A month after I got married, at the age of 33, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. For a long time, each day seemed to bring new obstacles—and negative thoughts: I’m going to end up in a wheelchair. Mark’s going probably going to leave me. Why did this have to happen to me?
One day, when I called a friend of mine, an African medicine woman named Mbali Creazzo, expecting pity, she gave me an unusual prescription: Give away 29 gifts in 29 days.
“By giving,” Mbali told me, “you are focusing on what you have to offer others, inviting more abundance into your life.” The gifts, she said, could be anything—but the giving had to be both authentic and mindful.
I was skeptical, but I tried it. And I was amazed by what unfolded during my month-long journey. Many of my gifts were simple—a phone call, spare change, even a Kleenex. Yet the acts of kindness were transformative. By Day 29, my health and happiness had improved. Little did I know my experiment would soon turn into a worldwide giving movement (for more about it, visit our site), and the book I wrote chronicling my journey, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, would go on to make The New York Times bestseller list.
I still do 29-day giving cycles, and while I encourage others to do them, I realize this is a very busy time of year. So I’m asking you to join me and The Daily Beast in a seven-day giving challenge. Each day, I’ll recommend a few ways you can give—and of course you’re welcome to think up your own. I invite you to write in and let us know what you’ve given and how it was received—and how you felt after. As the holidays approach and our thoughts turn toward what we’re going to get, let’s focus for a week on what we can give.
Day 1. Be spontaneous. Go through your day with your eyes open and watching for unexpected opportunities to give. Give a tip to a street performer. Give some food or spare change to someone who needs it.
Day 2. Go for the green give. Give a reusable grocery bag to someone using “paper or plastic.” Walk more and drive less today. Plant a flower or a tree. Buy as much of your food as possible local and organic—look into a farm direct delivery program.
Day 3. Help those who can’t help themselves. Donate some clothes to The Salvation Army, Goodwill, or a local shelter. Donate money or food—or your time—at a local shelter, soup kitchen, or pantry. Volunteer to help out at an animal shelter.
Day 4. Give back to the world at large. Contribute to an organization that sends care packages to armed services men and women overseas. Drop off a toy or game at a hospital. Sign up to read at a local school, nursing home, or library.
Day 5. Acknowledge those who often go unnoticed. Make things easier for someone who could use the help. Hold the door for someone burdened with bags, or give up your seat to an elderly or disabled person. Bake some goodies for teachers, letter carriers, policemen, or firefighters.
Day 6. Go for the simple give. Bring a box of donuts or a bag of bagels to the office. Let another driver merge in front of you into busy traffic.
Day 7. Spread some holiday cheer. Pick up a “Dear Santa” letter at the post office and make sure the child’s wish is granted. Take the time to send out holiday cards reminding friends and family how much they mean to you.
Cami Walker is the author of 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2009). She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006. She created the online 29-Day Giving Challenge in April 2008, and has continued her own giving cycle every month since. She lives in Hollywood, California.