week I find ways to unplug and fill up my tank.

Here are some of my favorite ways…
1. Reading a good book. (Currently, a Long Way Home, by Charles Martin.)
2. Going for a hike.
3. Soaking in a bubble bath.
4. Watching a movie.
5. Napping

As I reflect on the last fourteen days, I think I should have started by having you fill your cup up first, so you could plow through the fourteen days. I'm sorry I didn't. But with that said, congratulations for participating in the "Summer" Giving Challenge.

Now go out, celebrate and find a way to give to yourself.

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

 
Day 14 Giving Challenge: Find a way to give to yourself

Did you know... Many women feel guilty about taking time for themselves. I wish I had the reference, but I heard a research study on the radio, and I swear the show's host said, a recent study found that 63% surveyed felt guilty for taking time for self-care. What? Let's not feel guilty about giving to ourselves and living the best life we can! P.S. Easier said than done. But let's work on making progress and getting rid of guilt. 

Chat with your Children:  One in eight children suffer from anxiety.  There are many factors that are contributing to the high rates of anxiety in children and too much to dig into here. But in reading various articles, there are things we can do to help children with anxiety, and I think they align nicely to giving to yourself. (1) Work to find time for children to relax each day, without a screen. Maybe helping with dinner, playing a game, or snuggling up with a book; and (2) Get outside and play.

Bonus Story: Several years ago, I took hot yoga. What an experience! Here are five things I learned from the experience.

What's your great talent? You know, the activity you love to do and if you could do it all day long, that's what you'd choose?

Sometimes the older the we get, life gets busy and our talents get buried at the bottom of a plastic container that's stored under the basement stairs. If we are lucky, we pull it out for a holiday and then we don't see it for another year. 

Or maybe your talent is something you love, but you don't think you're "good enough" to share with the world. You may think, "What if I embarrass myself? I should be able to take a leap of faith, but my faith is fleeting."

I understand where you are coming from. I loved to bake, especially cupcakes, but my decorating skills were questionable at best.

But I baked anyway and gave away my ugly cupcakes.  

Then one day I asked a friend, who decorated beautiful cupcakes, to teach me how to make presentable cupcakes.

She showed up at my house, shared her talent with me, and within a few hours I learned how to decorate a cupcake I was no longer embarrassed to give away.

Do you have a talent you can showcase and share with others?

  • Can you sew? Maybe a friend needs a new dress hemmed.
  • Are you crafty? Maybe an event planner could use your craftiness to make decorations.
  • Are you good with money? Maybe you can help a newly married couple create a budget.
  • Do your friends rave about your organized home? Call a friend who is always stressed about disorganization and schedule a date to help her out.

I'm a firm believer that our talents were meant to be shared.

Take a minute to jot down your talent and think about who you can help. Reach out to the person you jotted down and offer your assistance. If they accept, schedule time on the calendar to share your talent!

If you can't think of anyone that needs your talent, post on social media, "Any of my friend's need help with (fill in the blank)?" 

What talent will you share?

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

Day 12 Giving Challenge: Share your talent to help someone.

Did you know... that many times our talents aren't rewarded until later life? Look at the famous actor, such as Morgan Freeman. He didn't get his big break until age 50! Or what about Colonel Sanders, owner of KFC? He didn't open his first franchise until age 62. Or my favorite, J.K. Rowling, who lived in poverty and it wasn't until age 32 that she published the Harry Potter series.  You are never to young, or old, to share your talent with others.

Chat with your Children: Have you seen the movie, A Star is Born, staring Lady Gaga? Over the course of the promotion of the movie, I watched several of her interviews. She shared how she was bullied in school for singing and acting. Lucky for us, she didn't let the bullying squash her talents. I think there are two great conversations that can be had with children around the topic of talents. The first, is encouraging them to do what they love. Find ways to work together to help them nurture a passion. The second is, teaching them how to encourage others when it comes to recognizing talents in their friends. Maybe your child loves sports, how can the cheer on their friends who love band or drama? We should never be tearing down or making fun of someone for sharing their talents. We don't want to be the reason as child puts their talent in a box under the basement stairs.

Bonus Story: A day before our dog, Boss, passed away, our friend came over and gave us a great gift. I share how our talents can impact others. I will cherish the gift she gave us forever.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned on my giving journey is that if I take time to look around, I've noticed there are opportunities to give everywhere.  

For instance, have you ever been in line at the grocery store with one item and the person in front of you has a full cart?

