BY STEPHANIE KUHN
Habits propel us forward or they can be a powerful hindrance. Enriching your life includes the intent to do so. Healthy living, for example, includes the commitment to eat well, sleep well and exercise. As one moves up Maslow’s Hierarchy, group identity, belonging and personal growth present as life opportunities. However, people can come up feeling short on inspiration during different periods in their lives. Take a quick inventory and realize if something is still missing. After spending years balancing family life and work, it appeared that I had not weighed in on ensuring that passion and purpose continued to be a clear part of my vision.

I decided to take a few moments and explore that. Outside of my profession as a school teacher, I added new adventures such as going back to school, exploring community recreation and challenging myself with new health and wellness goals. This creates a sense of accomplishment and esteem. I acquired new respect for others sharing these likeminded goals. These fulfilling experiences allowed me to see the larger community with greater clarity. Suddenly, I knew there was significant work to be done. I just wasn’t sure what that would look like.

I still admired from afar the folks who really put themselves out there in other ways to make a difference. Specifically, Jeanine Lupisella and Rob Sanford introduced me to Linking Hands for Learning. This is a group that participates in building schools in Nicaragua. As a participant in 2015, it became clear that I flourished, in part , due to the connection I was gaining with others. My daughter, Regan, accompanied me and my colleague, Jane Ingle, was there with her family. We worked, laughed and learned quite a bit on that trip which stuck with us. It also was an experience which binds us together. The experience was so enriching that I am returning this year with my youngest son, Jaden, so that he can better understand the ways in which he can give.

Expanding on that, I chose contributing to others as a specific area in my life to enhance. When you give something of yourself…. there is a hidden benefit. I didn’t realize this until I became an adult. The actor and martial arts expert Bruce Lee once said, “empty your cup so that it may be filled.” This was the essence of my training mantras…. I would be running and literally running out of energy. Quotes like these would remind me that when I am depleted, the universe has a way of restoring what has been freely given up. This concept now applies to more than my workouts.

Choose this holiday to give something and trust that it will be restored. This cultivates a healthy relationship initially with yourself. Giving to others has many different appearances. There is not a one size fits all in this area of our lives. Motivation to give includes giving yourself permission to pursue your own personal growth needs knowing that this will restore you from within. Understand your family needs, community needs as well as what the larger world needs. Achieving basic giving goals requires understanding what you have to share and creates the possibility of more expansive happiness.

Contributing to others alleviates much personal worry and anxiety. It replaces the “me” mentality with “we.” Communities and cultures have traditionally shared goals and outcomes if they are to survive and thrive. So let’s continue to learn from this and model it for our young people.

Have a plan for sharing your time, innate talents and passion. Implement positive habits of mind. Start with one premise, “ I can.” Say to yourself, “I can take time to visit a neighbor.” Say to yourself, “I can make a difference by listening or donating a service.” Set a personal growth goal of some sort and stay focused and be fearless. Take modest risks that seem right for you and your family in the pursuit of achieving your goal of giving

As you decide what is right for you, consider a donation to an organization that uses 100% of the money raised to secure building materials and pay the drivers who provide transportation to building sites etc. Linking Hands For Learning is presently raising funds for the construction of a school in the community of Taquezal, in the region of Salales, Nicaragua. You can make your check out to Livingston County Cares which is a 501 c 3 tax deductible non – profit organization. We thank you for the support of the education of children in these communities. Checks can be mailed to : Linking Hands For Learning, 18 Portofino Circle, Henrietta, NY 14467.

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