Monthly Archives: September 2009

Finding Joy in a Shoe Box

I sometimes make posting way too difficult. I think and I write and I delete and repeat. Not today. Today, a video that expresses many things my words could not. This video represents why projects like Operation Christmas Child are so important. Watch his reaction to the gift he is about to receive and understand he has not even seen what’s inside!

A friend of mine wrote something I found simple and profound after watching this. She said, “Wow. All I can think about is, with all the grand things I have, that will and will not fit into a shoe box, my reactions are far, far different: closing on a house, buying a car, jewelry, computers, boat, phones, books, etc. etc. etc.”

Have a great Wednesday!

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Five Minutes and a Smile

Can you give five minutes? That’s all it takes to make an impact. There are so many people that could use your prayer, encouragement, time, help. Will you take five minutes to do something for someone today and this weekend? A sample of stories I’ve heard about this week…

  • Numerous people battling cancer.
  • A positive step in the fight against AIDS! Awesome news!
  • People going through surgeries.
  • Families dealing with the loss of loved ones.
  • First hand accounts of troops fighting overseas.
  • Awesome stories of kids making a difference! Seriously, I love those stories.

My point being. Life is rough. But you CAN make a difference in someone’s life. Think of someone you know who’s going through a difficult time. Write them a note, pray for them, visit them, call them, or come up with some creative way of helping them. Donate to your favorite charity. Geico claims to save people hundreds of dollars in 15 minutes. You can do better in five!

Enjoy your weekend and try to find that five minutes!

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Nurturing Compassion in Kids

Someone, somewhere once said, “Children are the future.” Well, if no one did, they should have. It’s true. As much as we want to live forever, it’s important for us to teach the next generation the beauty of Becoming Last. I think a lot of times we want our children to have certain qualities, but we just kind of hope they turn out for good. As parents, grandparents, and friends we should be more intentional in instilling values in our kids. With that in mind, here are three ways to begin teaching your kids about loving others.

  1. Giving – My family has been taking a financial management course and this past week I was encouraged by the section dealing with children. It promoted the idea of teaching kids financial responsibility at an early age by letting them do some of their chores for money. Then, having them save some, give some away, and spend some if they want. I love the idea of at least teaching your children to be generous with their money. Of course, parents have to model it, but imagine the consequences if we raised up a generation of kids who would give lavishly to those in need! Consider sponsoring a child through Compassion or World Vision. That’s such an easy, practical way to tangibly demonstrate why giving and serving are important.
  2. Kids Are Heroes – Discover places such as kidsareheroes.com. This website (and others like it) have inspiring stories from other kids and they give ideas for projects your child or family can do together.
  3. Serve Together – Words are cheap. A local pastor quoted this the other day and it applies here:

“Service and selflessness are just words on a page without a rigorous methodology for constantly reinforcing these principles.” A Turak

My wife would be the first to tell you I have all sorts of brilliant ideas and theories, but many of them don’t ever get put into action. I can tell my son all about how Jesus loves everyone or how we should Become Last, but unless I model that and give us opportunities to serve together then all the talk and theorizing is in vain.

Search on the internet for ways to serve in your community. My community is have a litter pick-up day soon. That’s a great opportunity for a grade-school child. Maybe do a food drive together. Or run a lemonade stand as you raise money for a charity. One of these days I’ll post a list of ways you and your families can begin loving others so look for that soon.

Have a great Wednesday and I hope you’ll think of some way you can Become Last this week.

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Steps Toward Change

Not many people would say, “I don’t care if people don’t have food or water.” I hope I’m not too far off in believing most of us genuinely want to help people out. The problem is our lives aren’t oriented in such a fashion where that is possible.

Many of us spend so much time working because we’ve made financial decisions which dictate us working X amount of hours to pay for everything. Right or wrong, we’re hindered by those decisions. Our entertainment also takes up our time. There’s hardly a passion you could name which could not be satisfied within hours in America. Because of this, we spend a lot of our time feeding those passions. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but time consuming.

My point is this: If you want to begin helping others, begin making one intentional decision in that direction each day.

