Another year has come and gone, in what seems to be a blur for many, I’m sure. It’s always interesting for me to listen to people commit to their “New Year Resolutions” and wonder if they will actually stick to them for a week, much less a full year. Commitment is something that I take very seriously, not only in my professional life, but my personal life, as well. Personally, I don’t make resolutions at the beginning of each year. Partly, because I’m so busy I usually fail to actually sit down and make a list of things that I want to resolve to, but mostly because I don’t like failure and to me setting a goal for an entire year has a pretty good potential for failure.
You may be wondering what my take on New Year’s resolutions has to do with prevention. Well, like Dr. Seuss says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Instead of making commitments that I’m not sure I will/can keep, I’ve decided to plug myself in to my community and give back (speaking, educating, advocating, serving those affected by HIV/AIDS). I’ve decided to commit to making a difference, even if it’s only a small one and I am challenging you to do the same. My challenge is in the form of not only “task” oriented serving, but serving from a human place. What can you do to make a difference in someone’s life that has been affected by this life changing disease that, while it has become more manageable, is still just as serious?
I have chosen three areas of challenge for myself and for you:
- Find a passion. It’s been in finding a passion in my professional life that has given me many outlets for growth in my personal life. How do you find your passion, you may ask? Well, it’s easier than you think. I have found over the years that being involved and engaged in something often gives someone a lot of clarity, mentally. Thinking about “what” your passion is too much can be confusing. Why not just jump in feet first and try out a few things that you find some common interest in. Questions to ask your-self may be: Can I volunteer my time, talents, or finances to a cause I believe in or that I’m curious about getting involved in? By giving to a specific cause or organization that you feel passionate about, you show them and others that you care about and support their cause and the work that they do, which I can tell you are an absolute joy to those of us working in the nonprofit arena. The phrase “giving is receiving” applies here: You always receive a whole lot more back than you are asked to give.
- Be a good friend/advocate. Being there for others is not only self-fulfilling, but also shows that you have empathy for people (not just sympathy!). Also, being there for someone doesn’t mean it has to be a “friend” that you already have. There are tons of ways to get involved with projects that include giving a helping hand to our fellow humans. When I looked up the formal definition of advocate I came up with a few that would apply to what I’m talking about, but this one stood out the most: a person who speaks or writes in support of a cause, person, etc. I find this challenge to be easy, as an advocate for those with HIV/AIDS. I encourage you to find that person, group or cause that you too can make a difference and advocate for. Being a shoulder to lean on, whether it’s for a friend or a cause, will be a truly heartwarming experience for both parties involved.
- Make Amends/Settle Differences. There’s something to be said for the tried and true phrase “Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace”. Settling differences between family, friends, or co-workers can be quite liberating and freeing. Forgiveness is an essential part of being human. It doesn’t even have to have a “spiritual” bind to it. I’ve often found that in forgiving things that I have carried with me for any length of time, can often strengthen a relationship that was once burdened with negative feelings. I urge you to consider this task. In my many seasons of life on this earth, I’ve found that the person I tend to forgive the least is myself (ring a bell for anyone else out there?). So, take the time to evaluate the things that you feel you have been wronged in or that cause you to take time out of your day to think about. I, for one, am happy to apply this step because I’m not willing to offer any of my very limited time here on this earth, to anything that holds me back or causes me to feel scorned. I’ve often said that throughout my years as a nurse that half the battle to any sickness/illness is mental. Cleaning up old wounds, albeit mental or physical, will lead to fresh thoughts/skin replacing them.
In considering these three challenges, I see great potential for personal and community growth, and when you work in the non-profit world those two things often go hand in hand. Whether you have been diagnosed with HIV, an STD or any other illness, applying these three things to your new year can be a rewarding and self-growing experience. It improves our outlook on our community, fellow man, and our own lives. Making a commitment to empower yourself in these three areas can affect every area of your life, which is why I find it better than committing myself to the gym three days a week when in all actuality I know that probably won’t happen (see…failure potential, no thanks!). It also seems a lot harder to outright fail any of these three challenges. Any step forward, if you choose one or all three, is a positive step in your New Year and new you!