Giving From Your Heart

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Follow your heart. Listen to your heart. Your heart knows the way.

There are a lot of clichés that encourage you to be guided by what you feel and take action based on what you believe in your heart. And in this National Heart Month, rather than focus on physical heart health, let’s talk about emotional heart health.

15910043680_5b040e7726_mYou never know when one word or one helpful gesture or act of kindness can mean the world to someone else. Giving them reason to go on, to believe in goodness again, or to get through a rough patch. You don’t know when a smile hides incredible sadness and pain, and how reaching out in some way when the inclination strikes you can change the course of a life. The best we can do is to follow our hearts and try . . . not shying away from feelings, but paying attention to ­­­­them.

The emotions and beliefs we have about giving are not something we talk about as much in the business world as in nonprofit circles. Disasters and deaths, though, can break through our veneer and are when we more publicly express emotions.

When it comes to charity, we give because of the good it will do—and the impact it can make. We also give because something that happens in life gets to us, and we want to make things better. We give because we care.

I’m borrowing from a familiar credit card commercial message, but I believe giving from your heart is “priceless.”

3211153569_b93ba33f2a_mI know we’re a month past making resolutions for this year, and actually, I’m not asking you to make a new resolution for 2016. I’m asking you to make a resolution for your life: make giving from your heart a part of how you show up in the world.

I’m not going to try to sell you on the benefits of giving or why it makes us happy. I’ll just say this: giving money away can improve your health and is, quite literally, good for your heart.

And this heart month, I challenge you to listen, find what connects for you, and take action. Starting now.

Support what touches your heart

Have you lost a loved one to a terrible disease or personal tragedy? Give to help find a cure for the health issue that has personally touched you, to keep tragedy from striking other families, and to provide support for someone else who has to deal with it.

kitty_love_unsplashAre the commercials that show abused animals so hard to watch you switch the channel? Don’t push those emotions away, do something about it. If you aren’t in a position to give money, volunteer your time or donate old blankets—doing what you can for something you feel so strongly about. Put your energy to work so the day comes when there’s no reason for those commercials to exist.

Are you frustrated by our education system, worried that kids don’t have all the resources and opportunities they need to succeed, and concerned about what they’re not getting at school (food, support, exposure to the arts, more)? Give them access to what they need to change their lives.

Do you believe we need to make sure the basic needs of others around the world are taken care of?  Support the nonprofits sending them global aid—for better health and life-saving services that we too often take for granted.

I have a sensitive heart. I feel things deeply, and family members and friends know that about me. But I don’t make any excuses for who I am. And I hope I’m known for being true to who I am, all the time. When I care, it’s sincere. When I feel it, I react. And when I give, it’s from my heart.

This month, I challenge you to do the same.  Give from—and for—your heart. For your life.

If you need help finding a charity:

And if you want to help with today’s pressing issues, read our blog. Better yet, subscribe and we’ll automatically send you an email every time we post a new blog.

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

One From the Heart – February is American Heart Month

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Image Source: Flickr

I’ll be the first to admit it. I get stressed.

Stress affects our health in many ways, but heart disease is a common result in the United States, particularly among women. As a woman, this is a stressor in itself. Worries and perfectionism aside, what are some simple, everyday ways you and I can decrease our stress and be kind to our hearts?

A plant-heavy or plant-based diet is a wonderfully heart-healthy eating plan. Personally, I switched from a vegetarian to a vegan diet 2 years ago, and everything I continue to learn about its health benefits encourages me to keep at it. Avocado and olive oil are my favorite plant-based ways to lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol while leaving heart levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol intact.

Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

Hobbies that include movement are a low-stress way to get your heart pumping stronger. Dance class (or dancing around the house), gardening, vigorous cleaning and yoga or stretching are some relatively low-impact and low-cost ways to get your circulation up and flex your heart muscle.

