My commitment to volunteerism was born of parental expectations; however, I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s assertion that “one of the most beautiful compensations in life is that no person can help another without helping themselves.”
My parents came to Canada as African refugees in 1972. By the time I was born, my parents had survived re-starting their lives and had realized that their new country had much in common with their former homeland — notwithstanding the polar opposite weather patterns, of course. One commonality was the spirit of volunteerism. From an early age, my siblings and I were encouraged to join my parents in volunteer work, whether it was assisting seniors in the community or donating to the food bank. We were expected to “give back” as a way of celebrating the good fortune of making Canada our home.
Upon entering the work force in 1999, I lost access to the plethora of volunteering opportunities associated with student life. As a result, I began volunteering for the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton (CBE). Although I am Muslim, Christmas is my favourite holiday because it brings ample opportunities for showcasing generosity and performing good deeds. In December 2013, I participated in my 15th annual CBE campaign. Since 1999, I have rallied friends, colleagues and family members to join me in packing and delivering hampers, sponsoring families, staffing donation desks and providing support at the annual Walk-In Days, including upwards of 40 colleagues who joined me in sponsoring 8 families in December 2013 (and the same was the case in December 2012).
In September 2013, the CBE approached me to share my volunteer story as part of their annual campaign. This was an incredible honour since one of the things I love most about the Christmas Bureau is the philosophy of providing a festive meal to those in need – regardless of race, religion, ethnic origin, etc. This non-denominational practice truly exemplifies the Canadian spirit and tradition of multiculturalism and acceptance. Years after my parents’ displacement from their African homeland, we’ve come to realize it as a blessing in disguise as a result of the good fortune and opportunities my siblings and I gained as a direct result.
The blog post you are reading today is an expansion of my story that appeared in the CBE volunteer newsletter in September 2013 and that was also featured in the Edmonton Examiner in November 2013.
Tonight, at the CBE’s annual volunteer appreciation event, I was incredibly touched to receive the Kevin Lowe Outstanding Service Award. This award recognizes exceptional leadership and service by an individual who has given a minimum of 10 years of service to the organization. I love the work of the Christmas Bureau and am so incredibly grateful I have the opportunity to contribute my time and energy and love annually and in so doing celebrate the spirit of the Christmas season. I am so grateful that I have an amazing network of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances who join me and thereby compound the good.
Here I am with a larger-than-life smile – it truly is gratifying to be rewarded for pursuing one’s passions. Special thanks to Mimi for the awesome snap. :)
So, why do I choose to volunteer now? I volunteer because it’s the easiest way to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” (Mahatma Gandhi).
Life is not guaranteed. It isn’t always fair. And sometimes bad things happen to good people.
I believe in the power of positive thinking. I believe in God. I even believe in miracles. Tonight, though, my faith is a bit shaken.
It’s not my story to share. This blog post is my way of dealing with my heartache for a friend.
We have no idea how long we have been given to achieve our mission. Heck, most of us don’t even know what our missions are.
I think the universal truth is we’re here to love and be loved. We want to be the kind of people whose absence is noticed when we’re no longer here.
It’s cliche to say let’s live our lives to the fullest. To say live each day as if it were our last. And to say this is the first day of the rest of our lives.
But the truth of the matter is that we don’t know which day will be our last and so why not give it all we’ve got each and every day?
Don’t put it off. Whatever it is. Get going on it.
I’m not talking about us all being movie stars and superheroes and rocket scientists. I’m talking about pursuing our passions and living with intention and surrounding ourselves with love and light.
So, what are you waiting for?
The new year is good incentive for me to reinvigorate my blog. The year 2013 had a lot of ups and downs and my efforts to blog on a regular basis took a back seat to dealing with life’s challenges. As a friend of mine pointed out, January 1 is just a day different than December 31 and despite that the calendar flipping from 2013 to 2014 helps me to shift my perspective and feel hopeful.
I ended 2013 with temporary wheels (thanks to my MIL) until C and I make a final decision about a new vehicle; I spent time with my MIL and my parents; C & I spent most of the day with E&N (and we rang in the new year with them); and I got some great news from my friend Princess Susie. I am grateful to have ended 2013 on so many positive notes, and in particular, a new tradition of reading through my Memory/Gratitude Jar made me realize that despite the ups and downs of 2013, there were plenty of highs.
I’m looking forward to the unfolding of 2014. I plan to spend more time with the people I most love and to continue scheming with C for Freedom 50. I’m looking forward to planning our trip to Nepal and to getting the wheels in motion to spend my 2015 birthday in the Mayan (ideally with family and friends).
Happy 2014, friends, and may the new year be the best year yet.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.
Click here to see the complete report.
Lately, I’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone, taking a few risks, and putting myself out there. It’s been an eye-opening experience. My sentiments are captured nicely in the following quote:
Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dr. Seuss captured it pretty nicely, too:
Another “Think On These Things” post. I’m on a roll. Now just to post my gratitude backlog. One step at a time, right…
All difficult things have
their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.
~ Lao Tzu
Two posts in one day. Maybe the hiatus is over. Or maybe I just woke up early. :)
Lots of change right now and much of it has me feeling empowered. Finally. Here’s a good quote to help re-frame if you’re in a similar position and feel the urge to control…
Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
~ John Wooden
Thanks to my friend Laura for the quote below. Not only is it a great quote to start the week, it’s also worthy of a blog post (sorry for another hiatus, peeps).
I am not here to change the world. I am changing the world because I am here.
– Lisa Wilson
Have a great week, everyone.
I haven’t had a Think On These Things Post lately. Today’s is fitting because of recent circumstances in my life. Surrender doesn’t mean giving up. It means trusting that things will unfold as they are meant to and that it will be in the greatest good of everyone concerned. This is not something I always acknowledge and often I actively fight it. I like to allow myself to believe I can control everything. What heartache and suffering this creates. Instead, I remind myself today to surrender to the reality that it is what it is and to do my best to make the best of it and realize that all states are temporary. True for good and bad.
In the words of Brave Girls’ Club:
We learn really good things when we are stretched, pulled, whirled and twirled. We learn things about LIFE, but mostly we learn things about ourselves. We learn that we are pretty darned tough, pretty darned awesome and pretty darned smart.
And when we know that stuff, we know we can do anything.
And then we don’t have to be afraid. We can just live, and do good things and be happy and pull others up when they are down. And then, we realize it was all worth it