When I started this blog on Jan. 1, 2013, I thought it was about my relationship with money, but I was so wrong— It was about my relationship with life.
Writing the blog and giving for 365 days straight has been such a joyous experience. I feel like my heart expanded over the past year. Every day, I got to get out of my own world (not an easy feat when you live in your own head as much as I do), and write about people and organizations that were striving every day to make their corner of the planet a better place. Each day, I got to find a pocket of goodness and focus on the light instead of the shadows. I recommend that highly. I was happier and less depressed and less lonely this year than I remember being in years and that’s a big reason why. To varying degrees, all of us are wounded and broken and writing the blog made me feel a little less so.
A big part of that also came from the sense of community that grew up around the blog. I am so thankful for everyone who read a single entry, much less those of you who subscribed and felt moved to comment on what I was doing or write guest blogs. Those kind words kept me going when I felt like no one was reading and they gave me strength to continue on. We were gathering together for something that was bigger than all of us and I will miss that the most.
I was also happier because I said “yes” this year. I’ve always done that to a degree and I’ve always been acutely aware, probably too much so, that life can change in an instant. But in the past, I had tempered my “yes” with too much concern about money. As I wrote on Dec. 26, I found a balance this year that works for me and I have the blog to thank for that; it was an unexpected blessing. Whenever possible going forward, I will pick experience over building my bank account every time.
I’m a private person and, yet, here, I found a place to share stories that I had never told before and I surprised myself with how open I was and so gratified and warmed by the response
No more was this so than when my dad died three weeks ago. Though I hadn’t intended for the blog to become a journal, in some ways that’s precisely what happened and being able to write about my dad’s death and incorporate that into the daily giving feels like a wonderful last gift from my dad. He loved the blog. We talked about it almost every time we called each other. For Christmas, I was going to give him a bound volume of all the daily blogs. Along with poker, it was a wonderful thing we shared over the past year.
When he was diagnosed with cancer in October and given a prognosis of six months-to-a year to live, my 87-year old father yearned for nothing more than to make it to 90. His health had been failing for years and his spirit and desire to live surprised me and my sister, but it also showed how strong our humanity is. I learned so much about life and grace from my father in this past year.
My biggest takeaway from the blog is something that I knew before I started, but now I don’t just know it, I feel it to my core: kindness is what matters more than anything else in the world. Whether it’s a smile to a stranger, giving money, donating time, listening to a friend when you feel like you’re going to scream if you hear the same story again, letting a driver merge in front of you in traffic, holding your tongue, sending a quick email just to let someone know you’re thinking of them when they’re going through a tough time, acknowledging a homeless person...Kindness greases the wheels of life and makes it much more pleasant. But it’s so much more than that, it’s the key to our survival. I believe that every bit of kindness you extend comes back to you in ways you recognize and in ways that you don’t but from which you still benefit.
I also know that we belong to each other...all of us. Even people you’ve never met. I’ve stayed away from discussing religion for most of the year other than to write about my mother starting the church I grew up in, but what l remember from comparative religion classes is that all religions teach basically the same thing: be kind to each other and be of service. That’s something we can all believe in.
As I said at the start, the greatest gift the blog gave me is make me think about how I want to live my life. We only get a certain number of days and there’s so little that we can actually control. The blog has made me realize that there are changes I need to make in my life to be happier and be more of service...and that I now see those two as intertwined. I’m eager to see how I manifest the changes in coming years and I look forward to seeing who I become.
So as we move into 2014 over the next few hours, I offer my undying thanks for going on this journey with me. The pleasure’s been all mine. I’m going to miss you and this experience very much, but am so grateful to Brian Mansfield for taking it under his wing for the next 365 days.
Plus, I have a feeling we’re just getting started.
Happy New Year and God Bless You and Your Loved Ones.
To end the year, I’m giving $50 to each of the charities we asked that people donate to in lieu of flowers when my parents died. It seems only fitting. Bye...for now.