Saturday, January 26, 2013

Work reminds me of the Dominican Republic

Upon arriving home from my time with Not For Sale I had to find a job.
Hello, stating the obvious.
After being unemployed for five months, and with big adventures coming our way, the decision to "apply everywhere" wasn't a hard one to make. The same day I emailed a resume and cover letter I had an email back from a chain restaurant in my local area. One interview, and one shadow shift later, I was employed-- within a week of returning home.

I started as a hostess and am now a waitress. I had worked in the kitchen of a restaurant before but this whole "front of house" stuff was brand new to me. I like chatting with people, I can joke around, I smile quite frequently. It seemed like it was going to be a natural fit.

As a server, and as I'm sure you know, we take your plates once you are done with them. We dump your leftover food into a garbage can and put the dishes into the "dish pit" to be cleaned. Who knew this simple, 2 minute or less task would have me constantly thinking about my time spent in the Dominican Republic...

Putting food into the garbage. The amount of food. The food that you don't eat. The portion that was too big for your stomach to handle. The food that you are paying money for and throwing away. This is heartbreaking. This simple act of throwing food away constantly leaves my own stomach turning...

When on a Hero Holiday with Live Different in the Dominican Republic, a portion of one day is set aside to go to the Garbage Dump. Yes. That's right. The Garbage Dump. That mystical place that we put a side thought towards every week because our garbage is taken away by the big trucks and they leave the now empty cans at the end of our driveway. We know it exists, yet we rarely ever think about it. In the Dominican Republic, people live at the garbage dump. Mostly stateless individuals and families who are considered by government to be neither Haitian or Dominican. Those that live at the garbage dump spend time opening up the trash that is sent there and doing a few different things:
1) Compiling the food that people throw away into containers to eat later
2) Looking for items they can use that people carelessly tossed away
3) Finding recyclables they can bag to redeem for money.

None of those things sound appealing. Not one. We can all agree on that. If life were a movie this is how a scene would play out: I would collect dishes from a table with the food you are "too full" to eat and walk up to the trash bin. The camera shot would now be from inside the trash bin and as I dumped the food in the screen would go black, showing just how much food I casually tossed in to pile up. Next, from the black screen, it would open to a blue sky overhead, and a small Haitian child would be looking in. He would dig something out and the screen would open up to show where he is. This child is in a garbage dump, taking that food-- that half a hamburger, the extra chicken finger or two, baked potato, french fries, and would be transferring it into a bag that he is going to keep for later. Dinner is served.

While on a Hero Holiday we work alongside those who live at the garbage dump (It really is taking the concept of "working from home" to a whole new perspective). We lend our hands to them to help them  sort through the incoming trash and find the recyclable materials they can use to make at least a little bit of money. It's hot, it's smelly, it's unthinkable unless you have been there for the experience. The day we went we had the opportunity to hand out care packages of food to those that call the dump home. It was a life changing experience unlike anything you can think of-- Just look at me. I work a "normal" North American job and I can't spend a day at work without thinking of the woman I helped one morning almost two years ago.

How much has a humanitarian or missions trip changed your day to day life? Are there tasks you complete that during the day that remind you of where you have been and the work you did? Comment below.

At the garbage dump.

Talking about tattoos at the garbage dump.

To learn more about Live Different and their Hero Holidays visit their website, and experience how you really can change the world and be changed by living different.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Do Small Things With Great Love

"Do Small Things With Great Love."
How wonderful does that sound? Doesn't that just inspire you, encourage you, and make you wish you were out somewhere this exact moment doing something so simple, but so love filled, it inspires others to do the same?

The current screen saver on my phone is an image with those words. It's there as a constant reminder to find ways to do small things with great love for those I encounter on a day to day, and moment to moment, basis.

I think sometimes we get caught up in what that "small thing" is that we are doing for someone. We think the act is too small, the gesture will go unnoticed, that it isn't 'good enough' of a blessing, that perhaps we are just doing it because we feel obligated because the screen saver on our phone is telling us to.

From experience, being on both ends of the transaction (the giver and the receiver), it really is the Love portion that counts. Let's focus on the giving, the actual act of "doing something small"...

The Bible tells us to be a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). I think this is common knowledge. As someone who enjoys giving things, especially unexpectedly, it's all about doing something that you know will make the recipient feel loved and special. I send flowers. That's my thing. I will randomly send a small bouquet of flowers to someone, I won't leave a note so they have no idea who they are from, and I have them delivered to the individual. Let's be real, ladies love receiving flowers! Sending flowers to my girl friends is a simple, meaningful, small act. It's a gesture done with great Love because it is meaningful, unexpected, and to top it off, I don't pick who I send flowers to! I can decide "I'm going to send flowers today" but I leave it up to guidance from the Holy Spirit as to who will be receiving them! How wonderful to be a cheerful giver!

