Do you ever feel tired of thinking about your own stuff all the time? Like what’s happening in your life, where you may be headed, if things will turn out the way you hope? Constantly thinking about what ails you; stress, work, health, whatever it may be, can get . . . kinda boring, right? Though I think it’s important to take care of yourself, to take stock of where you are, to always seek the best ways to improve, sometimes looking outside of yourself can be a reprieve from the questioning voice that resides within all of us.
This weekend I was presented with an opportunity to get outside of myself, to do something out of the norm, to take action. Action can often be the best thing for us, an invitation to change our perspective, to enable that sometimes-elusive feeling of gratitude, to be in the moment. Yoga often does this for me, encouraging me to move more and think less, to invite clarity where before there was doubt or confusion, but doing yoga most days out of the week can sometimes put me into autopilot mode, rather than granting me a new mode of focusing. So when my sister asked me to join her for Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week 2017, I said yes.
I said yes though I was still a bit fatigued after being sick for what felt like the tenth time since this new year started. I said yes though it meant I would be getting up at 6:30am on one of two days off. I said yes for many reasons, but most of all I said yes for my sister.
You see, my sister and her family will be the recipients of a Habitat home within the next year, a life-changing event that has been months in the making, and volunteering alongside my sister and her husband meant that I would be contributing to their “sweat equity” hours. These few hours out of my Saturday would contribute to my sister’s 500 hours, the amount of hours each Habitat family must complete as part of the conditions for receiving a home. And it was Women Build Week! Habitat for Humanity’s website defines this national event as a “program [that] invites women to devote at least one day to help families build strength, stability and independence through housing. The week is meant to spotlight the homeownership challenges faced by women.” What could possibly be a better way to spend my Saturday?
I will admit that I also said yes for selfish reasons, to have an excuse to forget about my own concerns. I’ve been having concerns about my health as of late; I’m okay overall (other than my health issues that I wrote about in a previous post you can read here), but I used to never get sick, and recently I have gotten really sick — the flu, strep, strep again, bronchitis, a fever with unexplained swelling of my extremities — about once a month. I couldn’t help thinking, Is something wrong?
Which resulted in blood labs and testing, which resulted in: “elevated liver function” and “low potassium levels.” Another way of saying, We don’t know. So though I’m relieved I don’t have lupus, which an insensitive doctor casually mentioned I might have during a rushed visit the other week, it’s frustrating to not have conclusive, actionable results. I’ll hopefully know more when my further test results come in, but in the meantime, I needed an excuse to get out of my head and out into the world.
I believe that helping others is one of the most significant things we as human beings can do in this life, and I continually strive to keep my faith in humanity, to believe in the goodness of others. But these times here in America have been pretty dark lately, what with a certain person in power and many people struggling to simply survive, and it’s been all too easy to lose hope, or to become ambivalent.
But this Saturday reminded me that there are good people in this world, and that even seemingly small actions, actions that could be deemed as just a drop in the bucket, can accomplish more than we think. Taking action is better than doing nothing at all, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, and drops in a bucket, over time, can result in the bucket filling up to the point of overflowing.
I definitely felt an overflowing this weekend. I felt connected to people I didn’t know, felt the strength that emanates from numbers, experienced the joy of contributing to something greater than myself. I got to witness the adorable family who will receive the home when it’s finished, heard inspiring speeches, did landscaping alongside strangers and my family. I hammered nails and shoveled mulch. I felt the sun on my face, got my hands in the dirt. And though anyone who knows me will tell you that I am decidedly not a gardener, as someone who works at a desk most days, nothing could’ve been better.
My sister, her husband, myself, and the other volunteers that day helped to create a home for a family, and soon my sister’s family will receive a home of their own. All I could think was, What a privilege. I was and am so very humbled and grateful to have been able to take part in such an awe-inspiring event. And though selfish it may sound, working to help other people in turn helped me. It helped me to gain some perspective, helped me to be in the moment, helped me to be grateful for all that I have in this life instead of focusing on what I don’t have or what is “wrong.” It may be taboo to admit, that I liked the way this made me feel for myself, but I like to think that if doing a bit of good for someone else does a bit of good for you, why not?
Needless to say, I will be volunteering again. I’m not sure exactly when, as I will be traveling a lot for work in the next few weeks and know that I need to take care of myself and rest as much as a I can, but I will make it a priority when I am able. I’ve said many times here on A Wild, Free Life that taking care of yourself is the only way you can take care of other people, but I also know that sometimes fretting about yourself all the time gets old, and you gotta take some action. You gotta get outside, both figuratively and literally, and get your hands in the dirt.
P.S. I highly recommend taking a look at Habitat for Humanity’s website to find out how you can get involved. Or, if building, painting, or working in their store isn’t your thing, I encourage you to check out a cause that speaks to you to see how you can contribute. Life is short. And no matter what the powers that be may believe, we’re in this life together.
I wish you a wild, free life.