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3forCHD Project Wrap-Up

Hey everyone!  I hope all my friends out there are doing well: I decided to take a little break from the blog after the awesomeness that was the 3forCHD Project…but now I’m back!  So you might be wondering – how did the 3forCHD Project go?  I have to say it was fantastic, inspiring, moving, exciting, and all sorts of other great adjectives.  People all over the world participated and shared on social media and on our Facebook event page and it was just really touching to see how people were joining together to do some good in their world.  People bought food for others, shoveled snow, made cookies…it was just incredible.  I also wanted to share a little bit about how it went for my family:

We kicked off early as my oldest son Hudson was really excited and wanted to set up a free drawing station at the 7th Street Public Market in Charlotte.  It’s a busy place where people can come and get food from all sorts of different vendors and it’s a place we love to go.  So Hudson set up shop and made drawings that he gave away to people to bring smiles:

Hudson1

He did a really nice job and I was really proud of him for being so kind and for helping share information about his little brother’s CHD.

A couple days later while in the drive-thru for Dunkin Donuts, I decided to pay for the couple behind me – they got the hook up:

3forCHD DD

Hudson was at it again as we both volunteered at a friend’s church for a program they have called Room at the Inn: they bring in homeless people from a local shelter and give them a home-cooked meal, showers, a warm bed, and a roof over their heads for the evening.  Hudson is really passionate about helping the homeless, which is amazing for a 6 year old.  He worked really hard setting up beds and helping serve food:

Hudson2

Finally, Hudson brought some chocolates to his teacher:

Hudson3

One of the activities I did was to volunteer for a few hours at one of my favorite organizations called Bright Blessings.  They provide birthdays for homeless kids in the Charlotte area, and it’s since expanded into providing snacks at schools for kids who may  not have them, toiletries, and even baby supplies for new moms who don’t have resources:

3forCHD BrightBlessings

I spent most of my time prepping goodie bags for the birthday parties and then moved to packing snack boxes that would go to the local schools:

3forCHD BrightBlessings2

I can’t say enough about how much I love what this organization is doing!

Our family continued to do some other kind acts together, like giving chocolates to our mail carrier and bringing donuts to our local firefighters.  The kids especially loved that part…sorry, I didn’t get pictures for that one!

Next, I was off to volunteer at an organization here in Charlotte called Project 658.  They provide resources and support for our refugee community.  It’s easy to see why this population needs a lot of help, especially lately.  My task for the day was to assist with their free store, where clients received credits each month so they can come “buy” clothes.  It encourages them to learn budgeting and some responsibility:

3forCHD Project 658 -2

I spent the time sorting clothes and hanging them up and chatting with shoppers…I found it was a great way to help them with their English, since many of them were in ESL classes as well.  There was also a sewing class going on in the back, which was very cool to watch.

My final kind act for the 3forCHD Project just might be the one that had the greatest overall impact on me personally.  I collected some food items to donate to a local Mosque’s food pantry: when I was corresponding via email with the Imam, I also asked if I could just spend some time chatting with him and learning about his faith.  He readily agreed to have me visit.  I’m not a Muslim and what I know of the faith is really just the few things I learned at school, so it was a very cool experience to go to a mosque – I’d never been to one before – and learn.  Everyone there was so friendly and welcoming and made me feel very comfortable.  The Imam gave me a crash course in Islam before inviting me to observe their prayers.  As I sat in the back of the room, I felt very privileged to get the chance to be there and watch all this happen.  I got to see all these people – from different backgrounds, different races – standing shoulder to shoulder and praying together.  It was peaceful and very moving: I was so glad to get the chance.  Afterward I chatted with the Imam some more and someone brought me some Pakistani tea, which was AMAZING.  I’m not a tea drinker but this stuff was fantastic.  But aside from the tea, it was such a great experience:

3forCHD mosque

Around the time I did this, there was a lot going on in the media with the travel ban and a lot of fear of Muslims.  I wanted to do this to show people in my community that our Muslim friends are just like us: nothing to be afraid of.  In fact, lots of Christian churches could stand to learn from the kindness I was shown at that mosque.  I firmly believe that we need to build bridges, not walls!


Overall, the 3 for CHD Project was a really great success: we got to do kind things for others while spreading the word about CHDs.  I truly believe it has an impact and I can’t wait to do it again next year!  Are you with me?