Can everyone only go around sending flowers to people, out of the blue?
I'm sure they could but...
1) That's a lot of flowers
2) The excitement of a random bouquet will be lost
3) Trying to find ethical flower shops is hard and we want to be sure we are doing things right!

How about holding the door open for someone? Paying for a coffee for the individual behind you? Randomly purchasing a meal for someone? Shovelling a driveway? Smiling at someone down the street? All these simple actions are simple in the grand scheme of things. There is no need to worry about what act it is you are doing. As long as your intentions are great, to show Love and receive nothing in return, you can't go wrong!

Explore what you are good at doing. Experiment with simple acts like sending flowers, writing notes of encouragement, or performing other acts of service. Your "small thing with great love" has no limits. Allow your imagination and the skills and talents you have to inspire you to spread love everywhere you go!

One of my favourite books I have read about loving others and doing those "small things with great love" is the Joyce Meyers book, The Love Revolution. One of my favourite points she makes in the book is how we all have different strengths, gifts and talents-- and we should use those to show love and kindness to others. One thing I believe is that you shouldn't compare what you do to bless those around you with how others bless. We are all made differently-- with different strengths and talents. While one person may be great at something, you are great at something else.

I believe these differences should be celebrated, and will make a difference in those "small things" you do with "great love" for others.

Image found on Pinterest

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Excitement of the New Year

Who needs resolutions when you set goals?

I'd say I know my husband pretty well. He is a very goal oriented individual. Example: one of his favourite books is titled GOALS! Capitalization and exclamation marks not even added by me-- which is something I normally do to add emphasis. When he makes goals, I often want to be involved in the process. I mean, I started reading the book GOALS! once before. I even made it... maybe... a quarter way through. I have set personal goals before but never concrete-well-thought-out-execution-plan, kind of goals. Just things I want to accomplish in a generalized time frame.

This year is different.
This year we have BIG GOALS! (Emphasis added by me to show how truly exciting it is.)

On New Years Day we ventured to the empty coffee shop to read and have some "shoulder to shoulder" time. This is not uncommon. It's actually something we do quite often when the coffee shop is closed for a holiday. The coffee shop is such a wonderful place to be. Big windows letting in incredible light, all the delicious tea I could drink, and comfy chairs that swallow you up while you get sucked into a good book. JP arrived before I did to do work. Upon my arrival, I started into my current read, Crazy Love by Francis Chan. An incredible book that I received from on my "Christmas List" that is challenging, encouraging, inspiring, and overall a book I was highly recommending even before I finished the first chapter. Before I knew it, JP had whipped out a page titled "S.M.A.R.T Goals for 2013". Goals. For 2013. That we are making together. My heart leaped for joy and I was SO EXCITED to be able to create some goals with the goal master himself, Jon Plett.

Upon assessing our upcoming year, we set goals in a variety of areas. We didn't only "write goals", we created our Purpose Statement for each area, wrote out our Envisioned Future, set Specific Commitments to help us reach our envisioned future and-- my favourite part-- found a supporting verse for each area.

Being able to keep ourselves God centered when creating goals is the most encouraging and amazing process. To consistently keep in mind what God has created us for when writing out our year gives me so much excitement. It lets you know that they aren't really "your" plans. They are His plans. His plans don't fail. His plans come to life. His plans are more amazing than you could ever imagine.

And that is how this year is shaping up to be.
Within in the next couple of weeks I will turn 25 years old and JP and I will celebrate our third marriage anniversary. This year we plan to move and pursue passions-- how helpful that we have goals to help us accomplish all that we would love to do.

While creating these Team Goals, I created my own personal goals with the same flow-- for consistency sake and because I absolutely love how in-depth the process was. To write out my envisioned future in my marriage, pursuit of a new career, my faith life, friendships, volunteering and humanitarian work, is so encouraging. God uses each and every one of us for things more amazing than we could ever think of. If you allow yourself to search out His reasoning behind why you were created, you will be able to envision a future you originally never thought possible. This time last year, I never would have envisioned my future including the things it currently does. Sure, some things stay the same-- you want to volunteer, have a solid faith life and marriage, pursue a career you are passionate about-- but to have specific commitments, scripture to support it... Wow. Awesome.

Welcome 2013. This is a year for big change, big dreams, big blessings, and big opportunities. My door is open to you, and I am warmly inviting you in.