The website is an offshoot from a book which is an offshoot from what some people apparently consider a strange concept. Cami Walker wrote a book entitled 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life. I haven't even seen the book yet, so this isn't a book review. But I could read it, one day! Maybe. For now, you can read the blog post by Cynthia Morris that grabbed my attention and turned my focus toward 29Gifts.org and inspired me to take the 29-Day Giving Challenge. For me, right now, it's about the concept.
Why This, Now?
The night before I learned about this "movement" as Walker is calling it, I asked for a "project" of sorts to focus my attention on something specific that would get my mind off my own personal challenges. It's been an awesome year, and it's also been a tough year. It's because of the latter that I was in one of those moods, feeling some of the less desirable sensations I prefer to minimize: Overwhelm. Anxiousness. Exhaustion. It was a sort of prayer, I guess, though I didn't think of it precisely in that way at the time. But I spent a lot of time that night pondering how much I needed a project, even a small one, that wouldn't detract from my existing goals so much that it would add to my angst, but which would remind me of how good my life is. Not unlike the author who, during a particularly rough spot in her own M.S. challenge, asked her spiritual advisor, MbaliCreazzo, for advice. (Okay, fine. Quite a bit unlike the author, if you compare her challenges to my own. But I wasn't, so we'll move on, shall we?) It was Mbali who first told her that turning her attention toward others would take the focus off her own problems and improve her life. This was the conversation that ultimately sparked this whole 29 Gifts business.
The next morning, I read Cynthia's book review. It seemed clear that this was a gift to me - the timing of this discovery so perfectly aligned with my decision to look outside myself and my stuff, for ways in which I could contribute instead. And so here it is.
What I Have to Watch Out For (But that's just me.)
I've joined the site as an official 29-Day Giving Challenge participant; it's a community site not-unlike Facebook And Other Community Sites we're all familiar with. And as a Severely A.D.D. woman whose A.D.D. has contributed mightily to the challenges that got me looking for something outside myself in the first place, I have to admit on day one that a big new distraction is definitely not what I need. Which is why I honestly don't know how involved I'll become on the site itself. So far my initial interaction with the volunteer coordinator who approved my application for membership was generous, warm and welcoming and I felt happy to be there. And? Because of the way my brain is wired, all kinds of red flags related to Yet Another Potential Time Suck swirl around me. In the end, we're all adults here and it's up to me to monitor my outside distractions while nurturing my already-numerous relationships and obligations. More learning opportunities, I guess!
Book Reviews & Keeping My Eye On The Ball
Reviews of the book are largely positive although a number of reviewers had quite different reactions to share. Which brings even more lessons to mind, this time along the lines of "focus on the message, not the messenger." The benefits of focusing on others is far from a brand new idea; Wasn't it Jesus who said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"? and were words I heard for as long as I can remember. In childhood Sunday School classes, if not even before then. Buddhism and other ancient traditions also promote such messages. So yea. I realize that neither Cami Walker nor MbaliCreazzo conceived the general idea. Which is irrelevant for my current purpose. I needed a trigger. A catalyst. A reminder. It was these two women, and Cynthia Morris, too, who put the idea in front of me right now. And so what does matter to me today is that I embark upon the challenge, invite some people to consider doing the same, and see how it improves my life.
Maybe I Can Blog About It! Or Should I?
As a blogger whose writing practice took a serious hit during this particular year, I thought of this challenge as another way to help me kick-start my writing practice once more, and perhaps it will contribute to this goal. Where that goes all wonky in my head is where telling specific stories about gifts I give to others might turn the focus away from selflessness and kindness and back toward me and what I'm doing. Not interesting in the least. Still I am deeply fascinated by stories and "the process" and so sharing aspects of the journey will have value. It will be up to me to be as careful with the crafting of some of those stories as I can be, so as to ensure that their telling enhances rather than detracts from my purpose.
Just a bit more and I'll wrap this up. From the site:
A Few Helpful Tips:
- Be mindful.
- Don’t quit.
- Don't worry if you don't do it perfectly.
- Be receptive and have fun.
- Stick Around.
It Seems Pretty Simple And Would Be A Hoot To Do With Friends!
So, enough already. Anybody in? The challenge can start any time we like; I just happen to be fortunate in that my friend Margot reminded me that the first of the month was coming up, when I told her about it a few days ago. Relief. Starting on the first will, for me, just make things a little easier because of the tidiness factor. But please don't let the date stop you from participating, okay? And? The type of gift, or monetary value, is irrelevant. It's the purpose that matters.