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Lifting Up Lives is a 501(c)3 public charity that uses fun group exercise classes and character developing discussions to help women affected by domestic violence build self-esteem and develop supportive relationships with others so they can create lives filled with hope, happiness, and opportunity.

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Bringing Hope and Happiness to Millions

Just a few short days ago the world lost one of the greatest vocalists ever to grace the planet.  Regardless of your feelings about Whitney Houston’s struggles in life, there is no denying that she inspired and touched the lives of many who without her inspirational voice and lyrics may have had very different lives. 

How many weddings, parties and joyous events has her voice graced – countless no doubt?

Despite all this good she brought to the world, the self-righteous will none the less focus on the negative.  I suggest to those who are quick to criticize and throw stones, because of her widely known issues, take a look inward.  It’s easy to judge, to condemn, and expect perfection from someone else.  Especially from a complete stranger who, due to her extreme talent and celebrity status, is placed on a pedestal and harnessed with pressures that no human being can fully handle.  What’s more, all these expectations are based on a perceived reality. 

But what is this perception of reality based on?  Little more than what the profit driven media selectively chooses to report in order to capitalize on a culture addicted to drama and gossip.  None of us who are outside the media’s eye can honestly say we know what those in the public eye go through.  Nor can we honestly say how we ourselves would react if our lives were under this same type of scrutiny.  Think for a moment how you would feel if every last detail, fault, and moment of your life were placed on display for everyone to see.  How different would the headlines look with your life on display?  If you’re honest, you probably realize the stories wouldn’t look all that different.

But what does Whitney’s life story have to do with Lifting Up Lives?  A whole lot I’d say. 

From the affects domestic violence had on her life, to her struggle to move beyond her personal difficulties, and the fact that she lifted others up, despite her own challenges.  She did this through much of her music, but to me the lyrics of her ballad “The Greatest Love of All” connects most with what LUL is trying to achieve.  Those powerful words…”no matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity”, and “the greatest love of all is learning to love yourself”.  These words express the reality of what the LUL program helps participants develop a confidence and love for themselves which flows into the capacity to build a supportive community that in turn leads to a joyous life filled with endless opportunity.  

With the above connections in mind the questions that result are many.  Would things have turned out differently had Whitney been able to truly discover and make the connection within herself that “the greatest love of all is learning to love yourself”?  Would she have, through discovery garnered the strength to seek and build the foundational level of support from the right people, those who truly cared about her simply because of her inherent dignity as a human being?

Of course there is no way we’ll ever know in Whitney Houston’s case, whether greater levels of confidence and community would have prevented her from going down that slippery slope.  However, there is no doubt it could have made a difference, perhaps allowing her God given talents to impact even more people’s lives.

And finally, let this sudden and tragic passing be a lesson to us all, regardless of our circumstances, or difficulties, we need not stand idly by waiting for someone else to take action, to care, to bring hope to those who need it most.  Your actions need not be big things, just a smile, a kind word, or a simple yet sincere gesture can lift up the life of someone else.  In the words of Mother Teresa, it’s not about looking for big things, but doing small things with great love. 

What gift do you have that someone else needs right now?

Are you using your talents to better the lives of others, despite the struggles you face?  If not, now is the time, the only time, the gift of one moment in time that you have to begin using your gifts to live your life as it was meant to be, to be free, to feel eternity.

Small Hinges Swing Large Doors

I ran across these words in an email I received recently and couldn't help but feel they were a perfect metaphor for those who are making a difference in the world.  Although you may never hear about them in the news, these people initiate and propel changes that may otherwise never occur.  So the next time you are feeling under-appreciated and overworked just remember that the big doors of change can't swing open without you.

If you are interested in helping make the lives of others better you must reach out and connect with those who share those interests.  Through those connections you will discover new ways to more effectively translate your hope for a better world into life changing actions that will make a positive and meaningful impact on the lives of those you touch.

Hope keeps you going, you hope you'll make a difference to someone, or you wouldn't even get out of bed every morning.  Oftentimes, however, you become immersed in the daily grind, become discouraged and lose sight of the big picture.  Thus, reaching out and connecting with others gives you the chance to break away from the grind and the feelings of isolation that come with doing good.

Speaking from a position of leadership, I certainly can attest to the reality of that feeling of isolation.  The oft mentioned saying "It's lonely at the top" is very true.  To overcome these feelings you must let yourself reach out, and help others find the opportunities to put their talents to use.

Through this outreach you leverage your hope, by igniting the flame of hope in others who desperately want to take action but either aren't sure how or just haven't been presented with the right opportunity.  In so doing, you can create communities that are powerful forces for change.  Forces that will inspire and magnify the hope of those who need it most, the people you serve.

I have experienced this hope being leveraged many times in my work with Lifting Up Lives.  People who are really passionate about our mission may have heard about us for a year or more before they finally inquire about becoming involved.  If it wasn't for our continual efforts to engage people, these individuals, many of whom play key roles in our organization, may have moved on to other opportunities.  In retrospect, the success we have had has been primarily due to our continual outreach and efforts to make personal connections with those who share our interests and hopes for a better world.

The hope you ignite in those who have a shared interest in a cause is what brings hope to others, many of whom you'll never know.  This chain of hope, when properly cultivated, becomes the consistent caring action that is the foundation for meaningful changes that will make the world a better place for everyone.

The Lifting Up Lives shelter workouts, which we do on the beautiful rooftop deck in San Francisco, are a perfect example of how our actions bring hope to those who are unknown to us.  After many of months of conducting our program, one of the shelter directors mentioned to me how the people in the building across the street really enjoy our workouts, and even participate, all unbeknownst to us.  This made me think, how many people in other buildings are being inspired by what we do?  Probably more than we'll ever know.

All of this speaks to the fact that you can't keep great things to yourself if you want to make a positive impact on others.  Thus, if you want to leverage your hope, the first thing you must do is let others know about it.  So today, in your interactions, regardless of whether you are a community leader, current volunteer or someone who's just looking for the right opportunity to help make caring service possible, keep at the forefront of your mind the idea that shared hopes are the small hinges that swing the large doors of change wide open. 

Make every day count!

Mark Rogers
Founder - Lifting Up Lives