Category

Giving

Category

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

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”