I had the privilege and joy of speaking to a group of kids that came from families with health behavior issues. Through my networking group I learned about Maui Health and Family Services and when I heard about a special event they were having I eagerly offered my services to speak to the group.
I value the opportunity to make a difference and find that speaking and sharing my story is a way that I can do that. In the past I had been to Cambodia, South Africa and Peru – all in one year of big change for me and my life. I hadn’t made my way back to these countries, as I had thought I might, and then realized there are many opportunities in one’s backyard to make that difference.
I had just 5 minutes to make an impact on this group so I had to make sure I told my story in the most relevant way to kids that ranged from 8 to 17 years of age. My story was one of reaching for a dream (the Olympics) and sticking by it, no matter how hopeless it might seem at times; to overcome the self-doubt and the cynics.
I shared with them my self-doubts and times I wanted to quit; that I too had times where I felt lonely, unsupported, felt fat and even hated myself. More importantly, they also had to know that achieving my goal did not change how I felt about myself. I didn’t want them to be defined by their goals and whether they made it or not.
Now, I don’t know how many of those kids really heard my message there and then. I believe one or two were really inspired (one came up afterwards and was so excited to meet a ‘real live Olympian’) and what I also know is that some kids were inspired. even if they don’t know it yet. A part of my message will influence them when times are tough and maybe that’s when they will remember what I told them.
If I can change just one life from each talk, it’s worth it. Yes, of course, the more the better and I do work my talk and use my skills to do that.
If you could change one life how would you do it? What would you want someone to know?
Here are my key suggestions to help you make a difference:
Find a cause that speaks to your heart – it’s likely this is where you can make the most difference and it will fuel you, as much as you give. That’s right, giving will feel like receiving. My next project is helping TEDx Youth speakers for 2015 get their message out. By helping these kids find their voice and express it well, it means they are going to have a greater impact.
Know what you have to give and find out who needs it – is it money, is it time, is it your natural gifts? When I went to Peru we spent a day helping a community build a high school. We stamped our feet in mud to make bricks, we plastered walls, we used poles to make holes in the ground, and we formed the mud into bricks – 4 tasks that felt like we were participating in The Amazing Race, and were harder than they looked.
At the end of this experience by big AHA was that they didn’t’ need us to do this work – they already had the manpower for it and we were probably slowing them down if anything. What they needed was money and donations to get school furniture and books. They needed people with resources to make these things happen.
Little changes matter – you don’t have to travel or give beyond your own means. Do what you can while still looking after your own needs. When you look after yourself, in the end you will have more to give whether in time, money or gifts. If you think you don’t have much, think about where you can have the greatest impact with what you have.
There is much to get from giving. I recommend reading The Go-Giver as a start if you feel the need to wait until you have more before giving.
How can you contribute your gifts to make a difference?
Please share with me in the comments your thoughts on giving and making a difference. Thank you.