Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How volunteering saved my life (an overview)

The title of my TEDxCalgary talk is:  Lessons In Love:  How volunteering saved my life.

As the theme for the day is Volunteer -- even better, I wanted my talk to enhance the 'day' while also speaking to my healing journey and the power volunteering played in my recovering my joy, wonder and love of life.

I thought I'd give you an idea of what I'm speaking to -- and if anyone has comments, suggestions ideas... oh dear, it's getting kind of late :)  -- but seriously -- I'm open to suggestions to make it more powerful!  though I have to send my presentation off today.  

Last night a friend came over and worked through it with me, giving me guidance on where he felt I could strengthen the story.

He began with my opening. "you know Louise, you lose me when you step out of 'your story' into stories about other people at the shelter. Sure, you were part of that story, but I miss the passion of your 'I'."

Hmmm... a life lesson there for sure. When I'm messing around in someone else's story, I'm losing the passion of mine.

I went back to the beginning and shared with him my original -- my very first concept -- for the opening that I had begun with weeks ago when I started working on the presentation.

Love it, he said. You held me captive throughout the entire talk.

Ok -- so note to self -- listen to self.  (And yes, Alyssa, my gut talks too and sometimes, I fill it up with other stuff until I have to unearth the essence of what I wanted to create in the first place somewhere beneath all the junk I've piled on top of my intuition.)

So, my story opens...

"I want to paint you a picture. It is a beautiful May morning. The sun is just beginning to rise above the waters beside which I stand. Red and rosy hues cast beautiful reflections upon the rippling surface of the water. Birds chirp and chitter in the trees. A woodduck pops its head in and out of the opening to the hole where it's built a nest inside a tree. The breeze is warm already, caressing my skin gently. All around me beauty awakens in the gift of a new day dawning.

And I am deaf and blind to the world around me. I cannot see the promise of this day. I cannot feel the hope of a new day rising.

I want to die. I want to cast my body from the shore. Thrust it into the waters and sink into the muck and mire of the mud below. I want to cast myself adrift and float upon the water, out into the sea, out into the nothing far beyond the shore.

I want to die.

That was the morning of May 21, 2003, moments before a miracle drove up in a blue and white police car and rescued me from the horror of an abusive relationship that had ripped my world apart and taken me far from the one's I loved...."

I then go on to tell of awakening from that horror and choosing to begin the journey back to myself. One of the first things I did was begin to volunteer. And I share that experience and many others since that May morning, to show how volunteering saved my life.

The lessons I share are:

Miracles are a gift. Celebrate them with joy.
When you believe you have nothing to give, start giving.
  When you believe you have nothing left to give, keep giving.
Give. In giving we receive.
Volunteering is not about good deeds. Volunteering is about Love.
Sometimes, all we need to connect heart to heart is a smile.
Loving another begins with loving myself.
Love has no motive.
Love is all there is to hold onto.

With each lesson I share a volunteer experience and what I received in return for giving from my heart -- from helping make sandwiches for the lost souls in Vancouver's east side, to managing an online forum for victims of abuse to coaching at Choices and creating an art program at the homeless shelter -- volunteering is the conduit that lead me back home to myself. 

And I end with:

"Volunteering saved my life. it made a difference in my world and continues to do so everyday. And in that difference, its ripples move out and change the world -- where once I wanted to cast my body into the waters and change the course of my life on earth -- the volunteer ripples I have created have connected me to the human condition in which we all flow and in that flow, I have found myself in Love. Because in the end, Love is all there is to hold onto."

So.... that's where it's at. 

and I'm still breathing :).

Thanks by the way, to those who posted yesterday with words of encouragement and love and ideas and support. Your volunteering of yourselves creates a beautiful ripple of love flowing all around me.



Maureen said...

Your friend has it right, I think: There is nothing more compelling than the "passion of the 'I'", because it's in the individual story that the greater, more universal lessons are found.

Good luck with the delivery.

Hope your talk is filmed and made available on TED!

Anonymous said...


when and where is your presentation?

I'd like to attend if I can


Alyssa Wright said...

I wish I could be there to watch the presentation! And, like Maureen, I'm hoping they film it so I can watch you in all your glory.

Your opening reminds me of that video circulating recently, with the blind beggar whose life is changed when a passer-by changes his "I'm blind, please give" sign to "It's a beautiful day, and I can't see it."

I read your blog entry shortly after one of Don's former colleagues from the fire hall (who I've never met) reduced me to tears in an e-mail about how much he wanted to help us out, just as Don had helped him when he broke his leg several years ago and couldn't work. He, too, mentioned the ripples in the water, and how they always return to the shore.

With this beautiful, heart-felt presentation, you, my dear, are creating a Tsunami -- and I mean that in the BEST of ways! :-)

Joyce Wycoff said...

what a gift you're giving the audience! we'll be there in spirit with you!

Valerie Kamikubo said...

Yes, I too am hoping that it gets filmed. Blessings to you, Louise.

S. Etole said...

I'm with the others in hoping we will be able to see it on video.

Your words are compelling as is your photo.

Ruth said...

Just beautiful, Louise. Expressing out of your self, your story. People will relate to its truth and authenticity. It is powerful to consider how you found energy and passion for the work you have done, which is magnificent. All we have is what we have, and if we give it freely, someone will be blessed (even painfully blessed, as Rob Brezsny says). If I were at your talk, no doubt I would have even bigger chills than I do now. Giving even when we feel we have nothing, so counterintuitive, and yet so miraculous. (like the loaves and fishes!)