And if you didn’t get to participate this year, don’t worry: don’t relegate kindness to one week in the year.  Make the 3forCHD Project a living thing that goes on and on and on!  Keep being kind, never stop!

Hendrix

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The Man in the Mirror

A little while back I wrote an entry about self-care that included things like aromatherapy, healing touch, breathing, getting a hobby, etc.  Since then, I feel like I’ve stumbled upon something that should’ve landed on that list, had I known about it at the time.

We can all agree that it’s very important for Heart Parents – and anyone really – to practice kindness, empathy, and compassion towards others, right?  These are all very important things to do so that we can make the world a better place.  The reality, though, is that sometimes kindness, empathy, and compassion can seem a little finite.  If you picture it like a gas tank in your body, over time you’ll end up on E and all burned out.  But if you work on keeping that tank full, you don’t have to worry so much about that burnout.

This begins with you.  It’s not about loving harder or giving more hugs or high-fives.  It’s not about digging deeper for more empathy.  It’s about taking a long, hard look in the mirror and realizing that often the person that needs kindness from you is….you.  You see, there’s only so much of yourself you can give before you have nothing left, no matter how helpful you want to be.  And when that happens, you will pay the price physically and mentally.

A little while back I was able to learn a little bit about this concept of compassion fatigue, which is a by-product of being compassionate.  It doesn’t make you weird, it just means you are actually compassionate, but you’ve work it out like a muscle that you exercise too hard.  You need to rest, you need to recuperate to get that strength back.  One of the biggest things I’ve taken away from this is that it’s important for us – whether you are a Heart Parent, a nurse, a doctor, etc. – to practice kindness towards ourselves.  So many of us give but never give to ourselves.  So what does this all mean?

Try to do something nice for yourself…maybe not everyday, but every few days.  I’m not saying you need to run off to the beach or buy a sports care on the reg (but if you do go to the beach, bring me along yes?).  These kind acts are simpler: getting outside for some fresh air, going for a bike ride, doing something that makes you smile or laugh.  Take a moment of your day to re-fill your compassion reserves.  For me, my nice thing that I do for myself is coffee.  When it comes to coffee, I’m a little like this:

DripCoffee

I love my coffee…a lot.  I’m not the person who drinks excessive amounts of it, just 1 or 2 cups a day really…but everyone who knows me knows it’s like my one big vice (if you could even call it that…I mean, c’mon son).  Anyhow, what I started doing some nights is once I put all the kids to bed, I come downstairs and make myself a cup of coffee.  Just one.  Then I sit on the couch and I drink my coffee and I just…exist.  Sometimes I watch a baseball game, sometimes I stare off into space, sometimes I look for funny memes online, sometimes I have deep thoughts (“I swear DJ Snake’s new song is just a slowed-down version of his last one”).  It doesn’t matter what I have to accomplish before the night is done, it doesn’t matter how badly the kids have utterly destroyed our house, doesn’t matter how high the pile of dishes are.  For those few moments I give myself the gift of coffee and the chance to be and the chance to breathe.  It doesn’t take long, but I find it to be an incredibly powerful and centering moment.  I usually feel quite refreshed and energized and I finish all the things I need to do that evening.  I find myself sometimes really looking forward to my small moment with coffee.  Like if I am wiped out from a busy day at work or my kids are being absolute hellions…it’s as if I say to myself, “I just need to get to the coffee.”

This doesn’t cost me a ton of money, it doesn’t take a lot of effort, and it’s not hard to do.  What is challenging is finding that way to be kind to yourself. This is also not selfishness…it’s survival.  Don’t let your kindness be something that pulls you away from your family or your work or other responsibilities (“The HLHS Dad said to be nice to myself, so I’m quitting my job and moving to Palau for 6 months!”  NO.).  Find those small things that just make you happy, then find ways to use them to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.  You’re going to find that this is keeping you from absolutely losing your mind.

So today, going forward, I want you to never forget the man in the mirror: be kind to him as he is kind to others.

Self Kindness

32for32 Project Complete!

For the past few weeks my wife and I have been doing these free youtube workouts from Fitness Blender.  They’re pretty awesome and you should check them out.  Anyhow, at the end of every nearly barf-inducing workout it will say “WORKOUT COMPLETE” on the screen and it feels like you made it.  Then you want to eat a whole pizza.  I’m just kidding. 

