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A Grateful Giver

m-d taglineI recently talked to a group of National Charity League senior girls who are about to embark on their college journeys. As I’m about to end mine this June, I was reminded of how wonderful it feels to be hopeful and full of anticipation. Sure, we’re all a bit fearful as well whenever we start a new chapter, but looking back I see how much more courage I had than I ever realized.

I spoke with the girls about the importance of giving back as they go off to school. In case you’re wondering what National Charity League, it is a mother daughter organization that fosters the spirit of community service throughout a six-year period from seventh grade to senior year. My mom and I were apart of the organization from start to finish and we both gained so much individually and also as a mom-daughter duo.

As I prepared my talking points with the girls, I realized how volunteering can bring about new challenges once you fly away from the nest. Once you’re bombarded with lectures, making new friends and adjusting to a new lifestyle, finding the time to give back can be overwhelming. But if there’s a will, there’s a way.

I’ve written about happiness on a regular basis these past three years and there is one overarching theme: happiness happens when we share it with others. Giving back is the greatest gift we can give to others, but we also benefit as a byproduct. Note that I use the word byproduct—we should not be volunteering solely or mainly for our own gain. Once we start offering our time and money as a line on a resume—you can be sure you’re writing off your happiness.

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One of my best friends volunteering in Ghana, Africa with Global Medical Brigades. A true cheerful giver!

It’s about being a cheerful giver. Let us be thankful that we can offer support and let us be humble to receive it when we need it. As I looked at these senior girls who had just sent off their college applications and were waiting by the mailboxes for their letters, I was reminded of that same cheerfulness and novel feeling of excitement I had as a senior in high school. We need to take that same feeling of wonderment and combine it with our generosity to truly give from a place of gratitude—not just as high school students or college graduates. Wherever we are in life, giving back should be one of our greatest goals.

Let us celebrate philanthropy and community service. When we have to wake up at 6:00 am for a Relay for Life, let’s get up with a spring in our step. When we donate our money that we worked hard to earn, let us open our hands wide. When someone is sick or lonely, let us come to their aid and stay an extra hour. Let us soak in these moments of immeasurable worth and keep them alive in their heart. Those who give are the happy souls. There is never any guilt, any shame, or any sorrow in giving. You will never regret it or wish you spent your time elsewhere. You will always be glad and the gratitude you had before will grow tenfold.

Let’s give wherever we go. Happiness to you all!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

A Deeper Sense of Gratitude

I’m always encouraging an attitude of gratitude. I write my “Five Daily Gratitudes” and make a point of noticing the blessings in life. But I had an epiphany last night. I realized: it’s so easy to be grateful for the things that make us naturally happy but what about taking it a step further? What if we were grateful even for the things that annoyed us or made us feel frustrated?

It all began when I met up with my friend and fellow author, Jordan Brown, yesterday for breakfast. She’s one of the most positive people I know and I love hearing her outlook on life. She gave me her book, The Girl’s Guide to Loving Life afterward and I’ve been reading it ever since. She also embraces gratitude but I love how she finds appreciation even in the toughest places.

For example, while many of us dread taking an exam, Jordan is thankful for an education. In fact, yesterday she said how much she absolutely loved school—how happy it made her. She is getting her Masters in School Counseling—go Jordan! After hearing her outlook, I thought about how I was dreading going back to school after winter break. Hearing her perspective was a huge wake up call for me. I should be immensely grateful for having the opportunity to go to school. I go to UCLA—and I should be thanking my lucky stars for it, not cursing the situation instead. Many girls around the world would die for an education. In fact, Malala Yousufzai almost did while fighting for young women to have an equal opportunity to learn. I think I’ll think twice before I start to sulk about heading off to class.

Sure, it’s not always easy to get up on a Monday morning or stay up late studying for a final. But there is so much good to be had in it! Let’s be grateful we have a place to learn and that information is so accessible to us now (I’ll take the internet over a set of outdated encyclopedias any day!) I’m so thankful that Jordan turned the light on even the darkest situations. After just a day of choosing to see the sunny side of the gloomiest days, I’m feeling so much happier already.

It’s easy to be happy when everything is going our way. But finding something to give thanks for no matter what the situation is a new level. Suddenly, whatever seemed so awful and unpleasant doesn’t seem so bad once we’ve chosen to change our outlook. So while I was digging my heels on going back to class, now I have a little skip to my step. Sure, I still rather be on break but I know I’ll be having fun and enjoying winter quarter once I get going. Back to school means seeing friends once more, taking (hopefully) interesting classes, and setting new goals. What’s not to be happy about?

I encourage you to take your gratitude to the next level. While it’s important that we recognize the blessings in our lives, I think it’s time to look deeper at the hidden tokens of appreciation. It will make our happiness resonate all the more. And in the meantime, I highly recommend you pick up Jordan’s book—you’re going to love it!

To “like” Jordan’s Facebook page, you can go here: http://www.facebook.com/girlsguidetolovinglife?group_id=0

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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