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Challenge: To Live A Life Of Impact

This is usually the time of year when I do
a funny blog on new year’s resolutions: I see traditional
resolutions as a bunch of needless pressure, impossible standards
we’ll never fulfill, and often will blog about
“realistic” resolutions, such as giving ourselves a
break and accepting our parenting flaws. But this year I seem to
see many such articles around already; seems we’re a bunch of
highly stressed, pressured people who need lots of people to tell
us to take it easy and not put too much pressure on ourselves.

I predict that 2009, with its economic uncertainty and crazy stock
market, will be a year of paring down: living more simply,
de-cluttering, stripping away extraeneous activities and expenses
and getting back to the basics. And while new year’s
resolutions have always seemed a bit arbitrary to me, the flip of
the calendar is a convenient place to pause and take stock of your
life, seeing what worked and what didn’t and vowing to try
harder. So I tried to come up with some resolutions.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m a
bit fed up with the introspection and navel-gazing – the
ego-centricity involved in picking apart a life and trying to make
it more perfect. So as I looked back at 2008 and forward to 2009, I
thought to myself: what can I do next year so that I am a better
person at the end of the twelve months? How can I leave not just my
life, but this world, a better place than when I found it at the
calendar’s flip?

So Brian and I talked last week about family resolutions, and while
we’ve got a few more traditional ones on the list –
commit to saving money every month, finish potty training Maddie
(how long, O Lord, how long?) – our biggest family resolution
came out of a desire to impact this world, to bring God’s
kingdom here on Earth. And this is it: once a month, we will do one
new thing that will have an impact outside of our home.

And I challenge you to do the same.

This doesn’t have to be a lot of time, or money, or work, so
I know you can do this. Once a month, try doing just one new thing
that will affect lives other than your family’s. Here are
some ideas to get you started:

Get to know your neighbors. If you don’t know the
people on your block, throw a block party. Hand out flyers with a
date and time and a promise to be standing on your lawn with
charcoal and lighter fluid at the appointed time. If you grill it,
they will come. And suddenly your neighborhood will feel safer, and
you’ll have a community to fall back on in emergencies. If
you don’t have a neighborhood playgroup, start one. Begin
chatting up mommies at the park and simply start inviting groups
over for playdates. My neighborhood playgroup was a ready-made
treasure chest of friends for me and Maddie when we moved here, and
an anchor to our week. I have been hugely blessed by it and am
constantly thankful for the women who started it.

Organize a shop and swap. Email all those moms in your new
playgroup, and set up a day to trade used clothes and toys.
There’s no money involved, baby things get used more than
once, and you have an afternoon to chat while you
“shop”. It’s way easier than dragging everything
to a resale shop, and you get “new” gear for your own
kiddos. It’s also much more satisfying to see someone else in
your group get some life out of your old stuff than to simply drop
it at a Salvation Army.

Make one green change. C’mon, you can do it. Vow to
only buy compact fluorescents from now on. Shop around until you
find an electric company who uses sustainable energy. Start making
your own dishwasher detergent (hint: one part borax to one part
washing soda, mixed in a big plastic tub. Costs about three cents
per use and my dishes sparkle) or kitchen cleaner or whatever
– just eliminate one chemical cleaner from your life and see
how easy it is. Take a baby step, and you may find yourself taking
another one for your next month’s project.

Put your kids to work. Maddie has plans for a lemonade stand
this spring, and we’ve got big plans for the majority of the
proceeds. Help your child do a bake sale or lemonade stand on a
good garage sale weekend, then help them spend it wisely. Take your
preschooler shopping with their cash and fill either a box with
crayons and coloring books and pencils for your local women’s
shelter, or a bag with canned goods for your neighborhood food
pantry. Let your child make the choices (with guidance!) and above
all let your child go with you to drop the goods off.

Volunteer outside your regular circle. I’m not saying
you should cut back on your hours as class mom or Sunday school
teacher or whatever, but look for other areas to branch out.
Women’s shelters need adults to read to the children as their
moms get counseling, and that’s something you can do with a
toddler or two in tow yourself. Help with the book drive at your
local library. Find a local charity that’s near to your
heart, and get involved, even on a small scale.

Make it seasonal. Call the city and make plans to clean up a
city park one spring weekend. Come fall, they’ll probably be
grateful if you rake leaves. Many cities have organized clean-up
volunteer weekends.

Adopt. I’m not talking about bringing home a new baby
– just href="http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/sponsor/learn-about-sponsorship"
target="_blank">sponsoring a child
. Thirty bucks a month
will get a child clean water, food, medicine, and more. Your own
kid can read the letters and pray for your sponsored child, and
learn how she can make a difference even from far away.

Bring health and safety home. Call all your new best friends
– neighbors and mommy group – and offer to host a CPR
refresher class in your home. You can offer to cover the cost of an
instructor, or ask everyone to kick in a few bucks. Summer time and
pool openings will make you glad you did. Or find out how you could
start a blood drive at a local church one weekend.

Help local businesses help local charities. A neighborhood
restaurant here announced that once a month, 10% of all proceeds
will go to the local PTA. This is genius. Find a local business
near you and talk to them about doing something similar for a local
charity or city organization; it’s great publicity for them
and awesome help for the little guy.

Have I gotten you thinking? There are no hard and fast rules here,
but think about these things:

Any change is better than no change at all. Small steps have huge
impacts on other lives.

There’s no point in cheating on this; there’s no prize
at the end or blue ribbon. So try to pick something really new to
you each month, rather than counting something you already do.
Reading to kids is admirable, but if you already to it every week
at preschool, branch out and volunteer to do it somewhere else as

Doing this isn’t just changing lives outside your family;
it’s changing lives inside your family as well. You’re
raising kids to realize we’re responsible for others, and to
be caring and generous and think of others before themselves. This
is a generational impact.

So that’s your challenge: live a life of impact this year.
Make a difference, even if it’s small. If you take one stack
of newspapers to the recycling center for the first time, you can
cross that month off your list. And chances are you’ll do it
again. Volunteer at a senior center. Try using cloth bags when you
go to the grocery store. Reach out to that neighbor who’s
rumored to be sick. In our family, we ask ourselves, How can we
further God’s kingdom here on Earth? What can I try this

Call it what you will, just do it. I challenge you. And I’ll
be checking in throughout the year to see how you’re doing.

And by all means, please post other excellent suggestions here. I
need encouragement as much as anyone else.


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