Monday, August 26, 2019

Act 4: Deseret Industries

This post marks my fourth act of service, as well as the 10% mark of my goal of 40 acts of service before I turn 40 next summer. It feels good to be plugging away towards my goal, it feels good to be looking beyond myself a little, and it feels good to know that I am contributing in whatever small ways I can.

One thing I have begun to enjoy as part of this project, is trying not to hyper-plan everything, and sometimes leaving a little space to see what service opportunies arise as I go about my day. Sometimes that works really well (like donating to Tim's Tiny Toys in my first week), and sometimes that means that I get all the way to Thursday or so without having found a way to serve someone yet. That was what was happening the week before last, and, as I was getting ready for the day, things were feeling a little dire on the old service front. I wanted to do something, but I just couldn't figure out what! That was when I happened to walk into my closet to get dressed, and thought: "there's a lot of stuff I don't wear in here. Why not go through it all and donate what I don't use?"

Me in my closet with the 26 lbs of clothes I donated to Deseret Industries. 
Friends, I spent the next couple of hours sorting through just about everything in my closet, and I pulled out about 26 lbs (or 12 kg - yes, I absolutely got on the scale with that big sack of clothes!) of clothes that I don't want or wear anymore. And that's not counting the pile of clothes that were too worn to give away. I rediscovered a ton of clothes that I forgot that I owned, and have been enjoying wearing them again. It feels a little funny that instead of feeling like I lost 26 lbs of clothes, I ended up feeling like I gained a lot of new outfits, but such is the human brain. Or at least this human's brain.

Okay, I'm feeling the need to clarify at this point exactly how I came to have almost 30 lbs of excess clothes just sitting around in my closet. The simple answer is that I keep my clothes for a long time. Case in point: the shirt I'm wearing in that photo is about 7 years old, and the skirt is.... 17 years old. I've always done my own thing style-wise, so my clothes are never really out of style, because they were never actually in style in the first place. So clothes get a much longer shelf life when the only thing you're worrying about is if they are whole, clean and still fit. But it does also mean that things have a tendency to pile up in your closet. Or my closet, as the case may be. The other part of the equation, of course, is that I've had four babies over the lifespan of this particular wardrobe, so my body has been a lot of different shapes and sizes over that time period. As it naturally should.

I debated a little back and forth about whether or not this "counts" as an act of service, when it clearly benefits me so much, and must just be a drop in the bucket for an organization as big as Deseret Industries (more about them in a minute), but I don't think there is a rule that service can only be a good thing for the recipient, and not for the giver.  I quite like the idea of a service transaction where everyone comes out happy. It feels like it sort of balances the scales somehow, if that makes sense.

I debated a bit back and forth about whether or not I was going to donate to Deseret Industries, given that they are the go-to thrift store and donation point in my area, and I did look around a bit for other organizations to give to. But in the end, convenience and familiarity won out when I found myself on the same street as my local DI with my sack of donations in the trunk. They have a donation drive-through, guys.

I am happy to support Deseret Industries in their efforts. They're a thrift store, which is just a good and useful thing for any community to have (imagine all of the unnecessary waste going into landfills if we didn't have a way to pass along the things we didn't personally need anymore), and they also have programs that help people prepare for, and find their way into the workforce. They also do a lot of worldwide humanitarian aid. You can read more about the work Deseret Industries does here, and if you live in the Western United States and want to donate something, you can see their donation guidelines here.  I should mention that DI is run by my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but anyone is welcome to donate or volunteer with them.

All of my service has been fairly anonymous and comfortably faceless up to this point, and I have to admit that I kind of like it that way. I'm nervous that people will think that I think I'm somehow better than the people I'm trying to help, and I'm also just an introverted soul who gets a little uncomfy outside of her comfort zone. In the words of The Animals (although, let's be honest, it will always be Nina Simone singing it in my head): "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good, Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood." But, I'm going to try to challenge myself a little bit to serve in ways that are a little more visible and interactive. And outside of my house. ;)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Act 3: American Civil Liberties Union

This post is a little late because I found it a little difficult to write - and life is just busy!

We're down to our last week of summer, and our days are going fast, so we're trying to squeeze in whatever fun we can before school starts in nine days (not that I'm counting (I am totally counting)). We've played in the river up in the mountains, had a picnic in the garden, planted roses, made some art, watched a lot of Avatar, gone to the movies, had lots and lots of friends over and just about eaten our way through a Costco-sized box of ice cream. It has been pretty great!

This past week was busy enough that I probably could have given myself one of the 12 passes I've allowed myself for this year-long project, but I've been distressed enough about the ICE raids and detention centers at the southern border of the United States that I felt like I had to do something. As an immigrant and a non-citizen myself (I'm a permanent resident of the United States), I tend to keep my head down where politics are concerned, especially immigration politics. I'm uncomfortably aware of the privileges I enjoy as a white European immigrant whose foreignness is more charming than it is threatening. The Americans around me have met me with nothing but friendship, love and inclusion, and I am reluctant to come across as an ungrateful or critical guest - which, at the end of the day, is essentially what I am.

