My Story: Living Life Outside the Bubble

One simple act of generosity can change a life, a community and the world." ---Debbie Macomber

How many of you ever reached out with a random act of kindness; a donation, a compliment, or a helping hand and changed someone's life? Now here's a question you may not have ever considered; how has your own life been affected since reaching out to help that someone in need?

Recently I told an abbreviated version of my story at PechaKuchaGR, a venue where you are allowed exactly 6 min/ 40 sec to share your story. Until I can share that video, here is my story.

My name is Terri Spaulding and I am an average girl. At age 49 I have just begun to understand the importance of generosity and its affect on the world around me. I wanted to share my story, which I call: Living Life Outside the Bubble in hopes that it might help plant a seed of generosity in someone else.

Three years ago I reached out to help someone in need and what I have learned is that the person who was really in need, was me.

I have traveled through life on what many could call a super safe track. I'll even admit it was a ridiculously sheltered, judgmental and naive track. I followed the rules as I had been taught, worked hard, bought only what I could afford, never became a burden to anyone, and kept my nose out of trouble. I lived responsibly, and I took control. Together, my husband of 27 years and I, have created a beautiful life for ourselves and our two boys.

What I didn't realize is that a piece of me was missing, my sense of generosity. And what I didn't see coming was that when my middle class republican bubble finally burst, the life that would reveal itself afterwards, would be so much more fulfilling than I ever dreamed. I moved out of my black and white world, and into a fuller, richer life in the grey.

The group of misfits that changed my life.

According to the author of the book A Million Miles in a 1000 Years, everyone has a story, and everyone has an inciting incident that starts their "story." My inciting incident was volunteering to be a backstage mom for the high school production of Annie that my oldest son was in, at a school he was not even attending. There, my eyes were opened to a world I had known existed, but hadn't really let affect me. A world where kids were growing up far too fast, many without the support and love of parents, or people who cared, who might on any given day go hungry, or worse yet, go unnoticed.

I watched the young directors of the musical, married teachers, who were expecting their first child, work with this cast of "misfits." I was astonished at the bond the group shared, the very diverse "family" they had grown into in such a relatively short amount of time. I was even more astounded by the energy and dedication this couple exuded while doing it. I could see their impact, not only through the actions and eyes of my son, but the whole cast. There was a feeling of love that surrounded everyone involved, and the impact their leadership was having on all those lives was completely inspiring to see.

And after less than a week, when I found myself both physically and mentally exhausted, and knowing that the Morgans had spent several months working with these kids on a daily basis, I wondered aloud "Why are you doing this?"

Dan's answer is one I will never forget. He said, "because my wife and I vowed to love all children."

 Dan & Ella Morgan, directors of the UHS Production of Annie

And that simple statement changed my life. I felt something shift in me. A seed of generosity was planted in me. I realized that if these children were so thankful and hungry for the little bit of attention I was able to provide as a backstage mom, what could I do if I really stepped up to the plate to help someone in need?

It didn't take long until I heard a voice inside tell me that the girl playing Annie, was that someone in need for me. So, I reached out to Sadie and our world has been forever changed. Annie (or Sadie) has lived with us on and off for the past 3 years, and last fall we expanded our family to take on legal guardianship of her 16 year old brother, Jeffrey.

The changes we have made make for chaos, drama and activity in our house, at a time in our lives that Mike and I once imagined we'd be experiencing an empty nest. The house is never clean. The laundry is never done. The cupboards seem like they empty as soon as they are filled. Many days I feel like I take one step forward and two back, and nights when worry gets the best of me, and I begin to doubt my own abilities... How did I think I could take on other people's children when I can barely raise my own? 

But the good it has brought to all our lives far outweighs the times we have struggled. There will always be long lasting love that grew out of that small seed of generosity, our new family was born. Our eyes have been opened to a new perspective, and our hearts will never be the same. When people look at our situation and wonder what we were thinking by making our lives more complicated, I answer with the only explanation I have. Because it was the right thing to do. Because we could.

 Our kids: Our hope

Bursting out of that bubble and taking a leap into the unknown, not only changed my life, but the lives of my family. For the better. I appreciate more, love more, and have lived more fully each day since.

I believe each of us has the power within ourselves to reach out in kindness. That small act can start a ripple effect that could eventually change a life, or who knows, maybe even change the world. Generosity is awesome like that, it has a way of spreading. You never know when one simple act might start something big in motion.

Here's what I hope you'll take away from the sharing of my story:

  • Don't be afraid to burst out of your bubble, whatever kind of bubble it is 
  • Listen to your inner voice if it is telling you to help someone in need
  • Practice true benevolence----give without expecting anything in return 

Oh yeah, and don't forget to tell someone if they've changed your life--you never know how that also might change theirs ----so to Dan & Ella Morgan, Mercedes (Sadie) & Jeffrey DeJesus, and the entire cast of Annie, THANK YOU for changing my life. For bringing about a change in me that I wish to be seen in the world.

"One of life's great rules is this: The more you give, the more you get." ----William H. Danforth