The Holiday Season That Changed Me Forever

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “Season of Giving.” I wanted to write a post inspiring others to give back this holiday season. Up until now, I found myself lost for words that would truly motivate others to get involved. So many people just don’t feel they have the time or resources to give. For many, getting through each day happily can be challenge ― let alone finding room to give more of themselves away. I, too, used to be too drained to give, and too tired to give a…

If we rewind about seven years, you’d find me unemployed, living with my parents. After a nose dive from a great corporate role, amidst the recession, I wound up too broke to make it in NY: like boiling my water for a bath, couldn’t afford my parking tickets, kind of broke. I made the call, moved back to my parents’ home in South Carolina, and tried to figure out how to get back on my feet.

I threw a myself pity party and stayed a bit too long. I wallowed in my shattered ego. I squandered my time. The days seemed endless. My mother would say “You have so much time. Why don’t you volunteer?” I just didn’t have anything in my heart to give; honestly I wasn’t just broke ― I was broken.

Eventually, I found my way back to a good corporate gig in a new state, starting the slow climb back to balance. Still, my soul was pretty drained. My financial and emotional reserves were gone. I was unhappy and felt I lacked purpose. I’d find in the years ahead, that purpose and happiness were directly correlated.

The following winter, I couldn’t seem to find joy or get into the holiday spirit. I was overweight, underwhelmed, and pretty bored. But somehow, I made what ended up as a life-changing decision: I decided to do a thirty day mind, body and soul cleanse. Each day from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I would do a juice fast, a 90-minute hot yoga class, and a random act of kindness. It’s clear now, even if it wasn’t then, that even in my darker days, I am a bit “ambitious.”

It is a huge understatement to say that the first few days were hard. The yoga classes felt like burning torture and I missed chewing immensely. The highlight of each day was the act of kindness.

Since I had no idea how to get started with my “random acts,”I dialed 211 for the United Way and asked if they had any daily volunteer shifts or places to donate clothing and household goods. They gave me great advice on where I could pitch in.

I still didn’t have a ton of extra money, but I had saved a couple bucks to do something special.

One day, I walked into a local store and asked if I could pay off someone’s layaway. The cashier’s face lit up as she scrolled through to choose a layaway with a balance that was just the amount I had to give. She then picked up the phone, calling the recipient to tell them that someone had paid off their holiday gifts. You could hear the woman’s excitement through the phone, across the counter, as the associate smiled and nodded. I never felt so great, doing a small act of kindness. I. Was. Hooked.

Although I made it through the thirty days, the juicing didn’t last beyond that, and neither did the hot yoga. The kindness did. The giving transformed my life. I began to tap into a joy that I hadn’t really known before. My inner spirit transformed. Every aspect of my life improved. The giving became part of my soul. Now, it’s a fundamental part of who I am.

What started as my first “season of giving” five years ago, became so much more. It became a non-profit called Kindleigh, centered on Random Acts of Kindness and putting positivity into the world. It became a Kindness Community with thousands of people who are motivated to give back — together we’ve collected toys for foster kids, backpacks for the homeless, food and supplies for hurricane victims and much more...

It also became an annual campaign for Holiday Random Acts of Kindness and a very important initiative called #payawaylayaway. Collectively, we’ve paid off thousands of dollars in layaway and paid off more than 50 families’ holiday gifts over the past three years. It all started that moment at the register several years ago, when I didn’t yet know that giving even just a little could transform someone’s spirit. That was the moment I learned that giving away joy created joy within. That lesson was one of the greatest holiday gifts I’ve ever received, as it’s one I use every single day.

This year, I hope you can dig in and find your holiday joy through your giving spirit. You never have too little to give if you are giving with your heart. In finding your purpose through kindness, the happiness you will tap into is unlimited. You never know whose heart you’ll be mending through acts of generosity, and if you’re lucky, it could also be yours. This, I think, is true holiday magic...

To learn more about #payawaylayaway and to get involved in giving this year click here...

For a printable Holiday Random Acts of Kindness calendar click here...

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