Change rarely occurs overnight. We have developed our patterns of behavior over the course of our entire lives! Rarely does that change automatically. It’s a process. It’s a set of determined, thought out decisions that eventually became the rhythm of your life.

So where can you begin today? What can you do tomorrow? If you’re at a loss, take some time and explore other posts as you may find some encouragement or inspiration.

What does the symphony of your life sound like? The best orchestra did not get that way overnight. It took years and years of practice. How can you begin to intentionally move yourself in the direction of Becoming Last?

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Filed under christian, making a difference, selflessness, Time

Tuesday!

I thought I’d post some takeaways from Nikki’s post. Some things I learned or thought about while reading:

  1. What is Passion? – She shared she had a passion for humanitarian work, specifically for working with children. I think her life reflects that. Though I began to wonder if I really am passionate about the things I think I am. For example, my wife and I are reorganizing our finances because we want to live better. We’re sacrificing right now so we can live better later. That indicates I’m passionate about living a financially sound life. I’m willing to sacrifice. The question I have to ask myself is: Would I put the same effort into raising money or awareness for other things I claim to be passionate about (such as children living in hunger/poverty?) I don’t think it’s bad to live well because I’m making sound financial choices, but I wonder if I would make those same choices if I received none of the benefit.
  2. Out of the Comfort Zone – Nikki said she couldn’t get the kids out of her head when she came back to the states. Her world had been rocked with what she had witnessed on her trip. There’s something to be said for getting out of your comfort zone. Our priorities/thoughts/actions/motivations tend to change when our eyes are opened to stuff we’re not used to seeing. This makes me even more ready to take a trip overseas sometime soon to help with relief.
  3. Small Sacrifices – I’m glad she mentioned making small sacrifices like forgoing one meal out a week to give toward some project you care about. Like I said, I want to go overseas. I want to help people, but life can be constraining and so until I go I can begin to make small sacrifices. Even if it helps one child, it’s beyond worth it to that child. No amount of compassion is insignificant. No gift or sacrifice is too small. We can all begin to take baby steps in the direction of Becoming Last.
  4. Be a Freak – Some people aren’t going to understand why you do what you do. Friends may not understand why you’d rather not eat out or see the latest movie. Family may not want you to take a trip overseas. But I would encourage you, if you are called, go. Specifically, as a Christian, God calls us to be his hands and feet by loving/sacrificing/serving people. Are we heeding that call?

Well, I hope her post was encouraging and inspiring to you. I enjoy hearing about people’s experiences and their perspective on Becoming Last. I’m not sure what’s ahead for the week. I bought a book last night I hope to recommend to you after I finish it. It’s got potential. Until then…

How can you Become Last today?

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Filed under christian, General Update, poverty, Serving Others

More to Life

Nikki and Frankel and Mother Theresa's Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Nikki and Frankel and Mother Theresa's Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Becoming Last welcomes Nikki!

Last week I got an email from a fellow blogger, Matt, asking me to guest blog on his own blog, Becoming Last. Also eager to communicate with other like-minded bloggers, and to share my experiences, of course I agreed. Maybe I should start this guest post by introducing myself… My name is Nikki Cochrane, and I am a 20 year old student in my last year of the cultural anthropology program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. My passion in life is one thing, and it seems to consume my every thought; humanitarian work. Throughout most of teenage and adult life I have volunteered and sponsored children, but I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life the summer after my grade 12 year when I first went to the Dominican Republic. I went with an organization called Hero Holiday (www.heroholiday.com); working in and around Sosua… building schools, helping in an orphanage for handicapped children, and learning just a little bit about the Dominican and Haitian people with whom I was working. When I got home, I cried for a week. I couldn’t get the kids’ faces out of my head, and every time I opened my fridge and saw food (some that wouldn’t even be eaten), I was overcome with a sense of guilt. I knew I had to do more. The following summer I returned to the DR again with Hero Holiday, this time for a month. Every day of the month brought moments and experiences that even further changed me and my perceptions on life. The following February sent me to Ethiopia, Africa. I worked in an orphanage for HIV+ children, was able to meet my World Vision sponsor child, Tsehay, and taught English classes to children who were very eager to learn. I ate injera and dora wat for the first time and learned how to maneuver through a bustling African market. This past summer, I spent two months in the Dominican Republic again; the place I call my second home! I was able to spend a few days in its neighboring country as well, Haiti, working mostly in a hospital for children, most of whom are dying or very sick from malnutrition. The first time I walked into the hospital I was so overcome with emotion that I had to step back out, after seeing a 6 year old, Frankel, so skinny and lethargic he could barely lift his head. I was shocked when I heard him speak, for he was so tiny he looked like he would be too young even to know how to talk. I later learned he was 6 years old… I hugged him very tightly after that and hoped he could feel my love.

