For me, giving back is magical, initiating a series of contagious reactions. It begins with one person and a simple "Yes." Saying yes allows the magical process to unfold.
There is undeniable evidence of how giving back can shift and change those around us and even the world. No matter what age, we have the ability to change lives by giving back. Whether it's paying a bridge toll for a stranger, letting someone go ahead in the grocery line, or volunteering our time, each decision to give back most definitely keeps positive energy flowing.
Recently I was asked to describe my core value. I didn't hesitate to say giving back, making a difference in my professional and personal life. The person then asked where my core belief came from. In my mind, I thought it was an obvious choice, the right thing to do. Yet, for the first time, I thought about where and why I believe so deeply in giving back. She stared at me intently while I thought. I must admit, my mind was blank and I began to get a little nervous. Then I realized, it was my experience of being a foster child. How did I miss that?
My foster family profoundly touched and enriched my life. They gave me complete acceptance wrapped in unconditional love. From this experience, I learned the value of giving back and how powerful we are as people. My foster mom taught me that it just takes one person to make a difference in the life of a child. She was correct.
Seeing how my foster family made a difference in my life left me with a desire to give back. In 1999, I took a leap of faith and left a corporate career to found a non-profit organization for children called Speak To Children. Speak To Children's mission is to provide education and support to parents, teachers, and children by reinforcing basic values that foster self-awareness and character development in the child.
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Over the years, I have had a front row seat to watch miracles big and small happen. For example, in Fishkill, New York, I was teaching children how to make their dream come true. The class was ending, and we had time for one more comment. A ten-year-old autistic boy named Mario, who never spoke a word, looked up at me and softly said, "You need love in your heart to make your dream come true." We were all astonished; the children's jaws dropped to the floor as I tried to compose myself. Before I could respond, Mario went back into his world. He never spoke again. Holding back my tears, I looked at the class and said, "Yes, Mario is correct. You do need love in your heart to make your dream come true." Mario's comment reminded me why I taught these children from the Bronx in Fishkill, New York for one month without pay, in a camp sponsored by the Fresh Air Fund. That summer I was reminded giving back is the highest payment I could receive. My core value, to give back, was once again reinforced.
Every choice I make to give back promotes a supportive response from the universe. For me, giving back ignites a deep loving feeling and a sense of joy, and the combination is overwhelmingly beautiful; words can’t describe the feeling. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to see how my actions have impacted someone, but for me, it's not the immediate gratification; it is the act of giving back that feels so darned amazing.
I know my actions are touching someone because we are all connected; love connects us as our actions maintain the beauty of giving back while promoting the flow of love. Giving back sends a flow of love to you, me, and back to the world.
Melanie Jones is an inspirational speaker, children's book author, and founder of the non-profit organization Speak To Children. You can visit her website for more information.