the “why” behind the “do”

I spent a total of 7, maybe 8 hours today, making a big map of our school’s fall festival–to be held in two days. I had drafts, I had mock-ups, I ran out of printer ink, I used construction paper… I broke licensing rules with clip art… And all the while, I kept asking myself, “why am I doing this?”

Well, when I was new to the school, I had desperately wanted a map of this festival. I wanted to know who teachers were, where classrooms were… I wanted to understand what my children experienced. I felt lost. I hated being lost. I don’t want any parent to feel like that. I want them to feel like they know where they are. Like they belong.

We do the things we want to do. Always.

I know that. But sometimes, I’m blown away when the thing we want is actually needed by others. It’s what they all “prescience.” Or “service.” Or “compassion.”

That map? It’s going to help a few kids who haven’t honed their reading skills, and a few parents who haven’t learned English fluently yet upon immigrating to this country. If it helps one child, or one parent? One? Just one? I’m thrilled.

Look at these craft pumpkins, a required donation by each class at our children’s school.

Spider, Caught in a Web of Reading
Mike Wazowski, of Monsters University

These? They were decorated by me, today, after spending the day making a map. Why? Why did I do this? Because other parents work full time. Other parents have other needs. Because other parents have other priorities. Because other parents have less. Than me.

This is simple, unimportant stuff. Maps. Craft pumpkins. School festivals. But however you function during these little events, whatever you give during these tiny times of need? They say something. Maybe not a lot. Maybe not loudly. But something is said. Such as:

I have. A lot. In terms of time, money, inclination… ability. I can. So, I do. And when I did? My kids were thrilled.

That is my “why.” And knowing “why?” It makes it so easy to “do.”

If you’re out there, finding it hard to “do?” Think about that “why.” Hard. After that? Everything gets easier.


I’ve been trying to break the second law of thermodynamics lately, given a whole mess of frantic volunteering and helping and doing… I’ve been waiting for my activity to give me energy, magically, like a perpetual motion machine.

Can’t be done. Physics is physics. So, I could use a nap right now. Or two. Or three. Yeah, three naps would do it.

Before I sleep, let me share some good news.

  • My friend is okay, she just came out of major surgery. If anything ever happened to my friend, I don’t know what I would do. She gets me, intrinsically, this friend.
  • My other friend’s mom just came out of surgery too, and she did well. My friend is the most generous, caring person, and she is a dedicated, loving daughter, more patient than I could ever be. She inspires me to be more giving.
  • My own mother is doing well, 20 months after a bone marrow transplant; she’s cooking and chatting with our kids on the phone, sounding happy and light. The sound of her laughing is the best sound ever.
  • My father is doing well, and has entrusted me with a huge project, because he believes I can help. He knows I can help. The confidence he has in me is a treasure.
  • My husband will go camping with his college buddies this weekend, a much needed and well deserved break–he always comes back from those trips so happy and refreshed (if tired, and thankful for a warm bed indoors). He has good friends. He is a good man.
  • Our children are good students (just had teacher conferences): they are healthy, happy, well-behaved, hard-working children.

Gratitude can give you energy. It can stop you in your tracks and make your shiver on a sunshiny day. It can make you want to move.

So, yeah, I’m tired. But I also feel like I could sprint a mile or two, too.

“you can always say ‘no.'”

My husband says that to me, when I express even the slightest bit of tiredness with whatever I’m doing as a volunteer. He says it perhaps because he works really hard. If he had the choice to be less tired, he’d probably say “no” to a lot of things.

But I don’t need reminding. I know I can always say “no.” I know I, unlike my husband, have a choice.

Our kids, they love, and I mean LOVE, to be chased around the house, by a grown up who is pretending to be either a ghost, a lion, or a bad guy from Star Wars. They run and run and run, and laugh and laugh and laugh, until somebody, usually the grown-up but often our son, announces: “I’m tired!” They take a break, and move on to the next fun thing, that requires less physical energy.

We don’t suggest to our kids, “You can always play a game that doesn’t make you tired.” That would make no sense whatsoever. They have energy. They should spend it. They have imagination. They should use it.

I could always say “no.” But I don’t want to. I have energy. I have imagination.

It feels so good to use it. To be of use.

To make others happy.