But what about the mental stress? It’s the biggest factor in many of our busy lives. Mindfulness meditation is one way to change your mindset and even regulate the rhythm of your heart. Look for a zen or yoga center in your area for more information. Lucky for me, San Francisco is home to a beautiful Zen Center that hosts a variety of programs, classes and retreats.

My personal favorite fact about preventative heart health? Doing good for others lowers your stress levels.

This is something we can all do anytime and it doesn’t have to cost money – sharing time is just as valuable.

Image Source: Flickr:

Image Source: Flickr

If you’d like to find volunteer opportunities in your area, you can use our Act Locally search option and contact local charities to see how you can help. Bonus points on volunteering: It gets you outside – and being in nature is another great de-stressor.Even if you live in a city, you can likely find an urban gardening project to volunteer your time. Check out The National Gardening Association’s Kids Gardening program, which empowers every generation to lead healthier lives, build stronger communities, and encourage environmental stewardship through gardening programs.

If you’d like to support their efforts:

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The most sobering fact I uncovered in my research: women are more prone to suffer from undiagnosed heart disease. Women’s symptoms tend to differ from men’s, and women are more likely to suffer a silent heart attack.

In fact, heart attacks are responsible for the loss of half a million women per year in the U.S. alone. Heart disease is the number one killer of women even though many women are more afraid of breast cancer.

Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

I lost a friend and community member, far before her time, to silent heart disease. After her untimely passing a few years ago, another friend organized memorial donations in her honor to WomenHeart: the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. It’s a charity that provides support and research and was started by three women who have personal experience with heart disease issues. Women Heart was the first – and is still the only – national patient-centered organization focused exclusively on women’s heart disease.

If you’d like to donate to help WomenHeart carry out its work:

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Education, information and advocacy are our greatest weapons against killer heart disease. Together, we can multiply our strengths in fighting the battle against heart disease with a unified front. We have to watch out for each other, right?

-Alex Mechanic

Customer Service Manager

You can create peace: It’s easier than you think

image source: flickr

image source: flickr

If you met me three years ago, “peaceful” is one of the last words you’d use to describe me. I was a total stress case. A self-described Type A personality, I was rushing through life and overwhelmed by the world with all of its troubles. I saw problems instead of solutions, and thought world peace was impossible.

About two years ago, though, I stopped watching the news and quit reading the headlines on social media, and what I discovered changed me forever.

Taking a step back from the wars, the shootings, and the perils of global warming gave me a gift: I focused only on my own life, and the people who I actually, physically came into contact with.

It was a revelation.

While there’s still negativity in my immediate surroundings—people with road rage, for example—I realized that my own personal world is actually significantly more peaceful than I thought it was.

The news has a way of making the problems of the world feel vast and overwhelming. But taking a few minutes to connect with the people you encounter each day has a way of bringing the world into perspective. We are all individuals, and it’s easy to make just one person a bit happier.

Be Kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle

So while saving every single soul in the world is not personally possible, small acts in your daily lives have a way of multiplying – creating a snowball effect – that do change the world.

A few weeks ago, I handed a note to a woman I didn’t know. The note said, “I really love the way you talk to your son – you are so kind and patient. I can tell you are a good mother.” I didn’t want her to read it in front of me (I’m a pretty shy person, actually), but she did. The only thing she said was “thank you,” and we both started crying. She was grateful, and so was I. I can’t speak for her, but the experience certainly changed my day for the better.

I try to do simple things like this every day to touch the people I interact with, and it’s made my life infinitely better. I highly recommend giving it a try.

When you’re starting a new habit, sometimes it’s hard to remember to actually do it. You get to the end of the day and realize you didn’t do what you meant to do when you woke up. If you have access to the internet (which clearly you do, if you’re reading this), check out the site Lift.do. It helps you start and maintain new habits that can ultimately change your life. (They have an app, too.) Join JustGive’s group—we’ll help you get started and give you inspiration along the way as you develop new habits. Just “check in” every time you carry out a random act of kindness.  You can also use the group to increase your volunteering and charitable giving…two other ways you can help create peace.

