Making an Impact

For almost as long as I can remember my life has been very, very busy. I've been a wife, mother, teacher, the daughter of elderly parents, the advocate for a mentally ill sister, artist, writer and friend. Years have been spent raising my son; loving him and helping him launch himself into manhood. With all of this huge busyness I am only now discovering for myself what so many people already understand; it is the power of social activism. When I use this term I am not thinking about huge movements like the Arab Spring that can topple dictators. I am referring to small grassroots endeavors.

A few years ago I met a woman named Maggie in a café in my neighborhood. We hit it off, liked each other right away. At the time, she told me that she and some of her friends were collecting underpants to send to women disaster victims in Haiti. I donated a painting for her fundraising silent auction but didn't think much more about it. I was too busy.

From time to time I run into Maggie and am always glad to see her. Recently she told me that she was inviting women she knew to come to her house to sew reusable sanitary napkins for women in Nepal. She hoped to send a few hundred napkins along with several hundred pair of women's underpants. I think it takes a woman to think of this very real need. I doubt that it is on the top of the list of things to send for disaster relief groups and organizations.

A few Saturdays ago I showed up at Maggie's home. There were at least a dozen women there, none of whom I'd met previously. They were drawing shapes from patterns, cutting, sewing and putting on snaps. It was a mini factory of neighborhood women. Maggie's husband and his buddy had been put in charge of feeding us homemade pizza when we all took a break. During lunch I had the opportunity to talk to some of these interesting women. I wanted to meet them again and get to know them better.

A few days later Maggie and I drove to a jobber on the other side of town to buy underpants with the money donated by these same women I'd met at her house. We came away with a few hundred pair. A few days after that, I sat in Maggie's living room. I packed pairs of underpants into small labelled bags for distribution while she cut cloth. More women have come at different times and will continue to do so until the job is done.

Maggie showed me some decorated cards the neighborhood children had made to include with our packages going to Nepal. The children had written:

Take care of yourself.

We love you.

Things will get better.

You are beautiful.

Each part of what is being given, each contribution, is a gift from the heart.

About a month ago I received a forwarded email from a woman I met in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Her name is Margot and she lives in my neighborhood in Toronto. There is a group of people who winter or live in San Miguel who raise funds to sponsor eligible Mexican high school students, who are very poor, to a university education. The goal has been to sponsor ten students. This year thirteen students met the requirements so the call went out. Several people offered donations and so did Margot and I. I asked a few friends, who willingly made donations alongside me. It was so easy, no fuss, just a few people giving and a teenager will have the opportunity to live a better life, pull his family, perhaps his community, out of poverty and be able to give something back.

What I see is that you don't have to do a lot to make an impact; you just have to do it together. This is not new to so many people who have been doing this for a long, long time, but I bet there are countless people like me. Our lives are so busy and full of distractions that except for some yearly charitable donations we haven't been involved at a more personal level in making change. I've heard that love is a verb. I know that giving gives to the giver a wonderful sense of self. I will find other small groups to join. It doesn't take much to make an impact. Perhaps I should have understood this earlier, and in a more abstract way I did, but I really get it now.

I have gathered fifty uplifting and inspiring stories of love's many faces. There are stories about romantic love, love of family, friends and animals. Many of the stories tell of how love changes us. These stories are in "Heartbeats, True Stories of Love" which is available on Amazon as an e book and paperback.

I invite you to share YOUR story of love on my Facebook page.