But it hurts to see families being separated and people suffering in inhumane conditions. And I feel such a need to do something. So I donated to the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Listen, I originally wrote quite a long post about my thoughts and feelings in regards to the current immigration situation. But it didn't feel quite right somehow, so I let it sit for a few days while I tried to work out why, and this is what I came up with: I don't want to be divisive. I see a lot of problems in our society stemming from our propensity to divide ourselves into "us and them," and it causes nothing but more hard feelings and bitterness. I know the loveliest people on both sides of The Great American Political Divide, who say the unloveliest things about people on the other side. But we're not going to improve anything by pointing fingers, dishing out blame and "othering" our neighbors to the point that we can't talk to each other. We need to build bridges across the divide, find common ground and a common purpose to work towards. To go a bit John Lennon: "it's easy if you try."

Anyway, back to the American Civil Liberties Union. I chose to donate to them this week because I believe they are an organization that is genuinely seeking to bridge that divide. In essence, the ACLU is an organization that works within the court system and legislature to "defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country". They are both non-profit and non-partisan. You can read more about the ACLU and what they do here. Sometimes I completely agree with the cases they take on (voters rights! Privacy protections! Religious freedom!), and sometimes they're defending the rights of individuals or organizations that are completely reprehensible beyond comprehension to me (like the Ku Klux Klan...). But I admire that they are willing to work  to ensure that no one's constitutional rights are being violated and that everyone is treated fairly. 

As someone who believes laws and fairness, they are an organization that really resonates with me. So, you can imagine, that when I learned that they are working to protect the rights of immigrants, I felt really good about donating some money to ensure that everyone gets a fair hearing. I like that the ACLU are working towards both helping individuals have proper representation now, as well as seeking longterm solutions through advocating for necessary changes in legislature. I'm happy to add my small drop to that bucket. You can read more about immigrants' rights from the ACLU here - and I recommend that you do. Being informed is key. 

Bonus! One of my friends from college is now a teacher and an education advocate extraordinaire. Her hard work and passion for helping her students is nothing short of inspiring. So when she posted on her facebook page about preparing for a new school year with 36 kids in her class, many of which come from pretty tough backgrounds, I sent her a little donation for "pencils, Kleenex and Diet Coke". Teachers are incredible people. Go love on one today. 

Friday, August 2, 2019

Act 2: House of Hope

Four babies' worth of maternity clothes.

This week I donated my maternity clothes to the House of Hope. Let's  briefly put a pin in the implications of any woman giving away her pregnancy wardrobe (I promise I'll get back to that!), and focus on the ladies at the House of Hope for a moment.

The House of Hope is a non-profit, residential treatment facility for women dealing with substance abuse. What I find particularly valuable about the House of Hope is that it is a facility where the women are able to bring their children to stay with them while they receive treatment. Keeping families together whenever possible is so vitally important, and must take away so much stress and anxiety for the women, allowing them the necessary headspace to focus on their treatment. I especially love that the kids receive therapeutic care too. So many of them have been through so much, and both need and deserve to address the challenges that living with an addicted parent has brought to their little lives.

I don't have a lot of personal experience with substance abuse addiction, but I have felt its effects close enough to know how devastating it can be for a family, especially for children. And I do know what an ongoing struggle it can be, both for the addict and for everyone who loves them. So when moms and their little ones decide that they're ready to fight this dragon, I feel like the least we can do is help and support them in whatever small ways we can.

I first discovered House of Hope several months ago, when a neighbor was collecting donations for them. I didn't participate then, but looked at the wish list on their website, and noted that maternity clothes were on it, and decided that that's what I wanted to do with my own pregnancy wardrobe when the time came to pass it along.

First baby!
 Although we have felt for a long time that Elijah is our grand finale, it has taken me a while to fully make peace with the fact that I'll never those maternity clothes again, because I'll never be pregnant again. I'll never meet a brand-new human and hold them in my arms, knowing that they are ours again. No more quiet moments with a sleepy newborn. No more watching my older kids fall utterly head-over-heels in love with a new little sibling. It's a lot to say goodbye to.

We were so excited and so ready! to be parents. 
 And yet: it's time. Both for all of the logical reasons I know in my head:

  • That's a lot of 9 lb babies and  c-sections for one body! 
  • We're getting old and that window of fertility is just getting smaller and smaller. 
  • I can't keep having babies just because I love newborns. 
  • One high-risk pregnancy was plenty.
and the reasons I feel in my heart:

  • It feels great to own my own body again. 
  • I'm excited to see what life holds for me after the tiny kid stage. 
  • It just feels like we're complete now.

After baby number one we went from professional maternity photos to selfies in the bathroom.
No less excited and delighted about adding each new little person to our family, though.
So while it is a little bittersweet to say goodbye to those special clothes and everything they symbolize to me, it feels like a gift and a privilege to be able to pass them along to a group of mamas that are fighting such a tough and valiant battle. I'm so impressed and inspired by the efforts and sacrifices they are making to give their babies a better life.