So today, start creating peaceful connections with the people you encounter: Smile. Leave a big tip. Really see the people you interact with. You’ll be living in a more peaceful world before you know it.

This local tragedy stirs deep emotion

I’ve been having great difficulty dealing with the horror that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My kids are often in Sandy Hook for sports and other activities, and I have spent many weekends on the sidelines of the soccer fields directly behind the school.

Holiday AngelNewtown is almost identical to my town of Weston, Connecticut, so it is very hard for me to let go of the horror by rationalizing to myself that it is far away or such a different type of community than my own. This trauma is deeper for all of us because the reality is that this could have happened anywhere and to any of us. That is what is most profoundly frightening about this event.

I have a 7 year old who is always curious, and he came home from school on Friday asking a lot of questions. After asking all the main questions, he paused and asked, “How did the kids know what to do when their teacher died?” He was obviously putting himself directly into that situation. I am very sad he has to think about these things at such an early age. As he was going to bed that night he asked, “Does God make these bad people?” I had to explain that everyday, we all wake up and have to make many decisions that can make us “good” or “bad” for that moment.

Every night now when I put him to bed, I first get a chill of realization that he could have been in that 1st grade classroom, and then I give a grateful hug that he is still here to tuck in.

It is almost impossible to comprehend the depth of tragedy and anguish that will always be a part of the Newtown community. Life is so precious—and at the same time, it can be unfair and unpredictable.

While our hearts are broken for the victims and all of those affected by this senseless tragedy,  the healing process must begin. There are many nonprofits that are currently supporting the town with: cleaning up the old school, setting up the new school, providing health services to residents in the community, supporting the firefighters, supplying aid for the memorial services, and offering ongoing activities to help the kids heal. To find out more and how to help Newtown, here’s an article that gives several ways you can be supportive.

A few charities providing the community with services that you can donate to:

kindnessMy personal belief is that we all must put a little bit of goodness back into the world and do what we can to overcome the horror by being kind to those around us. In addition to helping Newtown directly, random acts of kindness should be part of our daily routine to spread goodness. More than something we do in response to Ann Curry’s tweet…something we make part of our everyday life.

—Kendall Webb, Executive Director

Share the Love

I’ve celebrated Valentines Day many ways – from quiet nights at home with take-out and chick-flicks, to roses and fancy dinners with reservations made weeks in advance. Most years I felt a twinge of regret after the flowers wilted and the dinner bill was paid.

So last year I gave homemade gifts. From heart-shaped cat nip pouches to conversation heart cookies, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Living is my go-to site for fun and thoughtful gifts for all the Valentines on my list.

 

This year I’m taking it up a notch with personal gestures of love that last longer and make a bigger impact. For my animal-loving sister, I’m giving a gift collection, with donations to four charities dedicated to animal rescue and protection. For my Mom, who is new to philanthropy and loves discovering local charities, I’ll select a GiveNow charity gift card that lets her choose and make a difference for one of them.

 

For my friends getting married this year, I’ll remind them that the I Do Foundation has many ways to share the love! From creating a gift registry with stores like Target and Macys, where a percentage of purchases benefit their favorite charities, to choosing charitable favors with customized cards for their guests, there are many creative and budget-friendly ways to include charity in their special day. If you or someone you know is interested in creating an eco-friendly celebration with style, check out several great ways to Celebrate Green at I Do Foundation too.

 

Not only is February 14th Valentines Day, it’s also the start of Random Acts of Kindness Week! This site is full of simple sharing-the-love ideas for at home, at work, and at school – like donating used books to a library, making care packs for the homeless or offering to babysit for a family member.

 

Tell a friend about JustGive. Then jump over to Facebook and Twitter to tell us your thoughtful and creative plans for sharing the love this month.