10 March 2015

Giving Back & Paying It Forward

Long time readers know that when I first moved to Mississippi some dozen years ago, life was a bit tumultuous and I was floundering lots.  Over the years, I began to replant my feet, regain some stability, and shape my life into a much calmer, peaceful place.  I had lots of help in doing so, mostly emotional and mental support; lots of encouragement and reassurances.

Because I believe that basic tenent expressed in oh so many ways is vital; I try to be sure to pay it forward, to help where and how I can, and to encourage others.  The principle to do unto others as you would have done unto you, to treat others the way you want to be treated, to know that what you send forth shall be returned to you, et al; can be found in most belief systems~~religious, spiritual, or otherwise.  No one single group can claim it exclusively; I think many strive to include this creed into their own canon, not just as policy, but also practice.

What this meant for me was that about ten years ago, I became more proficient in my use of yarn.  My creativity in the fiber arts grew and my interest drove me to seek other individuals and groups who would also benefit from the things I made.  I appreciate items that are functional and beautiful, so that's what I focused on doing.

Each January, I'd make a list of groups who served populations who could use the hats, scarves, bags, jackets, belts, and other accessories I make.  I'd look at the organizations to be sure that they were actually assisting the individuals and not just spending the bulk of their funds with administrative pursuits and such.  I kept the list local, starting in my town {Starkville}, then county {Oktibbeha}, then state {Mississippi}...before I could get to region {SouthEast}, I'd usually have a more lengthy list than I could hope to fill!

By February, I'd have contacted the organization to see what their needs are in particular and if they could use what I could make.  I'd know which group to focus on for the year and what items to crochet, knit, loom, etc.  Come the winter, ten months later, I'd deliver the goods.

It was a win win win situation; they'd feel good, I'd feel good, the organization would be appreciative.  Yea!!  We all worked together to achieve some goals!  Yea!!

As I became healthier, having better days, more often; I became more active in our local community.  I was careful to choose efforts that didn't depend on a deadline, because I felt too fragile and not steady enough to handle deadlines well.  I was very careful to not accept a position or activity that would rely sole on me and my efforts, because my health was too unpredictable and my energy levels were not very stable.  Sometimes, I would severely misjudge my abilities and my capabilities; and fall flat on my face.

For the most part though, I think I became a better judge of myself, of monitoring myself, over the years.  This meant that some days, some weeks, some months; I knew I'd have to take a backseat, or just not enter the car at all.  Those were quiet times, when I ventured forth into the community for grocery trips, doctors' visits, and Wellness Connection water workouts {spending time in the water was a great way for me to minimize my sensory input, similar to sensory deprivation but not quite}.

About five years ago, I married the most supportive, tolerant, accepting person~~the absolutely perfect fit for me.  With his encouragement, I did become a little more active in our community; joining the newly formed writers' group.  From that, then we became involved with the Writers' Village at the Cotton District Arts Festival.  Eventually, I became more involved with other aspects of Starkville Area Arts Council.  To me, these are ways that I can assist, giving back so that others can also be encouraged and move forward.

Sometimes, it seems like I should be doing more.  I feel like it's just not enough.  But then I look back and I realize how far I've come and that giving into the feeling of internal pressure helped to put me in a bad place to start.  It's a balancing act, one that I get right more than wrong most of the time.

The difference is that now I know that if and when I fall flat on my face, I can lie there for awhile, rest a bit, then let others help me get back on my feet, dust myself off, and move at my own pace.

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