Just before Christmas I wrote an article encouraging each of us to reach out, help others and spread some holiday magic. The world was hemorrhaging what little good it had left as we came to the end of 2020, and we collectively needed to be its life-saving transfusion. 

Every word came from the deepest recesses of my heart. I truly believe it takes a village, and ours offers a multitude of options to share love and alleviate worries. 

This article is intended as the follow-up installment, covering a handful of organizations that I believe deserve extra love and attention. But when I sat to write, I had two distinct thoughts. First, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was exhibiting favoritism by choosing only a few and inevitably leaving someone out.  Second, I realized that sifting through the pages of information I had gathered was extremely time-consuming and stressful. I didn’t want to miss anything important while also managing every other holiday obligation, a COVID scare, work and family responsibilities. Clearly, I had spread myself far too thin.  

Then it hit me like a boat console on a rough fishing trip.

We have all been asked to give so much, share so much, remain apart but be available so much, that we might easily find ourselves overwhelmed. We placed such emphasis on accessibility that we created a new monster without intending to. The recognition of something I had been accused of for many years was both enlightening and saddening.  Generally speaking, my availability to the people and commitments in my life dictates my schedule and how I live. I do not have moments to myself. I might want to sit out back on the dock in silence, but do I have time for that? With the exception of sleep (and what good is that if your brain is running a mile-a-minute regarding your projects?) every minute in a day is either spent doing a chore, working, researching, or giving attention to someone else. I don’t even get my commute to and from work to myself – it is usually spent on a call with someone who needed my time and attention. There is no me time.

How can you help others when your own self has run dry?

You cannot. Try as you may, your mother was right all along. “Honey you look tired, you need rest, the world will spin without you…” – all extremely true statements. Honestly think about what would happen if you removed yourself from any responsibility. Work would hire someone else. Your house chores might pile up, but the sun will still rise tomorrow. That project you signed on for will move forward. You are of no assistance when you have no resource to offer. When your resource is your dedication and attention, your time and passion, you render yourself useless when brains and brawn are depleted.

The message is: if you took inspiration from the article about spreading holiday magic and want to be involved but find you cannot give as expected, do not be discouraged. Heal yourself, build your resources, and try again when you are right. Take a break for yourself, mentally, physically, financially. If you wanted to volunteer but cannot carve out another single minute of your day, you can always make a small donation. If you had grandiose intentions of lavishing a monetary contribution somewhere but now realize that you are not in the position you once thought, do not feel guilty. Your intentions were still beautiful and will always be welcome – even if not now. When the world fell apart we all pushed to be superheroes and make ourselves incredibly available in every way throughout 2020. Admirable, but dangerous if not monitored.

I understand this seems in direct contrast to my previous articles preaching for people to be less selfish. I prefer to see it as an acknowledgement of the necessity for harmony and balance. Yes, be selfless. Be accessible and give what you can; but do not give so much of yourself that you cannot recover. Do not damage yourself in the hope of helping others. Get yourself on track, then seek out how and where you would like to help your community, cause or passion. The opportunities are always there to do good and help grow the world around you. They will be waiting, with open arms, to accept your full love, attention, donations and support when you are in a place to give.

That is the greatest gift we can give in 2021. The gift of full hearts, energized hands, and the sweetest of intentions we can dream of. 

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