That happened to me at Walmart and a sweet lady turned around and said, "Go ahead of me, you look to be in a hurry."

What a simple gift she gave me, but totally made my day. I love when I receive these types of gifts because I get to feel how good something so small, especially from a stranger, makes the receiver feel.

Even though I was in a hurry, I asked if I could snap a picture to share with my community. She was humble, and I had to give her a little nudge, as I love documenting giving moments. It's a reminder there are good people in the world.

Next time you are in line, let someone go in front of you.

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

Day 11 Giving Challenge: As you are out an about today, look for small opportunities to give. Maybe it's letting someone go ahead of you in line, holding a door for someone with their arms full, or helping someone reach an item on a shelf. 

Did you know... kindness to strangers is good for your brain? Multiple research studies find that giving to others releases oxytocin, which can help strengthen the bond between people and building community. 

Chat with your Children: One of the simple ways you can teach your child about kindness, is to have them look for opportunities to hold the door open for people. It costs you and them, little time and no money. The action teaches a habit, that no matter their age, can turn into a lifestyle, they can carry through their life, that may make someone else smile. And just like we get a "helpers high" when we give to others, they will also!

Bonus Story: Throughout the years, some of the people that have had the biggest impact on me and my giving has been my mom and the mom of friends.

Do you remember ordering books from scholastic? I loved flipping through the order form and picking out books to purchase.

What I never thought about, is there are children who can't afford to order from the incredible program that gets books in the hands of children. 

One of my best childhood friends, and now teacher, posted on Facebook "I send the order form home each month and a few students place orders. For many kids, it is a disappointment of not being able to order books.  Wouldn't it be awesome for every student to get a book each month?"

Scholastic has a $1 book for each month and my friend asked if her friends would sponsor a child, $10 for the school year, so every child in her class could get one book a month. 

Within a couple of days, her friends stepped up and the entire class was sponsored. At the end of the school year I received a letter from the student I'd sponsored, and tears filled my eyes, as a simple $10 had such an impact on a child's life.  

Your challenge? Donate a children's book to a Little Free Library (LFL) in your community. Don't know if there is an LFL in your community? Check out the map here.

Snap a picture of the book you donated and text it to me at 219-707-9545. I'd love to know what our community donated!

Don't have a Little Free Library? Maybe donate a book to a school or library.  

Happy Reading,

Stephanie

Day 10 Giving Challenge: Donate Your Favorite Children's Book to a Little Free Library, school or local library

Did you know... Academically, children growing up in homes without books are on average three years behind children in homes with lots of books, even when controlled for other key factors. (M.D.R Evans et al., Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, June 2010)

One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home. But 61% of low-income families do not have any age-appropriate books for their kids at home.

Chat with your Children: How are you incorporating reading into you household? The ability to read is a gift we should never waste. According to Statistic Brain, there are 774 million people around the world that can't read. We are fortunate in this country, that every child has access to an education and libraries filled with books. Chat with your child about the books they enjoy and discuss how you can start a daily reading routine, if you aren't already. And then, when a book has been read, find a way to give it away, giving another child an opportunity to receive and read a book.Bonus Story: Each year I attend a writer's conference to improve my craft. This year, I took a children's book course, and had the opportunity to meet and work with some incredible children's book writers. I can't wait for Lisa's book to come out, so I can share it with my community!

What was the last event you celebrated? A birthday, a holiday, the birth of a child, or a new home?  

One of my best friends, an elementary principal, celebrates Monday's with her staff.  I loved this idea. Monday is a day we typically dread, but what if we shifted our mindset to celebrate the day and get excited about starting a new week.  

Here are a couple of ways you can celebrate today!

  • Celebrate your friends and invite them over for an impromptu gathering. Don't have time... send a text saying, "You rock! Today I'm celebrating our friendship. Thanks for being such a good friend. Love you!"
  • Celebrate your coworker and stop and get donuts, fruits or bagels. On a budget? Leave notes of encouragement on coworker's desks or send them an email letting them know how much you appreciate them.
  • Celebrate your family by making a favorite meal, having a game night, or everyone going for a walk or playing outside together. Go for ice cream. Bonus if you stop by a Dollar Tree and buy balloons and party favors...just because!

I live the belief that we don't need a holiday, birthday or anniversary to celebrate. We can celebrate and give to those we love, each and every day! 

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

Day 9 Giving Challenge: Find a fun way to celebrate your family, a coworker or a friend.

Did you know...there is a way to celebrate almost every day of the year through fun holidays. Check out this calendar and find ways to add more celebration to your life.

