As the year comes to a close, a lot of people start creating their list of new year goals (download our free worksheet- Reflecting + Goals 2017). But instead of making ONLY your new year goals, consider making a list of all the things you appreciated this year no matter how many bad things happened to you in 2016.
Focusing on this will help you realize how many blessings you’ve had and that in the midst of not such good times, very good things DO happen. We must start appreciating what we’ve got before we start expecting more blessings.
This year, I got to travel back to Nicaragua, the country I was born in. It was a very expensive trip for my family because it was several of us. However, my husband insisted on going because I’d always say we’d go and the total trip expenses always seemed so high.
I’d always say we’d go next year and I have many excuses. Excuses like….next year because our savings would be larger and I’d feel better knowing we’d have more than enough if something were to happen or because I was actually afraid to go outside of the country when planes are disappearing or crashing for no reason (yup, and I know I’m not alone on this one) or because I thought it would be hard to travel with kids in a third world country. Next year would come and go and years passed. So, off we went.
A little background. I come from a very poor Nicaraguan family who could have been very rich or at least comfortable due to such a large ownership of land. But unfortunately, because of the lack of education and perhaps even mental state of mind they weren’t able to overcome their obstacles.
Sure, few family members have done well for themselves. A couple became extremely wealthy entrepreneurs in Nicaragua and others left to different countries who also have done very well for themselves. But for most, getting out of the lower class has been impossible.
It had been 30 years since I had been in Nicaragua. I got to see my grandfather and many family members that I remembered and many who were born until after I left at the age of 7.
My grandfather got to meet my husband and his great-grandkids. My kids got to see a different culture and a less privileged lifestyle. They met family members who became their friends and they’ll always look forward to seeing them next time we go.
As I spoke to some family members, I asked a lot of questions and observed a lot of what they did. On one occasion, one of my cousins said to me that her brother was happy because he knew they’d eat meat because our visit was very special.
I thought it was a strange statement. So, I asked for clarification because I thought maybe she meant that we’d have very special meat dish. She said, “no, we usually don’t have meat. It’s very expensive for us to even to buy a chicken, especially red meat, so most of the time we have a lot of rice and beans, vegetables, plantains and potatoes”. And I had noticed the lack of meat, but I thought it was preference.
I. Was. Stunned. I felt so sad and it made me realize how much I take for granted in the U.S. because I choose NOT to eat red meat. I CHOOSE to eat chicken or fish IF I have meat at all. I realized how privileged I am and I’m NOT considered rich by any standards.
This experience made me want to succeed so much more than ever because I want to be able to help at a larger, meaningful way. So, I started to do that right away at a small scale. While I was there, I traveled a lot within 250 miles with some of my family members who had NEVER been outside of their surrounding community.
When we traveled to see monuments or landmarks we made it a fun, educational experience and we made sure that they had a choice about where to go and what to do. We gave them the gift of travel, which is often times not seen as a valuable experience to some. But travel opens up the mind for possibility. It shows people that your world is NOT the only world available. It shows you that you don’t have to settle.
It can motivate people to do more to reach their goals or do to what they truly want to do in life. We also adopted two families.
Since our return from that trip, my family and I have done small things to help those we see that need help. We’ve purchased groceries for a single mom and her child. We donated LOTS of books to kids whose parents can’t afford them and we donated directly to individuals who were in need of clothes rather than to an organization.
We chose to donate directly to people because honestly, donating to the individual makes it more real. It’s not like when you go drop stuff off at a donation bin or at the Salvation Army or GoodWill and you’re left wondering if your items will actually be given to someone. Also, for those who think that it’s a wasted or lost tax deduction opportunity, please realize that in order to get anything substantial back on your taxes, you have to donate a TON of money to see a good valuable return. However, if you want to donate through an organization to get that tax donation it’s ok. You will STILL help someone. That’s what it’s all about.
If you want to help a certain family throughout the year, you can call the Salvation Army or the Purple Heart Service Foundation (or pretty much any non-profit organization) and ask specifically for a specific family you’d like to help. For example, you can ask to adopt a young single mother with two or three kids. Just know that you have to call and ask for this specifically because a lot of times this option is not advertised on their websites.
If you can’t provide everything that they need, you are not obligated to come up with it all. You can donate money each month through an organization or you can provide items, canned goods, clothing. Each organization is different. You can even ask your church leaders if they know of a family in need. They most often know who is in need and it’s not publicized because the families might feel embarrassed to make it be known to everyone.
So, this weekend, please take a look at all good things that happened to you. Even the smallest ones. And create a plan on how you will give back, even in the smallest way to someone in need.
My family and I will continue to help our two families and hopefully we’ll be able to provide them with more in the next year.
How will you help in 2017?
P.S. The most amazing part of all this is that we lost some income revenue this year and somehow, we were able to STILL help people. You truly don’t need to be rich or very well off to help others, you just have to want to be willing to stretch your dollars to help someone. ***Don’t forget to download our free Reflecting + Goals 2017 worksheet.***