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Are You Called?

I subscribe to a newsletter from the Daily Good. Each day, they’ll send a quote and an inspirational story. For the most part, it’s pretty good stuff. Today, the quote resonated with me.

Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.

Augustine of Hippo

Pay attention to what Augustine is saying here. We can’t help everyone. Most of us know that. We have limitations like money and time. We’d love to help, but it’s just not possible. But here’s where Augustine differs from our normal thinking.

He’s saying, we may not be able to help everyone, but there are people specifically designed for us to help. And they aren’t hidden.

They are right in front of us.

For whatever reason, we like to complicate things. We make loving others more difficult than it should be in a variety different ways. But the one I’ve been thinking about lately has been “the calling”. Normally, this calling is thought to be accompanied by a “sign” or “feeling”. I want to be careful, because I think we can be called to do certain things, but hear me out.

I’ve told this story before, but when I was in college there were many times I didn’t exactly want to go to class. I’d get in my car and brainstorm plenty of reasons why I shouldn’t go. I would go so far as to search for a sign not to go. I’d say to myself, “If I get stopped by a red light, that’s it” or “If I circle the lot twice and there’s not spots, I’m gone.” Of course, the lights would be green and there would always end up being a great spot! I’d know the right thing to do, but I would search for a reason not to do it.

Unknowingly, I think we do this same thing when it comes to laying down our lives for others. We want to have a holy heart attack when we see someone or get that really big gut feeling or have something miraculous happen to confirm that we should indeed help them. Again, I’m not saying there aren’t times people are called, but I think there should be a better way of determining to help someone lest we get our signals mixed up with indigestion.

The awareness of a need and the capacity to meet that need: This constitutes a call.

John R. Mott

There is some wisdom to what Mott says there. Obviously, we can not help everyone. However, there are needs that are placed in our lives on a daily basis that we may overlook or leave for someone else. Sometimes God calls people to be the answer to a prayer.

How intentional are you about listening for needs?

Do you find yourself waiting for that calling when maybe it’s right there in front of you?

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Filed under Challenges, Excuses, making a difference, Realizations, Serving Others, Uncategorized, Websites

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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Help Others.org

I wanted to pass along a website that may interest some of you. It’s called Help Others.org. From what I understand, a group of volunteers maintain the site and it exists to simply encourage people in their everyday endeavors to help others.

The website won’t blow you away with its style, but here are three reasons why you should at least give it a glance.

  1. Encouraging Stories – People share inspiring stories of kindness, compassion, generosity, and sacrifice. They are fun to read and perhaps they may give you an idea.
  2. Accountability – The website offers you a chance to join a group. They “are a fun way to do some good, connect with others in the spirit of kindness, and to “be the change we wish to see in the world.” Even if you don’t join a group, I appreciate their effort in prompting people to serve as communities. We can make a much larger impact together than we ever could alone.
  3. Ideas – Stuck in a rut? Not sure how to serve? Don’t sweat it. They’ve got you covered. There is an easy to access list of ways you can begin loving others.

I hope you’ll take the time to at least check them out. I just found them today so I’m not sure how great they are at updating it daily, but I thought it was worth a few minutes to pass on. Have a great Wednesday, click the “Help Now” widget on the right, and let me know what you thought of Help Others.org.

How can you Become Last to your co-workers?

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Filed under Chances to Serve, Examples of Sacrifice, General Update, Uncategorized, Websites

100 Clicks and Counting!

Look for this on the right side of my page!

Congratulations to Becoming Last readers! We’ve reached one hundred clicks on our SocialVibe widget! I’m not sure what that translates to exactly, but I think it’s around 6,000 days of Vitamin A treatment for a child. It may not sound like much, but it’s life saving to many of the children Vitamin Angels helps.

If you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about, please scroll down and look at the right side of my page. You’ll see a box with a big “Help Now!” button. There’s no spam or personal information involved. You just watch a 30 second video (actually, you can rate and click without watching…shhhh…don’t tell!) and rate it. Then, Sprint (my SocialVibe sponsor) donates money to Vitamin Angels. If you missed out, Vitamin Angels wrote a blog a while back.

So thanks for clicking! You really have made a difference just by visiting my blog. I hope you’ll come back and click often. Our goal is to get 200 clicks by the end of August! That’s ambitious, but it can be done! If you want extra credit, go to SocialVibe and set up your own account. You earn money towards a charity of your choice just by using social media. I’m signed up as BecomingLast!

Become Last today and don’t forget to click the “Help Now!” button because you can make a difference!

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Filed under General Update, vitamin angels, Websites

Giving Made Tangible

I’m becoming a Twitter addict. It’s way more than a way to kill time or a way to tell people what you just ate, it’s an information superhighway. I’m not kidding. If you are doing research on the Internet, Twitter should be in your top five places to start. Of course, you need to know what you are doing or it could take forever, but it’s worth the time to learn.

For example, today I found this amazingly awesome website. It’s a group called Global Giving. They connect donors with community-based projects that need support. Here are three reason why you need to visit:

  1. Ease of Use – Their website is extremely easy to use. You can donate to a cause of your choice in just a handful of clicks.
  2. Tangible – I’m convinced the #1 reason people don’t give is because the problems are out there (wherever out there is, it’s not here, so it’s easy to pass off). Global Giving connects you to real projects helping real people. You know where your money is going and I think that makes it easier for people to give. For example, in four clicks I discovered for $25 you can support a child (one month’s vitamins, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, lotion and other basic supplies for a child) in an orphanage in Central America.
  3. Start Ups – If you are a non-profit struggling for money, this is a site you should consider. Not only will you generate more money for projects, but the amount of times your organization’s name will be in front of people is invaluable.

So check them out. I get excited about non-profits who are using their website and social media to maximize the benefits of what they do.

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Filed under Chances to Serve, Websites

100 Ways to Serve – Day 30

I’m a firm believer that people genuinely want to help others. I think people just aren’t sure where to start sometimes. So I ran across a list today I wanted to share with you. Youth Service America created the list. It’s 100 ways teen can serve their communities. Clearly this can go beyond teens so I thought some of you may find it interesting, inspiring, or somewhere in between. Here’s the list and here’s a sample of them to get you started:

  1. Help cook and/or serve a meal at a homeless shelter.
  2. Gather clothing from your neighbors and donate it to a local shelter.
  3. Donate your old computer to a school.
  4. Get together with some friends to buy holiday presents for a family at a shelter.
  5. Don’t spread or start gossip.
  6. Bake cookies and bring them to your local fire hall or police station.
  7. Clean up a vacant lot or park.
  8. Organize a campaign to raise money to purchase and install playground equipment.

I hope you’ll check out the list. It’s really got some good, practical ideas. Don’t try to tackle 10 at once. Just pick one and work on accomplishing it in a week or two. But here’s a tip:

Write the idea on your fridge or on a mirror so you are reminded each day.

It’s very easy to forget, even with good intentions. The more reminders the better.

How can you Become Last this week?

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Filed under Chances to Serve, Uncategorized, Websites