One of Jane’s many gifts was the ability to really listen to others. She went far beyond cursory greetings and polite nods of the head; instead Jane paid attention and asked meaningful questions. She also remembered that your second cousin had been ill, or your older cat was having a hard time adjusting to the new kitten.
Now that families and friends update one another through texts, quick emails and the increasingly rare phone call, the need to be listened to, the desire to be really heard is greater than ever. And it’s not just folks comfortable with technology who are exchanging information, but not connecting. There are many people of all ages and socioeconomic areas who simply don’t ‘do’ technology. Those neighbors and relatives and coworkers want to be heard, too.
The next time a stranger starts talking to you about their 17 year old cat, or how amazing hair styles are, or what they think of the flavor ice cream you are buying – just stop everything and listen. Listen to their story not as a busy, important, tired, hungry, disinterested stranger. Listen as if this were your loved one, as if it might be you in a few years, or as if it has been you when you were lonely or excited or just talkative. Listen as if this human being is worthy of being listened to.
Some of the most beautiful stories come from people we don’t even know – or those whom we think we know, but rarely hear. These glimpses into the hearts of another person can touch our lives in ways we would not have imagined and their faces, voices, and personal experiences can remain a part of us forever – if we simply take a little time to listen.
Please share some of the wonderful stories you have heard from someone in a ticket line, or when searching for an ingredient on the store shelf, or while walking dogs at a park. And please feel free to share the ways in which you have reached out to another human being through the simple but profound act of listening.
This post was inspired by Katherine’s actions – Thank you!
The wisest travel advice we’ve ever heard is, “Take half as many clothes, and twice as much money.” That might be why savvy travelers carry less luggage and wear clothing with more pockets than the average tourist.
With or without those over-sized pockets, as folks take advantage of good weather and saved vacation days, they can find plenty of opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives while on the road and out of town.
The following five ideas are simply starting points; please share your thoughtful travel ideas in the comments section below.
- Buy locally made souvenirs from independent vendors, local markets, or from shops like One World or 10,000 Villages. You’ll support a craftsperson/artist while having a unique, region-specific treasure to remind you of the great time you had.
- Pack your less than favorite – but still nice – clothes. When you arrive at your destination, buy locally made clothes to wear and enjoy, donating your clean but no longer loved clothing from home to folks who would appreciate it.
- If going to an area where the residents struggle with poverty, pack small toys, one-size-fits-all gloves, or little notebooks and puzzles to give to any children you might meet. These small items are a better choice than candy or chocolates because they may not have regular access to dental care, or there could dietary/religious factors to consider.
- Take an instant camera along. New models are small, colorful and under $100. The instantly developed pictures are fun for kids to make silly faces for; exciting for people who don’t have access to cameras/their own pictures to see, and the completed photos can be given to the subjects themselves to keep or share with their family and friends.
- Upon your return, consider sponsoring an endangered animal, family in need, conservation effort, etc. in the area you just visited. Look into giving gifts of service/action to family and friends back home instead of plastic doodads from a tourist-trap. Some good choices like Heifer International or SEVA Foundation can be found at Charity Navigator. Sometimes it’s easier to learn about the needs of a country or region firsthand, and then take action.
No matter where you will roam, or how you plan to travel this year, there are many ways in which you can make every day of your vacation one of service, gratitude and compassion – it all begins when you tuck a little hope, a little light into your luggage.
So, there you are on Jane’s Day of Service – or any day of the year – sitting in the line at a drive-through, feeling impatient and hungry and distracted by all of the to-dos still left un-done on your list. You glance into the rear view mirror and it’s an older couple, or a scowling businesswoman or a young man looking out the window absently. And then you remember that everyone has a lot on their minds and in their hearts.
Paying it forward is as easy as asking the drive-through person peering at you from the window how much the bill is for the car behind you. Then you pay for all or part of their ticket. If you can spare a buck or two or five – that’s OK. If you don’t flinch at buying the 15 burgers and drinks for the soccer team the woman behind you was picking up – go for it!
Just be sure to say, “Please ask them to Pay It Forward, too. Thanks!”
And there it is – you have made someone’s day a little happier; you’ve surprized a stranger with a good deed – and ideally inspired them to do the same in their travels. Mona/Jane would be delighted!
Please share the ways you’ve paid-it-forward, and your reaction to having been the recipient of such thoughtfulness. Do you have additional ideas, suggestions, ways more people might take part? Please share them with us!
(Contributed by Susan Ray)
Jane’s Day of Service on February 28th, is the perfect time to begin your garden and/or volunteer with your local community garden! Mona/Jane always said that the winter months are perfect for perusing seed catalogues, and ideal for reviewing notes from last year’s garden to learn which plants flourished and which varieties might have struggled. Snowy days offer the best opportunity to reassess, to dream, to plan – and to order early lettuce and unusual green bean seeds!
Mona/Jane loved to share her garden with family and friends. As her granddaughter-in-law and I can attest, every plant came with information and a tutorial. Mint, sage, thyme and savory are all in the same family of plants. Carrots like stone-free, loose soil, whereas squash is practically a weed, so it will grow almost anywhere given space and sunlight.
Finding the place in the yard where a plant is ‘happy’ is vital, as is knowing each one’s characteristics. For example, tomatoes are delighted when borage, peppers and basil share a large container pot, but those same tomato plants will suffer if cabbages and cauliflower are not grown some distance away.
One of the many ways you can take part in Jane’s Day of Service is by planting a few flower or vegetable seeds in a flower pot on your windowsill or get involved with your local community garden. If you have no interest in plants beyond enjoying the fragrance of a flower, you can adopt a garden in New England, in Cincinnati, Kansas City, New York City – almost anywhere in the US.
Another option if you are one of those special and much-appreciated Green Thumbers is to teach current and new generations about the benefits of gardening by becoming a Master Gardener, or by teaching a class to local 4-H members.
If you’d rather not commit to a garden, but enjoy crafts, love spring and find joy in brightening other people’s gray days, you can easily make living baskets for friends or as gifts to drop off at a senior center or youth home.
One of Mona/Jane’s favorite projects was creating grass and flower filled baskets for living Easter or Mother’s Day baskets complete with miniature rakes, benches, and dyed eggs.
These are really quite easy to make and can be as simple or as extravagant as your time and imagination allow.
- Begin with any size basket – thrift stores have plenty to choose from during the colder months.
- Line the inside with a hole-free plastic bag. Make sure there are no splits or tears that might allow water to seep through later.
- Fill with good quality dirt, then plant wheat berries or grass seed.
- Water generously, but do not make a soup of seeds and dirt.
- Place basket in sunny place and keep moist, not wet – and out of the reach of pets if indeed you’d like a healthy crop of green in approximately two weeks.
- As the grass grows, you might need to ‘mow’ it occasionally with a pair of scissors.
- When ready to give the basket as a gift, poke the stems of cut flowers into the soil, tuck miniature eggs beneath the lush grass, or place small figures, and/or gardening tools on low-cut plots of grass. (If feeling especially gardenny, include small, living flowering plants such as miniature daisies or carpet tulips, etc.)
- Be sure to include a note about the need to provide sunlight and water for the plants, and ways in which the contents can be composted and recycled.
This is a fun way an individual or a group can participate in Jane’s Day of Service and share their love of gardening and flowers with folks who might need a little more sunshine in their lives. It’s relatively inexpensive, but the happiness it brings is priceless!
Please let us know how you used your love of plants and/or crafting to take part in Jane’s Day of Service. We’d love to see – and share – your photos, too!