Volunteering Beats The Holiday Blues

Help Yourself by Helping Others - Words Pinned on Board

Volunteering Beats the Holiday Blues

During the holiday season so many people experience depression and isolation. I remember when I got divorced and the first time I did not have my kids for Thanksgiving, it was devastating. I cried and cried. I went to the movies and sat through a double feature. After 4 hours I could not tell you one thing about the movies.  I was just in this horrible dark place and nothing could get through. I went to a twelve step meeting and they talked about service. When you are depressed do something for someone else. So I took their advice and I went to Michaels and got some art supplies and I took them over to the local hospital.  I did feel better. I talked to some of the nurses at their station and they were so excited to have them. Since then I try and do it every holiday…now I bring cookies to the emergency room.

Over the past two decades there is a growing body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social ones. This research,  “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research,”  established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer had lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

            The Benefits of Volunteering:

  1. Model  civic responsibility for your children
  2. You get to give back to your community
  3. Learn to solve real problems
  4. Connect to others in meaningful ways
  5. Save valuable resources
  6. Build self-esteem and confidence
  7. Reduces stress and make yourself healthier and happier
  8. Get to learn something new
  9. Improve your leadership skills

Finally, you get to transform your own life and make a difference in the world.

volunteering

There is still time to find ways and opportunities to serve over the next month. Look into your heart and see where it will lead. Just ask how may I serve? When you help someone else you help yourself.

Here are a few suggestions to get started.

  1. Call the VA hospital in your area and see what they need or if there any activities you could help with.
  2. Call a homeless shelter and ask what they need.
  3. Bring your dog to a senior center.
  4. Call the Salvation Army to see if they will be delivering meals or serving meals during the holidays and if you could volunteer to help with either activity.
  5. Collect hats, gloves and blankets to distribute to the homeless
  6. Send letters and cards to the armed forces.
  7. Speak with the volunteering coordinator at your local hospital. Ask her if it would be okay for you to make get well cards for all the children in the pediatric unit that will be there during the holiday.
  8. Mentor a child
  9. Make baked goods and, on the holiday, drop by places that might have someone working — animal shelter staff, police, firefighters — and distribute them with your best wishes

 

Take action: Volunteer today. Please share how volunteering made a difference in your life.

 

 

 

 

Stop Sex Trafficking in Chicago

Stop Sex Trafficking in Chicago

Sex trafficking sounds like something that happens in other countries. But sex trafficking is happening right now in Chicago. Since 2012, the Cook County Sheriff’s Department has picked up more than 300 children forced into prostitution.

Mary BonnettCreative Activist Mary Bonnett (Producing Artistic Director) created and cofounded Her Story Theater.  Mary holds a BFA in Theater Arts, BFA in English Literature, MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, England. She has won numerous awards for excellence and outstanding contributions in professional theater, writing, directing and theater education.

 

 

Why did you start Her Story Theater? I went into a kind of a third phase of my life. I’ve done theater and I have taught theater. When I stepped into this third, I don’t think final phase, I thought what can I do and what do I bring to the table?  I can direct and I can write and I can organize. And the next question being, “what is my passion?” Social Justice for women and children. So I created Her Story Theater, and decided to put it in Chicago’s backyard. And the mission is to shine bright lights on women and children in need of social justice and community support. It is three pronged: It’s raising awareness, getting an audience charged up to be proactive and then to raise funds for a partner, a Chicago partner, that’s doing great work on that specific cause.

 

The first one we did was a piece on homeless women and we partnered with Deborah’s Place which does residential care for homeless women.We interviewed about 30 women. And then I took the information and looked at  lots of research to see what the issues are and who is homeless. I selected characters to represent who is out there:  mentally ill, the runaways, domestic violence victims, migrant worker, the economically challenged, ex-con. We set it in a spa, a beauty spa, and salon, and we got real technicians in real time doing work, so the prisoner was getting her hair done, and the mentally ill was getting the facial, and the economically challenged was getting make-up, and so on. And so the audience would go from room to room. There would be a music cue to move people from cubicle to cubicle so they could hear the before and after stories. I had a wonderful photographer who took pictures of homeless on the streets and homeless who had been to Deborah’s Place. We sold art work to raise funds.

