Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Finding Meaning and Fulfillment

Finding Meaning And Fulfillment 
Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC

This article, that you will read was written only 6 weeks after the terrorists attack on the World Trade Center. At this time, we are still in the midst of the Anthrax crisis and the bombing in Afghanistan. On the night of September 11th, only four women braved going out to attend the weekly ANAD support group. Feeling fear, anxiety and shock, they wanted to pull together, to get comfort in being with others who understood and cared. But that evening we didn't talk about food, eating, or weight at all. We had very deep conversations about trust and relationships. As one woman so aptly put it, "Worrying about the size of my thighs seems so unimportant now."

In the days that followed, people coped in their own unique ways. Some watched the televised news accounts regularly, wanting to be informed at all times. Others avoided television, needing a break from the vivid visuals. Personally I was drawn to reading the many personal stories of the people who died in the tragedies. It was touching to read what people said about the loved ones who were gone. For the most part the friends and family members remembered the person's kindness, generosity, sense of humor; the good times they had spent together talking and sharing activities; their intelligence and what they gave to their workplace and communities. Rarely was the person's appearance even mentioned. Not once did someone mention the size the loved one wore.

For weeks after the tragedy, many of my clients gave blood, brought treats to show appreciation for their local fire fighters, and donated money to the relief effort. If anything positive can come of these tragedies, for a while it was easy to put food, eating, and weight in perspective. What seemed really important was reaching out and connecting with others as a way of finding true meaning and fulfillment in life. I saw a sign in my children's school, which sums this up nicely: "If you want to be happy for an hour, watch TV. If you want to be happy for a day, go to Great America. If you want to be happy for a life, help another."

This New Year, I encourage you to find that meaning and fulfillment for yourself. It can be small things, for example: giving away clothing for those less fortunate, giving food to a food pantry, working one time in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, donating blood or money.

If you are looking for a way to build a bond with others, you may consider volunteering on a regular basis. There are hundreds of children in the Chicago area who need tutors. Organizations such as ANAD could always use clerical, phone or other office help. Answering phone calls from teen runaways or playing bingo with seniors can be very rewarding.

For longer commitments, there are 500 mile bike rides for AIDS or 60 mile walks for Breast Cancer Awareness.
In a city the size of Chicago there are thousands of organizations that would like volunteers. A Google search of "volunteer Chicago" resulted in over 313,000 websites. Here are a few to help you get started.
  • The United Way has a website devoted to matching people with volunteer opportunities in Chicago. You can search any number of categories to find a volunteer placement that suits your needs. www.chicagovolunteer.net
  • The Bottomless Closet: provides professional clothing, job readiness and employment training and coaching services to women on assistance 
     - (312) 527-9664
  • ANAD (National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) often needs clerical, phone and office help; support group leaders and cash donations are needed as well. 
     (847) 831-3438
  • The National Runaway Switchboard provides non-judgmental confidential crisis intervention and referrals to youth and their families through a 24-hour hotline.
    www.nrscrisisline.org - (773) 880-9860
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is the nations oldest youth mentoring organization.
  • Ten Thousand Villages, a store in Evanston, sells handicrafts made by unemployed and underemployed artisans around the world, providing them with vital fair income. Volunteers are needed for many daily operations of the store. (847) 869-8262
I want to close with a poem written by Edward Everett Hale
"I am only one,
but still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but still I can do something,
and because I cannot do
I will not refuse
to do the something I can do."

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