By Leanna Cappiello
New York (S+L)
Welcome to the new year! Since surviving the sorrows and savoring the successes of 2012, everyone is asking the same question, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?” The top 3 answers I get when I ask this question are: lose weight, cut spending, and get organized. I see the effects of this resolution craze everywhere. Everyone’s sporting a brand new agenda, no one wants to go out for lunch anymore, and walking into a gym in January is like walking into Grand Central Station at Christmastime. And though these are noble resolutions for ourselves, what have we done for our home, parish, workplace, and neighborhood?
Over the holidays, I shared in a conversation with Fr. Chris Valka, C.S.B. and some students from Windsor Campus Ministry. Even though the program is only 3 years old, has a thriving group, and many successful programs, they still challenged themselves in asking, “What’s next?” It became apparent to them that even though things were going well, it would still need an extra oomph to keep up with campus life. They said that if they continued in the way that they were, it would only be self-serving, and that’s not what they’re about. It was time to expand beyond their borders: beyond the ministry, beyond the campus, into the community of Windsor. No easy task.
This group is aiming for what few individuals think to do themselves - taking initiative beyond themselves for greater improvement. They recognize that to grow and be better, they needed to not just stay within their own small group, but to reach out to others as well.
What many of us do is imagine ourselves improving from the inside out, “I’ll be able to do more things if I change myself.” In many ways, this is true. We need to take care of our minds, bodies and spirits! But imagine the transformation if we worked from the outside in. If we took on a project that isn’t just about us, but about others. By taking initiative and ownership for our surroundings, we begin to change in ways we never imagined. We’re being open to new experiences, people, and ideas. Besides all that, it’s not all about us anyway - Christ calls us to be selfless, like Him.
The best example of a personal project with purpose that has captured my special attention is the story of The World Needs More Love Letters. Hannah Brencher, the young founder, had suffered with depression while adjusting to her new home in New York City. In an attempt to cope with loneliness, she began leaving little encouraging notes for strangers al
l over the city. Within a year, this small gesture turned into a local movement and is now a national phenomenon. Volunteer writers send letters to people in trying times, and anyone can request a bundle of letters to be sent to someone they love for encouragement and support. As for Heather? She’s now an official Ted Talker, and shares her love of people, stories, and letter-writing to everyone across the globe. She still writes letters to strangers, but now helps others while doing it. How’s that for self-improvement?
Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” With all this said, I challenge you tosee what projects you can begin this year - big or small. Maybe in December 2013, you will look back on something that you began that reached far beyond yourself.
Top photo courtesy of Leanna Cappiello
Insert courtesy of The World Needs More Love Letters