[This week Hooping.org columnist Lara Eastburn encourages all of us to pay it forward.]
If you’re like me, you’ve been known to take notice of suffering and social ills anywhere and wonder if there’s something you can do about it. The desire is there. The opportunities are there. Our talents abound. But there are obstacles, too. It’s hard to know where to start. And it can be difficult to figure just what, exactly, you could or should personally do about it. So let’s take a look at how you can bring your love of hoops and hooping to any situation that you set your mind to. I want to light a fire under your ass. Why? Because you are sitting on a pile of hoop-shaped love-kindling, newspaper, and fuel (that you gathered!) just begging for it!
First, let’s address the things that hold us back in the first place. There is no contribution too small. Nope, just put it out of your mind. And there is no requirement to “change the world.” Uh-huh. Not by our lil’ own lonesomes. We must choose to volunteer our time and resources to our fellow humans for the same reasons that we turn off the water while we brush our teeth, or switch to energy-saving appliances. Because when you add it all up, every little bit contributes to a worldwide effort – a movement to change, to help, to matter to another human being. So we turn off our lights, we reuse, we recycle. And we wonder what else we can do and how our hoops can fit in with that.
Before you throw your own hoop into the helping ring, here are a few self-searching questions that could help you identify your specific talents and understand where and how they might be most useful and effective.
Know Why Hooping Matters: If hooping and/or hoops is your vehicle for activism, it will be essential to know your own answer to the question, “Why does hooping matter?” Take some time to really think about this. We all know the talking points, but when you dig deep, you’ll touch upon some deeply personal, visceral answer that can guide you in your hooping and what you choose to do with it. It’s important and rewarding to do something, but to do it well, you’ve got to know why you’re doing it, too.
Make a List of What You Care Most About: What issues are closest to your heart? I like to ask myself, ‘What are three things I would fight for?” When you are intensely passionate about what you’re volunteering your time and effort to, you are more likely to enjoy it and stay committed even when you are tired or discouraged.
Make a List of Your Talents: For the purposes of your list, write them all down. You needn’t confine yourself to those you use at work. We all have talents that we don’t have opportunities to use often. And don’t question yet whether or not these talents are pertinent to what you’ve got in mind. You leave open countless possibilities by not editing or constraining this list too early. Not to mention, it’s just a darned good list to have.
Once your list is as complete as you can make it, divide it further by placing your talents in categories. Notice what themes repeat themselves and give that category a title.
Look Around You: Is there no local recycling plan? Is there an understaffed Women’s Crisis center? Can you use hoops to aid the efforts of an organization you’re already involved with? What needs immediately present themselves in your community?
Now Put it All Together: Where do these lists intersect or speak to one another? Can you draw a connecting line through what you think hooping can do, what you care about, what you’re good at, and what needs to be done?
Be honest with yourself about your available time and limitations. Remember, you don’t have to start a revolution. If getting things started isn’t your forte, then you’ll have a good idea about what already-existing efforts could benefit from your help. If you don’t have time, perhaps you have money to give. If you don’t have either, you can aid these organizations just by getting the word out about their works or by referring others to them.
If you’re motivated to start a new effort, then now it’s time to get educated. Don’t just barge into the Humane Society with a list of what you’ll be doing for them. Take the time to find out what the target of your help really, truly needs most and first. With that knowledge in hand, go back to your list and figure out how you can meet that need.
There’s also no need to re-invent the wheel, or hoop, when it comes to activism. Do a little research to see if someone else is already addressing your cause of choice. Adding your skills and enthusiasm to an existing project has the potential for taking efforts to even greater heights.
World Hoop Day: World Hoop Day is and has been here since 2006 for the taking. Every year, WHD offers up a made-to-order reason and route to hoop-philanthropy for hoopers everywhere. World Hoop Day is dedicated to bringing dance, exercise and toy hoops to under-privileged children living in extreme poverty and the under-developed neighborhoods of our world. Join in the worldwide efforts of World Hoop Day. It’s a no-brainer and 11/11/11 will be here before you know it.
Hoop For A Cause: One way to effectively and efficiently make a difference is to target your efforts in the service of a particular cause. Each year, Hooping for Hope trains a large group to hoop a half-marathon (that’s 13.1 miles, folks). With pink hoops heralding the way. They raise money for Breast Cancer research and provide hoops free-of-charge to breast cancer survivors nationwide and offer their hooping classes gratis to breast cancer survivors in Hooprama‘s Nashville studios. You can join in hooping for the causes of Autism Awareness, Childhood Obesity, Bullying, and many others- already organized and in-progress.
Hooping in Disaster: The LA Hoopers group in Los Angeles recently held a hooping fundraiser for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. And over the past weeks, hoopers have traveled to areas in Alabama to aid those affected and displaced by the recent fatal and furious tornadoes there. Led by Brandy Hug in Birmingham and Healing through Hoops, their efforts are now extending to Missouri’s tornado victims. Taking donations and making and gifting hoops to those in shelters, Brandy says, restores “the simple joys” to devastated families and communities.
And Finally, Check Yourself: Effective giving comes from a place of selflessness and service, and enacts the true human gift of empathy. Make a list of your goals and double-check to be sure that recognition isn’t one of them — because you may not get it. Be friendly, be respectful, and be open-minded. This will help you leave room for hooping and your efforts to do more than you anticipated, and something else that you may not have even expected.
While it’s important and rewarding to do something, to do it well you’ve got to know why you’re doing it, too. Over in the Hooposophy Group and Forum here on Hooping.org, I’ve created a thread for us to share our hooping-activism know-how, as well as a place for all of us to join the conversation about what hooping can do for more than just ourselves. And if you share your process and your hope and encouragement with fellow hoopers, you’ll also receive the encouragement and feedback you’ll need along the way. Helping others to help others is just one more way for all of us to give!
Lara Eastburn has been dancing in meadows and singing with the moon while spinning in circles for eons at Superhooper.org. Beyond commenting here, you can also discuss this and other topics related to the Hooposophy for living in Hooping.org’s Hooposophy Group and Gorum. Lara is also the planting and gardening force behind discovering our hooping community roots at The Hooping Family Tree Project.