Each day our world feels smaller, and the pain and suffering on the other side of the planet seems as though it is right next door. For many of us, we have an overwhelming sense of powerlessness that is weighing on our hearts and our minds. This is not a productive place to dwell. So how can we maintain a healthy balance between being informed, while not losing our minds?
Helping Others Helps Us
It’s widely known that helping others is one of the best ways to improve our own wellness. So, if you’re feeling stuck and powerless right now, I recommend being curious about that discomfort. When you meditate, contemplate, or pray on this dis-ease, try to envision what would make you feel more fulfilled in that specific part of your life? When you discover what’s missing, embrace it, love it, and run with it.
So, what does that look like specifically for you? Maybe it’s volunteering at a homeless shelter, or soup kitchen. Or perhaps it is reading to underserved children in your community. Some people will plant trees, and others may be so brave as to sit each week with elderly people who spend the final years of their life mostly alone. What inspires and motivates each of us is different for everyone, and that’s a good thing because there are a lot of areas in which love, kindness, and support are needed.
This simple exercise reminded me of my deep connection with animals. I’ve never met an animal I didn’t love, and I have long been an advocate for wildlife. Despite that love, there wasn’t a part of my life that involved working with them. That insight led me to begin volunteering with a local animal rescue. And let me tell you, I get far more out of the work I do with the rescue, than I give.
Working with homeless animals and helping them find safe, healthy, loving homes has become a refuge for me in a time of great change and instability. The chance to bond and forge meaningful connections with each of those four-legged souls has been life affirming, and to witness their transformations as they settle into their new families brings immense joy.
PET TIP: When adopting a new pet try to remember that you need to form not only a bond, but a common language with them. It’s a bit like having a foreign exchange student in your home. Be patient, repeat basic commands, and reward with love or treats when the dots connect.
New Found Community
Volunteering has also gifted me with a new community of animal advocates, and a sense of belonging in a time of deep isolation. These things are important for each of us individually, but also collectively. When we make meaningful connections, we rebuild trust, kindness, and compassion within our communities. By healing our communities, helping those less fortunate, and embracing empathy, we may soon discover that what we need individually may also help us become the agents of positive change the world needs.
So, if your heart feels restless, be curious about where it is leading you to serve. It just may be the cure to what ails us.
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By Troy Putney
Troy is a storyteller and conservationist. A graduate of the University of Connecticut, he has worked for over twenty years in the film industry. Troy wrote for two seasons on the hit show Nashville, and was Associate Producer on the films Defiance, Love & Other Drugs, and Pawn Sacrifice. Along with being an advocate for conservation and animal rights, Troy is also a volunteer with LA Animal Rescue – from whom he adopted two of his three best friends.
The Story of Richard Reyes and +ME Project
A GREAT place to volunteer! Richard has created opportunities for youth from low-income communities to work with storytellers in developing their own personal voice.
LA Animal Rescue: Giving All Animals Hope
Another volunteer opportunity that’s close to our heart! “We are a small all volunteer run non-profit 501(c)3 Animal Rescue. We prefer to keep our operation small so that we can dedicate all of our time and efforts to the animals in our care.
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I’m Just Curious
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Living Unhoused for a Week: Ken Craft Takes to the Streets
Ken Craft of Hope of the Valley lives unhoused on the streets of the San Fernando Valley for 100 hours and shares the challenges, insights and struggles he faced on this journey.