Chat with your Children: I've spent the last two years writing my next book, The Gratitude Challenge. Gratitude is a simple way to say thanks for the what we've been given in this life.  Celebrating is a great way to say thanks and recognize special moments. Start a conversation with your child and ask them what they are grateful for. They may initially say something like, "I'm thankful for my family and friends."  The people in their life is a great start. But get them to go deeper. Ask them to look around and name what they are grateful for, such as their home, pillow to lay their head, food in the refrigerator, a special toy, etc. This will also be a good activity for you do to with your child.  Celebrations are one way to say thanks and recognize for people and things you love!

Bonus Story: Let's keep the celebrations going! Giving Tuesday occurs each year after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Here's a flashback to how we celebrate last year. But the resources don't just have to be for the "official" Giving Tuesday. Watch the video, download the tags, and celebrate Tuesdays!

Termites. The little bugs that cause thousands of dollars in destruction to homes. Unfortunately, we had a wooden post near our house that we thought, could possibly be eaten by termites. Yikes!

Within days, a sales guy from Orkin pulled into my driveway to inspect the post and give me the good or bad news.

Working from home, I'm always happy for a break when someone shows up to the house, and Adam from Orkin was no different.

I met him in the driveway, we chatted about the bugs, we walked around the yard and within minutes he knew the issue wasn't termites. Praise the Lord!

I live our a ten-acre wooded lot and our conversation quickly turned to our property, him growing up playing and working on his grandparents property of 45 acres and how we both loved the outdoors.

I'm not sure how we got on the topic, but I learned that Adam had a master's degree in Clinical Psychology but through a series of events he landed a job with Orkin.  We discussed law enforcement and serial killers. I know, it's a weird obsession I had for many years. It's the reason I wanted to go into the FBI. He recommended a good movie on Teddy Bundy, that I hadn't seen. And now I wish I wouldn't have watch. Good, but down right creepy! But I digress.

Adam is a philanthropist in his own right and has a dream of building a facility for dogs that need homes. His passion about his own furry friend and those abandoned and neglected were evident.  

After an hour of chatting, I asked if I could snap a picture.  Standing in the driveway I felt like I was talking with an old friend. I even mentioned, how I'd love for him and his fianc , who is getting her PhD at Notre Dame, to join my husband and I for dinner.

I've learned throughout my giving journey, if I take a moment to engage with people, I usually find we have more in common than we think.  On the surface it may not look like it. I'm female and Adam is male. I'm white and he's black. I work from home and he drives around in a car all day. I'm married and he's engaged. I have a bachelor's degree and he has a master's. The list of our difference could go on and on, but our conversation didn't focus on our differences. We spent our time focused on what we had in common, and it was a lot.

Maybe there is a coworker, someone at church, or even the coffee shop barista that you think, "we have nothing in common." Step outside your comfort zone and ask them a couple of questions about themselves, and I'm hopeful, that just like Adam and me, you'll find that you are more alike, than different. 

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

Day 7 Giving Challenge: Get to know someone new. Invest time in a thoughtful conversation about them and their life.  

Did you know... it is estimated that between 1 in 3 to 1 in 4 students in the U.S. say they have been bullied at school, most occurring in middle school, with the most prevalent type of bullying being verbal and social. (Source: stopbullying.gov)

Chat with your Children: I bring up the topic of our differences because as a society, at times, we seem so polarized and focused on our differences, that we don't take time to look at what we have in common. Our children pay attention. They mimic our behavior. I don't have children, but I've heard over and over from parents, of how they really must watch what they say, because they've heard their kids repeat words that weren't appropriate for their age, but guess what, they heard it from their parents.

Children who are at risk for being bullied are those that are perceived by other students as different. We need to chat with our children, that different isn't bad. Different, especially on the outside, doesn't reflect what's on the inside of a child. Just because a child may have glasses, be a little overweight or shy, doesn't change anything about how smart, funny or kind they are. It just makes them unique, and we are all unique in our own ways. Some differences we can see and others we can't. At the end of the day, teaching children that we are all equal and to be kind to all we meet is how we, even adults, should behave.

Bonus Story: My uncle Frankie was born with Down Syndrome, but over the thirty plus years he was in my life, I realized we had much more in common than we did different.

Walk to your closet. Yes, get up from your computer or cell phone and go walk in your closet.

Okay, I hear ya. You're already at work? That's okay. Close your eyes and virtually walk in your closet. What do you see?