Anyhow, it feels good to accomplish something, whether it’s a workout, assignment, or a big project.  In my last post I wrote about my 32for32 Project: I was going to do 32 acts of kindness for my 32nd birthday in order to educate people about Congenital Heart Defects.  Well I did it!  PROJECT COMPLETE! 

I worked pretty hard to plan out this project, choosing where I would go and when, and I  did a lot of early legwork to download wish lists and contact the people I needed to contact.  I did a really awesome interview with the Union County Weekly, who posted a wonderful article on their front page, and I even did a quick radio interview with New Life 91.9.  As we got closer to the 14th, the day the project was to start, I ran into some problems…SNOW.

SnowInformer

No, not him.

So the Charlotte area decided to have the most snow in a decade.  A whopping 8 inches.  Now where I’m from in Connecticut, that’s child’s play…but here?  Freakin’ APOCALYPSE.  There’s no snow plows and everyone just gets stuck at home.  Well of course, the snow was still on the ground on Thursday, so I got several messages from my 32for32 stops that they would be closed on Friday.  Great.  I ended up having to be really creative with changing my schedule around to accommodate everything or even add new things.  In the end it all worked out.

So on Friday we decided to brave the snow together as a family (it was pretty melty by then) and hit the ground running.  By Monday the 17th at 4:30pm, I was DONE with the project.  Here’s the list from 1 to 32:

Excited to say the 32 for 32 Project is complete! Here’s the complete rundown of the 32 acts of kindness:

1. Welcome our new neighbors
2. Help a neighbor get her car up her snowy driveway
3. Giving scratch-off tickets to a waitress at a local pizza place (she won $20)
4. Buying someone’s meal at that pizza place
5. Buying a gift certificate from the pizza place and giving it to a cashier at Fami…ly Dollar
6. Bringing food and diapers to With Love From Jesus

7. Bringing donuts to the Hemby Bridge Fire Department to thank them
8. Paying for someone behind me in the drive-thru
9. Bringing fresh cinnamon bread to Union County Health Department Employees
10. Bringing clothes for a tough little heart baby
11. Donating food and other items for the Union County Community Shelter
12. Giving Blood with the Community Blood Center of the Carolinas
13. Going to Great Clips and paying for someone’s haircut
14. Bringing lunch to one of the Producers at church
15. Donating clothes to Goodwill
16. Giving a gift card to a Starbucks barista
17, 18, 19, 20. Cards for some special people
21. A card for a deployed soldier via Operation Gratitude
22. A gift for our mail carrier
23. Reading a story to kindergarteners at Poplin Elementary School
24. Donating formula to H.E.L.P Crisis Pregnancy Center
25. Bringing bagels and CHD Awareness bracelets to nurses at Levine Children’s Hospital
26. Gifts for a new heart baby in the hospital
27. Bringing donuts for the residents of Ronald McDonald House
28. Donating clothes to Crisis Assistance Ministry
29. Donating 20 pounds of items for Second Harvest Food Bank
30. Donating clothes to Second Chance Boutique
31. Bringing pantry items to Matthews HELP Center
32. Bringing 4 dozen balloons to abused & neglected kids at the Children’s Attention Home

WOW.  I was really humbled by the experience.  I met some great people, I hopefully made an impact, and I got to share the news about Congenital Heart Defects! 

 
I have to say that some of the acts of kindness stood out to me.  First was the Union County Community Shelter: I’ve volunteered there before, but this time I noticed 4 or 5 little children there…around 4 or 5 years old or so.  It was sad.  I have to say my family is blessed…we don’t have a lot, but we have food and a roof over our heads, thank God. 
 
The second, of course, is getting to visit the CVICU staff at Levine Children’s Hospital.  They’re like our 2nd family and we love them to death!
 
I never read to a classroom of kids before, and I was a little nervous about reading to kindergarteners.  Oh man, they were awesome.  We read a funny book and they were so well-behaved and polite.  I loved it and I can’t wait to do it again!
 
As I get pictures from the project, I will work on posting them here with some more stories from my experience.  I just want to remind everyone that the 32for32 Project wasn’t about me…it was about my son and all the other heart kids out there who need a voice.  It’s about those agencies who depend upon the kindness of others to help them feed the hungry and clothe the naked.  I want to encourage everyone to try their own Acts of Kindness Project for their birthday…it will really open your eyes to the needs right there in your back yard.  And I am a firm believer that when you give of yourself to do kind things for others, your situations don’t seem half as bad. 
 
Acts-of-Kindness