Five Notes of Gratitude
At 45 years old, in 2010, when our third child was preparing for college and my daughters were in the midst of their college educations, I had time to reflect once again about the direction my life was heading. I had spent the last seven years focusing on three very important people: my children. They were, in my opinion, now three young adults who needed me less. It was time to stop hovering and start letting them fly. It was no newsflash how lucky I was to have the freedom to consider where my life was going. I was in good health, had wonderful friends and an incredible thirst for learning and growing. I was blessed with a husband who encouraged my free spirit, tree hugging, dreamer thinking. I was a massage therapist by trade, a mother, wife and nurturer in many other realms too. Now that my son was also on his way, my time as a daily hands-on mom was fading and I knew that I had the opportunity to not only dream, but to commit to a dream and make it a reality. I knew also that the nurturer in me would always be seeking new opportunities and this time in my life, although uncertain, would welcome new gifts and new adventures.
One winter afternoon, I was canvassing the paper or internet (can’t remember) and learned about B.I.G. (Believe, Inspire, Grow). From its website: B.I.G. is a gateway for women entrepreneurs. We offer support, education and relationship building opportunities for our organization comprised of amazing and diverse women. We aim to provide relevant business information, peer support and motivation to educated women who desire personal and professional fulfillment. When women empower women, magic happens.
As the story goes, I drove one hour north, in a February winter storm, to attend my very first B.I.G. meeting in Bernandsville, NJ. Each year since, the storm gets stronger and I recall myself walking against the wind to seek shelter inside the church. I arrived to a beautiful open church and the snow was falling down around us, visible through the many cathedral windows. The women there were excited entrepreneurs. I stood and declared my idea. I was hugged. I was cheered. I was home. It was there I decided, after one month of refection, that I would start Hope Loves Company, the only non profit in the U.S. with the mission of supporting the children and grandchildren of PALS (people living with ALS). I had chosen the name in 2007 and one year later or so, my sister-in law, Keiren, created the perfect beautiful logo which captures our mission. While raising three children who had lost parents to ALS, the name Hope Loves Company came to me. Our children had all lost a parent. Our children had struggled with that loss as we had. More children needed support too. It was the beginning of what is now a fully-functioning and rapidly growing non profit.
I was congratulated and uplifted in my declaration there among the women and the falling snow. At that time, there were only B.I.G. meetings taking place in North Jersey, so I immediately reached out and contacted its founder, Tara Gilvar and offered to run a meeting in Central Jersey which I continued to run until just last month.
During one of our recent B.I.G. teleconferences, it was suggested, as a feel-good act and new year practice, to reach out to five members with a good old-fashioned phone call or letter. I love me some good old-fashioned and chose the letter option of the recommendation.
I sat and pondered. Who do I admire? Who has inspired me to be a better person? Who is always positive, uplifting and supportive?
I chose five thank you notes and purchased five small trinkets. I inscribed the cards with gratitude to my mentoring recipient. I sat smiling as I wrote and thought of each person, her gifts and her reaction when the card was opened. They would be receiving real mail. They would enjoy opening my card. This might be a ray of sunshine on a cold winter day.
With each note, I received a phone call. On the other end of the line was an elated voice, filled with surprise and joy. Each phone call was sincere and meaningful and each made me smile. The 5 notes were a hit and the gift continued to give to me as well.
When I was little, around twelve or so, I did something very unusual for my age. At Christmas and on New Year’s Eve, I would pick up the big yellow phone book, open it, close my eyes, point somewhere, and call the number before me. I would then say either, Merry Christmas or Happy New Year to whomever answered the phone. “Well thank you!” a cheery voice would say. We’d have a conversation and finally, soon into it, I’d get asked, “Who is this?” My answer was always the same: “A stranger who wants to spread holiday cheer.” It was a silly kid thing but it brought me great joy. I remember speaking to a few people who lived alone and simply enjoyed talking to someone, to me, a twelve year-old (strange) kid on a holiday that might have otherwise occurred without “company”.
It took me a long time to narrow down five people to send notes to. This has me thinking. Why do I need to stop here? Why not extend the practice and the hopes of my twelve year old self to bring cheer? Why not send five more notes in February on Valentine’s Day?
There are few things I need in this life. I know I need love and thrive on it. I need my family and my friends, my health and my work. I need my faith and my prayers. The selfish part of me needs to add something to that list, the need to make a difference. For this reason I can’t wait to write, send and share five more notes of love and appreciation in February and hopefully, inspire others to celebrate my Fifty Gifts, #12 by following my lead.