Giving is Living!

How important is giving back to the community, your family, your friends, or even a complete stranger you meet on the street? Do you need to be wealthy to give back? Do you need to have hours of free time? Have you ever felt like you don’t have any skills that will be useful to someone else? Everyone has something they can contribute to the world around them. The tiniest acts of kindness can make the biggest difference in someone’s day. Just ask Kristin Pedemonti who has given away over 500 bottles of bubbles on the NYC subway and carries a “Free Hugs” sign wherever she goes, because we all need our daily quota of hugs.

It is important to the community as well as you to be actively giving back each day, even it is simply giving someone a hug to make their day a little brighter. I promise you that for every act of kindness you show not only will you bring joy to someone else but your day will be brighter and your body, mind and soul a bit healthier.

There are many ways to volunteer that don’t involve money in any way, not even a dime of gas. You don’t need hours of free time to bring a smile to someone’s face. Read a story to a child, compliment a stranger, give a hug to someone who may need one, share a meal with a neighbor, the list goes on and I am sure you can come up with a few of your own. Become a virtual volunteer, check out ways you can volunteer online, no special skills needed, if you are living, breathing and can do anything at all you have what it takes to make someone’s day better.

A 2005 Stanford University survey of 7000 older adults found that frequent volunteering and helping others is linked to a healthier, longer life. The study also showed it didn’t need to be giving on a grand scale, it could be anything meaningful.

Allen Luk’s 1991 survey of thousands of volunteers in the US found that people who helped others reported better health than peers in their age group who didn’t volunteer.

A recent survey of 4500 American volunteers showed the following;

  • 73% reported that volunteering lowered their stress levels
  • 89% reported that volunteering improved their sense of well being
  • 92% reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and give some free hugs, blow some bubbles, give someone a smile..you have no excuse…I have given you links to some great opportunities and I’m sure you can create a few of your own…give to others and you will always be giving back to yourself.

For more on Kristen and her storytelling adventure as well as her literacy program please visit her site. To leave comments on her TED video click here.

A Day of Healing Cranes…

Warm, sunny weather and warm, sunny greetings is how my day at Moffitt Cancer Center started. With each visit to a new place there is always an excitement and anticipation of the unknown. I do my research before deciding where to visit but there are still things you cannot anticipate. I have discovered that no matter how comprehensive the website you cannot fully understand all that you may experience when you finally arrive at a cancer center.

Whether you are there as a patient, a caregiver, or simply a guest, there are so many unseen experiences to be found.

Moffitt Cancer Center is located in Tampa, Florida on the campus of the University of Florida. The first thing I noticed was that just the building alone had a welcoming presence. It didn’t have a cold, clinical feel.

My day began with the Manager of Patient Relations. We dropped my bike and bags in the office and there is where the day began. I had a small audience to share my story of survivorship with and since that is what this trip is about I was happy to oblige. Sharing my story would end up being a theme throughout the visit.

I was taken to many parts of this wonderful facility and I will highlight a few of what I like to call the lesser known aspects of the day.

An early stop was in the Arts In Medicine department where I was introduced to several people and shared my story again. It was there that I learned the story of the healing cranes, inspired by the family of a patient. In Japan the crane is a symbol of peace and healing and the tradition is to fold a thousand “cranes,” for healing. There were cranes on display throughout the area and I would soon discover they were on the desks in other parts of the center. The Arts In Medicine department decided to put their own unique spin on this tradition so instead of having each patient fold a thousand cranes, their patients are instructed to write a healing message on the inside of the wing and hang the crane where it can be seen a thousand times and used as a reminder of peaceful, positive moments. They graciously offered me the instructions on how to make my own healing crane. I can’t wait to try it. Arts in healing is so very important, it can bring a sense of calm in the midst of the storm. Arts is a way to focus the mind on something positive, energy flows where attention goes and therefore focusing on the positive brings positive results.

I heard them make an announcement for a soon to begin meditation session for stress reduction. That was the next sign that this center was treating the person and not just the disease. The sentiment with patients and families seemed in agreement, as I heard them express they were glad that they were receiving their care at Moffitt.

As we made our way through the different parts of the building I got an explanation for the things I saw along the way and the next place I would share my story was in the patient library. That is where I left my gift of Livestrong wristbands. That would also be where I would be introduced to the hospital president. A very welcoming man, he was sincerely interested in my story and the fact that I had chosen to visit Moffitt along the way. We chatted for a bit and then it was time to move on. I now had a new tour guide.

I was thrilled when I was shown HER Place, a special place for women where they can research and get information on the illness they have. Her Place is complete with computers, written materials and so much more and it is quietly tucked in a corner away from the hustle and bustle of patient activity.

Another wonderful, relaxing feature was a fairly large rock display with a fountain. It was very serene and in the warm, sunny weather of Florida would be a plus for anyone needing to escape.

Next I would be shuttled off the main campus to meet with a woman who is doing some wonderful work in risk assessment, detection and intervention. She has an amazing story and the work she is doing focused on HPV is certainly near to my heart. I think we could have talked for hours. Needless to say, I will spread the word wherever I go, on the importance of her work.

I lost count of how many times I shared my story that day. To be honest, the time just seemed to slip away. Everyone at this facility went out of there way to make sure I had a successful visit. When the day was done, I was given a ride to my host’s home and all ended beautifully.

For more information on Moffitt Cancer Center click here.