I am not sure exactly what the future is going to bring for me, but I know there are going to be big changes in my life. I will be heading back to the DR for 2 weeks over Christmas, and then moving there in May when I am done University. My life has been changed in so many ways because of this work, but it is not without its struggles. There are some parts of my life where I have to make sacrifices, and although it is all worth it, it is difficult at times. Money is one of those sacrifices, and it leads me to pinching every penny just to afford to live when I am in the DR. I have drifted apart from some friends, who don’t understand the way I feel about life now. It has even caused some conflicts with my family members, who are hesitant about seeing me leave. But when I look at the big picture, I couldn’t be happier. I know that with every sacrifice I make, there is a bigger purpose behind it. Something much bigger than just me, and my own little Canadian bubble. There is much more to the world than many people think, and I believe it is up to each of us to do our part in making the lives of those struggling a little easier… a little happier.

If you want to read more about my work, you can check out my blog at www.heroholiday07.blogspot.com I also have a fundraising blog, www.madebynikki.blogspot.com where I design blogspot blogs to raise money for my travel and living expenses.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post! I hope that it will inspire you to think twice the next time you spend $10 at McDonalds, or your toonie on a coffee. There are so many needs in the world; children that need to be fed, that need to go to school, that need uniforms, clothes, shoes, clean water, education… YOU can make a difference, even if it is in just ONE child’s life. I will finish by leaving you with my favorite story. It has inspired me and is something that I find myself reading during the times when I feel unsure…

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “I made a difference to that one!”

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Filed under Examples of Sacrifice, General Update, Uncategorized, Websites

A Great Example

Africa1I am often encouraged and inspired as I read the firsthand accounts of people who have given their lives to serving others. As we explore what it means to Become Last,  we can all learn from those who have modeled that in one form or another. Over the last couple of months, we’ve heard from Vitamin Angels and the Fissels about their adventures in serving others. If you’d like to read what they wrote, just search for them in the search box at the top and you can read their guest posts. You can also click on their names to go to their websites.

Tomorrow, we have another amazing opportunity! We’ll hear from Nikki, another person who puts compassion into action. She’s a college student in Canada who has a heart for children. I ran across her blog last week (she actually has several) and wanted to give her a chance to share her heart for Becoming Last.

As a free preview (ok, so it’s all free…), here is a link to an encouraging and useful post on her Ethiopia blog. She describes meeting the child she sponsors through WorldVision and the encouragement it was to see the letters and things she had sent her. I would highly encourage reading her post because she recommends several organizations through which you can sponsor a child and some tips for what to write and what to send.

If you’ve never sponsored a child, she provides links to look up information for each group. My wife and I have never actually done this as a couple, but I think we may discuss finding some place in our budget. For some reason, I’ve just never thought long and hard about doing this. Like I’ve said before, it’s just easier not to make the effort sometimes. Life just gets moving and unless we’re intentional about setting aside our time and money we easily forget the difference we could make. That’s been the most encouraging part of this blog. I know a handful of people read this from time to time, but it really helps my family and I put our thoughts and promptings into action.

I hope you’ll come back tomorrow as Nikki shares with us a little of her heart for others. Until then, check out her post I on child sponsorship and enjoy the rest of your Wednesday!

Have you Become Last this week?

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