Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Can We Do?

Today, hearts are heavy. So much devastation and destruction and in a matter of minutes, communities were literally wiped off the map. Just like last year's hurricane on the east coast, this one hits close to home. Lives have been lost, homes leveled. How will people rebuild? How do they find the strength to go on? We're all aware that catastrophes of this sort occupy all pockets of this world, and happen every single day. Whether they be deadly forces of nature, or calculated man-made evil, none of us are immune to it.

It's natural to become overwhelmed by the sadness of these events and feel a sense of helpless hopelessness. But staying in that space does not help anyone...not you, or those you interact with in your daily life and it especially does not help those directly affected by the tragedy. And as I sit and share this on a public blog, I need to remind myself of these very words.

So what can we do? Here is a list of ideas that I'd like to share - which, ironically came about after doing #6 on this list. And feel free to add your own "do somethings" in the comments. This is something that we can share and grow together.


1) Donate money that would otherwise be spent on your daily coffee, a dinner out or some purchase that you could do without to a worthy cause such as the Salvation Army or the Red Cross. People have lost everything. Whatever you can give, even if it means giving up something, will help. 

2) Network with friends and family and organize a "giving gathering." If you have a special talent like painting or a creative knack for making jewelry or home decor, hold a gallery style auction for your pieces, donating the money to charity. (Could also be done online or through social media sites.) You could even partner with a local coffee shop to gain more community involvement. Or have a purge party and ask your friends to bring household items for homeless shelters or pet supplies for misplaced animals. The key is working collectively for the greater good. Many people are willing and want to help in this way - it just takes one person to get it going. 

3) Turn off the news. If you're at work, streaming online or have it on at home, even in the background, it can become emotionally draining. The devastation is real - that will not change but if we expose ourselves to too much of it, we can become immobilized and unable to operate at an optimal level. Instead, we can recognize the magnitude of this disaster for what it is and hold those who are suffering in our hearts with thoughts of hope and peace and then do something to help.

4) Call a friend who makes you laugh and commit to talking ONLY about positive, uplifting events in your lives. Even if it's a 10 minute conversation and laughter is involved, you'll both hang up feeling refreshed and lighter. And don't feel guilty about laughing. It is important to add levity to situations of grief and sadness. We all need balance in our lives.

5) Right your wrongs. Often the hardships of others cause us to re-evaluate our own lives and the situations we want to change or improve. There is no time like the present to make this happen, nor is there any guarantee that our lives couldn't change in an instant. Forgive those who are worthy of your love and move on. And more importantly, forgive yourself for past regrets or hurts you may still be carrying inside. We are often the hardest on ourselves and need to let go of those unnecessary burdens. This is the start to living a life of peace. 

6) Go for a walk, or even better, a run. Exercise releases feel good chemicals in the brain which increase energy and lifts moods. What you might be feeling right now, could be entirely different after 15 minutes in the fresh air and sunshine. 

7) Tickle your funny bone. We all need that escape to someplace funny every once in a while and thanks to the internet, belly laughs are just a click away. Here's one to enjoy:  Sebastian Maniscalco. As the saying goes, sometimes laughter really is the best medicine and again, don't feel guilty about laughing. (remember #4)

8) Write. Grab a notebook or your laptop and just sit down and write. Putting your feelings on paper is a healthy way to purge and clear your head. If you're not into journaling, then write a "just because" letter to a friend or family member who lives far away. Current technology is great for sharing snippets of our lives and staying connected, but there is nothing like a hand written letter in the mailbox. 

9) Just breathe for three minutes and do nothing else. Set a timer if you need to and for three solid minutes, close your eyes and sit in silence, aside from the sound of your inhale and exhale. It's easy to clear the external noise but the goal is to try to free yourself from the chatter in your head. Clearing your mind from racing thoughts is a way to connect with the inner peace that resides in all of us - we just need to take time to experience it.

10) Life is fluid and ever-changing. Though you might be feeling bad today, those same feelings may not be there tomorrow. We also know that tomorrow is never promised to any of us, so why not make a conscious decision today - right now - to live fully and completely in the now and accept our circumstances with a graceful spirit. We're all given challenges in our lifetime. It's how we react to them that defines our character and the legacy we will one day leave behind. 

11) Hug your loved ones (this includes your pets!) as often as you can and tell them you love them EVERY TIME you say goodbye. 

While it shouldn't take a devastating tragedy to live our lives this way, we are human... 

...and sometimes we just need a little reminder. 

Blessings and peace to all of you, reading this right now.