Finding Happiness through Service in a Season of Giving

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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Finding Happiness through Service in a Season of Giving: Fruit for a  food basket

For Thanksgiving this year, I embarked on a new tradition that brought me a lot of joy, and which was a great way to kick off a Season of Giving.

I will look for ways to give back at Christmas as well, knowing that my spirit is happiest when I am serving others.

This year, I am finding happiness through service. Helping others makes me feel the most joyful and alive. I will continue to seek out ways to do this during the holiday season and beyond!

Finding Happiness Delivering Meals To Those in Need

In years past, I’ve served meals to those in need on Thanksgiving through Glide Church, my spiritual home in San Francisco where I sang in the gospel choir. One Thanksgiving, I decided not to eat anything myself until after 5 p.m. just to feel what it was like to be hungry on a day of abundance.

I was serving meals that day, and surrounded with the fragrant smell of turkey, stuffing, pie. It was incredibly challenging!

And it was a good reminder of how much I have, and of what it must be like for people to go without.  I realized how incredibly blessed I am that I have always had shelter, clothing, clean water, and food to eat.

I have never gone without, not for a single day. When you consider that more than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day, it can really make you stop to count your blessings.

This year, I decided to launch a new holiday tradition of delivering meals to families in need. The charity Equinox organizes a Thanksgiving day effort to deliver 10,000 meals to those in need, in their homes.

3,600 drivers got up and lined up to help out, starting as early as 4 a.m. I was there a little after 5:30 a.m. and there were already close to 100 people in line in front of me and my friends.

Finding Happiness in A Spirit of Joy! Finding Happiness through Service in a Season of Giving: Turkeys in PJs

I wore my Santa hat, because it felt like the festive thing to do! A few intrepid volunteers had on amazing Thanksgiving-themed outfits, like the two young women who wore red and white polka-dotted footie pajamas and Turkey hats.

There was a live band playing polka  music, and thankfully an Au Bon Pain was open, so everyone could buy coffee and baked goods.

My friend Joe brought cupcakes, which was part of his tradition. We talked and laughed in line for hours, until about 8 a.m. when the line started to move. It was time to pick out the houses we’d be delivering to.

Equinox has them all arranged by zip codes, and I was able to choose some that were close to where I live in Troy. I would be delivering 8 meals total.

Finding Happiness Loading Up On Deliveries!

After being advised by my friend Joe and the Equinox volunteer coordinators, I brought a laundry basket and strapped it onto a dolly, and then also had an extra box to set on top of that.

The Equinox volunteers loaded up my laundry basket and box with eight meals, plus servings of dessert, frozen gravy and loaves of bread.

It was dazzling witnessing how many people had gotten up early in order to be a part of this, whether serving as drivers, or preparing the food, boxing the food or distributing the food to volunteers. I was overwhelmed with the sense of just how good people are.

Human kindness truly makes the world go round, and this was a living demonstration of love, as thousands gathered to help make the holidays better for those who have less.

Finding Happiness Navigating My Way to Make the Deliveries Happen!

As luck would have it, I managed to select 8 meals to deliver at three different addresses, two of which were right in the middle of where streets were blocked off for Troy’s annual Turkey Trot race. I had no idea that this would be the case, of course, and found myself improvising to make a plan for how to get these meals delivered.

Luckily, it was a fairly straightforward solution. I ended up needing to park about three blocks away and just to walk my deliveries to two of the addresses. Luckily with the number of meals I had it was still manageable.

I had purchased little “Thank You” cards to deliver with a holiday message to each household, and I included those in the box. My hope was to spread a little added bit of hope and holiday cheer.

It was an incredible experience, and made it even more fun of an adventure to have to figure out how to get the meals to their destinations, despite road blocks.

I plan to do it again next year, and to wear a turkey hat next time instead of a Santa hat. I will get all decked out in costume next year!

Finding Happiness in The Feast!

The ingredients for the Equinox dinner included: 12,000 pounds of turkey; 3,450 pounds of potatoes; 3,200 pounds of yams; 450 dozen dinner rolls; 400 gallons of gravy; 1,200 pieces; 2,350 pounds of green beans; 450 pounds of onions; 2,330 pounds of carrots; and 350 bunches of celery.

I’m impressed with whomever sat down to calculate the quantities of everything needed to feed 10,000 people! And, I’m of course impressed with everyone who was a part of getting these meals delivered to local families.

It was a joy to be a part of it.

Finding Happiness by Staying in the Spirit of Giving

I just read a statistic that states that if you have $50,000 in the bank or $50,000 worth of property (a house, a car) you are wealthier than 95% of the world. That means I am in the top 5% of the world in terms of wealth.

Reminding myself of this, and of all the blessings of the love of family and friends, a beautiful home, a commercial property that I am developing with other investors, good work to do, money in the bank – I know that I am incredibly blessed.

My goal for the rest of this season is to stay in the spirit of giving. I will look for other opportunities to give back, not necessarily in monetary ways, but through the gift of my time and energy as well.

My hope is that we can all be extra-present to our blessings, and find ways to give back to those who have less. I wouldn’t have what I do without the love and generosity of many people who have helped me along the way, and I want to always give back.

Maybe this season we can ask ourselves the questions: How can I best be of service, now? How can I best give back?

At the very least, we can always share kindness with others. We can always share a smile, lend a hand, share our love.

May we all find happiness through service in this Season of Giving by giving generously of ourselves.

Lisa Powell Graham
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