Monday, March 7, 2011

Feeling Insignificant- in a good way

Last night I watched the show Secret Millionaire on ABC for the first time.  Last season I was tied up in a different show and just plain forgot about it even though the premise intrigued me.  The basic premise is that  ABC takes a millionaire and plops them down in an apartment in a disadvantaged area in a new city.  They give them $40.00 to live on for the week and have them go out and find places to volunteer their time.  If asked why they are being followed by a film crew, they are to say that they are doing a documentary on volunteerism.  At the end of the show, they go back to each place and gift them with a combined total of $100,000 of their own money. 

Dani Johnson- last night's millionaire- was sent to Knoxville, TN.  Though Knoxville has a lot of "big money" businesses and a university, there is another side of Knoxville that is just sad.  One of the things that struck me the most was an abandoned high school.  It looked so sad with windows knocked out and grass overgrowing the playground.  When Dani asked one of the local residents she was told that there was supposed to be a demolition and a new building put there but that it had been over a year since that was approved and nothing had happened.  Worse- that there were people living in that building.  That just hurt my heart.  I just cannot imagine what it must be like to have to make the decision to live in an abandoned building like that. 

On her journey, Dani found three volunteer opportunities:

First to receive a donation ($40,000) was the Joy of Music School.  This school provides free music lesson, including instruments, to inner-city children.  This school constantly has a waiting list.  These kids, who otherwise may never have gotten out of their neighborhoods are not only learning the joy that music brings to your life but many of them have embraced it to the point that they are earning scholarships to colleges across the country. 

The second donation ($30,000) was a small organization called Special Spaces.  Special Spaces goes to the homes of children who are dealing with life threatening illnesses and gives them dream bedrooms.  They are creating a sanctuary for children who are fighting so hard to stay alive.  Funded completely by donations and volunteers, Special Spaces has completed 86 rooms since 2004.  During Dani's 2 days with Special Spaces they created a room for a little 5 year old girl named Daisy who is fighting leukemia.  The room that they completed was fit for a princess and Daisy was thrilled.  Though it's not an organization, Dani went back to Daisy's home and gave her parents $10,000 to go toward Daisy's medical bills. 

The final donation ($20,000) went to The Love Kitchen.  The Love Kitchen is run by 82 year old twins Helen and Ellen.  The twins founded The Love Kitchen in 1986, providing meals, clothing and love to both drop in's to their location but also to homebound folks.  The first week they were open they provided 22 meals.  Now they are up to over 2000 a week!  The thing that really struck me about Helen and Ellen was not just their age and devotion to "their" people, but that when gifted with their donation they said "You dont know how many people this can feed!  This renews my spirit and makes me know I can do MORE!". 

Watching this show, I cannot tell you how many times I cried.  Now- we all know that I cry every week at Extreme Makeover Home Edition, but this was so much more.  Each of these organizations made the tears just flow as Dani was learning about them and the reveal portion, well, I just blubbered.  During EMHE I cry at the family's story and when they get their new home which will change their lives.  During this show, I could not help but cry not for the people that are being helped but for the devotion and passion of these normal people who do not have a lot themselves but are doing everything that they can to help others.  They don't want fame, they don't want thanks, they just want to do what they can to make their community a better place to live.  All of them were so grateful just for the help that Dani provided by walking in off the street to volunteer and the donation at the end just blew them away.  This show is not just changing the life of a family but will help hundreds of people for a long time. 

After I watched the show I had two things on my mind.  First, no matter how much I try to live my life from a positive place, no matter what very small volunteer efforts I have made, they are insignificant compared to what these folks are doing.  Second, of course, was "What more can I do?"  I often think that I would like to help when I hear about different organizations but I talk myself out of it when I realize that with my crazy schedule and the unpredictability of my illness I can't commit to a permanent day and that any donations would be small.  Seeing the people behind these organizations begs me to ask "What if these folks used the same excuses that I give myself?"  So very many people have had their lives changed and if these folks did not do what they do, that would be missing from our world.  Whether they realize it or not, these people are heros.  Not the millionaires who are giving them money, the people who are in the trenches every single day making a difference.  Being grateful for my life and my blessings is one thing-paying it forward would be the icing on the cake. 

So now I ask you- do you volunteer your time or your money?  What do you do?   How did you find a cause that is near and dear to your heart?  I would love to hear how you volunteer and any ideas that you have that can be done with little to no money.  Currently I administer the website for my father's churches, I collect coupons for our overseas troops and their families, I am doing two Arthritis Walks (May in Evansville, IN and September in Louisville) and recently joined the Walk Committee in Louisville, but I want to do more.  I would love to hear your ideas or about terrific programs in your community.


Pain Free...One Day said...

I saw the the millionaire and the two women, not on the show, but on Oprah. I too was moved to tears by their sincerity, so much so that I wanted to go there and volunteer. Like you say, I have used the unpredicatable disease of RA to not volunteer, although I had to retire due to the disease and have time on my hands.
I keep telling myself that when the disease is stabilized I can committ to an organization. I am torn between 2 organizations - The Door which administers to run away teens in NYC (this is close to my heart because they helped my brother through his teen years); the other is Back-Pack Lunch, you provide a food-filled back-pack for the weekend on Friday afternoon to needy kids.
A post-it with both of these organizations is prominently displayed on my fridge so they are never far from my mind. During Lent I have purposed myself to try to be a blessing to someone everyday, so maybe it's time to make that comittment and stop making excuses!

Jules said...

I saw them on Oprah too. If I didn't already love Kroger- I would have switched after I saw that they gave a year's worth of groceries to the Love Kitchen.

Your idea of using Lent not to give something up but to do something for others is a terrific one! I am going to share that with others- I hope you don't mind. There are so many "I am giving up this/that/the other" posts out there and if that kernel of goodness can be put out there it would counteract the thoughts of deprivation.

Thanks for stopping by the blog. I hope you find other posts here that you enjoy. Here's wishing you a pain free day.