Since then we have tackled human trafficking called Shadow Town which was addressed to young girls. It was based on interviews with people involved with sex trafficking in Chicagoland, from undercover detectives, vice squad, social workers, therapists, johns, pimps, and the women and girls trafficked.

Uniquely woven with dance and music, this memory piece follows the lives of 4 young girls’, Marisol from Humbolt Park, Tatiana from the West side of Chicago, Samantha from Naperville and Ling Ling from China, and their journey into ‘The Life’ and modern day slavery. Did you know there are 18000 – 25000 children trafficked every day? The average age is 11.

The next one is Shadow town 11: The Johns, which is about the men who buy girls and what is costs. This second part shows the demand side, how it impacts the purchasers, their families and those trafficked. Human trafficking is big business. Globally, it’s a $32 billion economy that survives by feeding the desires of men who buy sex.                                                                                                                                          mad-sex-trafficking-play-shadow-town

Bonnett researched the play by interviewing Chicagoland trafficked victims and Johns. The Johns were diverse, financially and otherwise. Some were old, some young. Some had families, others didn’t.The one thing they had in common? Denial. Most of these Johns perceive these girls as wanting to be there,” Bonnett said. Few would admit that the girls they bought were underage despite perhaps knowing otherwise. As Bonnett said, “you know the difference between an 11-year-old and a 23- year-old.” “Never once in all those conversations with the Johns did they acknowledge their actions as potentially harmful,” she said.

Bonnett says that generally men buying sex don’t brag about their activities, but “one man told me he’d been married for 37 years and never got caught. He’d been buying sex for decades.”

“We particularly want men’s groups attending this play to start understanding the issue and how they can be part of the solution to this new modern-day slavery, to see how our current culture impacts our young men and women,” she added. Once awareness is raised, re- form will follow.. This nontraditional powerful drama has music and humor. Art and theater have long had the ability to facilitate social change, and the  “The Johns” will be that vehicle.

Shadow Town II: The Johns” opens at the Mayer Kaplan Theater, 5050 Church St., Skokie, on October 16 and runs through November 23. Check website for dates and showtimes. Order tickets online here. .” The cost is $50 and the proceeds benefit the Dreamcatcher Foundation.

I have long held the belief that theater is a powerful tool for social change. Stop Sex Trafficking in Chicago. Tell your friends and buy a ticket.

One Person Can Make A Difference

be the change

Do you believe one person can make a difference to the world?

Many people believe that they don’t have what it takes to make a difference to the world. They believe only people like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, or celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Oprah or George Clooney are capable of making a difference.

The truth is, every one of us is put on this earth to contribute and make a difference to the world in our own unique way. It doesn’t have to be on a grand scale, it just has to be with the intention of making the world a better place, doing a little bit of good.

Here are some of my favorite quotes to inspire you.
I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. – Mother Teresa
If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
A tiny change today brings a dramatically different tomorrow. – Richard Bach
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. – William James
You really can change the world if you care enough. – Marian Wright Edelman.
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. – Leo Tolstoy
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better it’s not. Dr. Seuss

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. – Richard Buckminster Fuller

 Look into your child’s eyes. Stop what you are doing, sit down, and just look into them. Do that every day and you will change the world. Noel Cocca
It takes a better man to acknowledge goodness in others than it does to merely be good oneself. Anyone can criticize or accept praise, but initiating a positive exchange is a hallmark of a difference maker. Scott Berkun

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. – Anne Frank

Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. – Barack Obama

change-the-world steve jobs

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one. – Mother Theresa

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. Buddha

The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own– Benjamin Disraeli
There’s always a story. It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story, change the world. Terry Pratchett
I have never been especially impressed by the heroics of people convinced they are about to change the world. I am more awed by those who struggle to make one small difference. Ellen Goodman

What is one small difference you can make?  We all have a sphere of influence. Every day we interact with people, the bus driver, the cashier, our families and co-workers. Smile, say hello, and bless them silently with the good health, happiness and peace.  Become a messenger of peace.  firmly believe one person can make a difference.

 

Do you have other suggestions on how we can make a difference to the world? Please share them in the comment section below.