If you are like me there are items that I haven't worn since last summer. More than one item, that no longer fits, but I keep hoping and praying it will, and then a couple more items that I don't really like.

Let's do a little summer organizing and prep our closets for the upcoming fall season. As a former professional organizer, I'm big on not just spring cleaning, but seasonal organizing, as it's a way to maintain our homes and ensure only things we love, want or need are filling our spaces and bringing us joy.

Over the years I have had the privilege of volunteering with many organizations that house and help the homeless. Every organization is different in how they operate and what donations they will accept. Let's help these organization and those in need by donating those, "no longer can I squeeze into those jeans", clothes in my closet.

Here are some tips for donating your clothing:

  1. Search your closets for gently used clothes that you haven't worn in a while or that doesn't fit. An item of clothing you consider no longer useful may be valuable someone else.
  2. Inspect the clothes your donating for stains, holes and other defects. You want the clothes you give to be worn and to make those wearing the clothes feel good about themselves. Rule of thumb, if you wouldn't wear it. Don't donate it!
  3. Check the pockets for personal items, money and other valuables.
  4. Wash the clothes and make sure they are clean and fresh.
  5. Identify the shelter or organization where you want to donate your clothing.
  6. Verify the organization accepts clothing donations. You can either call the shelter or check their website. For instance, in my community, the local men's shelter takes clothing donations, but the women's shelter does not as they receive their clothing donations from local resale shops.
  7. If they accept donations, verify collection dates and times.
  8. If they don't accept clothing donations, either locate another shelter accepting donations or donate to a resale shop that donates their profits and clothing to shelters.
  9. Put the items in your car and drop them off the next time you drive by the organization.

Now get to organizing, decluttering your closets, and help cloth someone in need.

Day 5 Giving Challenge: Donate new or gently used clothes to a local shelter or resale shop that supports nonprofits

Did you know... the Discovery Channel flew me to New York City to audition for my own television show? The day of the audition they emailed me lines to memorize. I spent the entire flight, going over and over my lines. My audition went okay, and I was nervous has heck! At the end of the day, they never produced the show, but it's still fun to think about that I may have had my own tv show. You just never know, so never stop dreaming big!

Chat with your Children: Get your children involved in the organization process. Depending on their age, they don't need to help you with your closet, but having them go through their clothes teaches them many lessons. It's also a great opportunity to share with them where the clothes are going and how they are going to bless someone that needs the clothes they no longer wear.

Bonus Story: On day three, I shared a story about my friend from Malawi, Temwani. One day on Facebook she posted the picture you'll see in this blog. Oh friends, it melted my heart. I asked Tem if I could share and she said yet. If you are ever having a bad day, pull up this blog and be grateful for all the wondering blessings in your life.

Blessings,
Stephanie L. Jones

Families spend billions each year on school supplies, textbooks and new school clothes. Children, with their parent's flock to the box stores in hopes of finding the perfect backpack that will be filled with notebooks, folders, writing utensils and more.

As mentioned yesterday, many children in our schools are homeless and many more live in poverty, not having the funds to purchase school supplies. 

There are many great organizations that collect school supplies for those in need, but also the responsibility tends to fall on the shoulders, or pocketbook of classroom teachers. 

Years ago, my husband and I dedicated a portion of our budget to helping a family in need with their school supplies. When we started, the youngest in the bunch was in third grade. In the fall, she'll start college. I can't tell you how many times I've received a text from the child's guardian, of how much buying school supplies helped. 

Day 3 Giving Challenge: Call your local school or pick up a supply list and purchase an item or two.  You don't need to go crazy, unless you want to and have the resources to do so. Every notebook, pen or folder helps!

Did you know... Each year 3.5 Billion pencils are made for the US and 15 Billion worldwide. Approximately 60,000 trees are used in making the pencils. If you are buying pencils, consider purchasing recycled pencils and save a tree. 

Chat with your Children: School supplies are expensive. Some families will be lucky to purchase the basic needs for their children. I remember going to school and showing off all my new stuff to my friend. Boy, thinking back, I wonder how that made the less fortunate kids, in my class, feel.  Start of the school year is a great time to chat with your children on being grateful for what they have, realizing others may not be so lucky, and that bragging, even just with friends, could make others feel left out or less than. 

Bonus Story: Many children in third world countries can't attend school because their parents don't have the money to send them to school or buy supplies. Meet my friend Temwani, who is partnering with teachers in the US to help send children to school, as education is the way out of poverty. 

Blessings, 
Stephanie L. Jones