Devote Yourself to creating something that gives you purpose . . .

"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning."

Tuesdays with Morrie, author Mitch Albom

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

This is my Why

This Sunday I've been invited to speak to our church family about the mission we've adopted to collect pennies over the summer from our lakeshore community. This is what I plan to share:

Happy Mother's Day,

On March 26, 2004 a tiny baby girl was born in Yangjiang City, Guangdong Province China. On April 10, 2005 a baby who was conceived in my heart, but not in my tummy was placed in my arms which became the happiest day in my life, next to my wedding day to Pete, of course. For nearly three years, my husband Pete and I talked about becoming parents, and on that day we held a 17 pound, 12 month old baby girl who was and still is the most precious child in our whole world.

For nearly a year while we waited to bring Yang Guo Qian home, I had read as much as I could to understand the circumstances that led so many women in this area of the world to relinquish their rights to be mothers. And I’ve cried many tears for them. In the past five years I’ve continued to read about the plight of women and children in other parts of the world, not just in China.

This past year I came across the book 3 Cups of Tea, a story about Greg Mortensen, who learned of a condition in the Middle East where nearly 130 million children had no access to a formal education. Many of us may never truly understand the hearts and minds of people from this area of the world who are desperate for a better life, but in early 1993 Greg learned of 84 children in a small village in Pakistan who wanted an education, who had to share a teacher with a neighboring community. They had no school building, no desk, no chair, no pencil, paper, or school books. These children were writing with sticks in the sand hoping some day to have an education that would lead to a better life.

Now Dr. Greg, as he is called by the children, has built 131 schools in this region of the world where 118 million children are still waiting for a school and a teacher. 78 million of those children are girls. Through a program called “pennies for peace”, school-age children have raised the vast majority of the money that has helped him build these schools.

When I became a mother in 2005, I move away from a 20 year career working for large corporations and another 7 years installing software in nearly 300 automotive based supply companies. In 2007 I started my own company after inventing a product, and last year, I created an organization called 3 Degrees Connected, which is a women’s network aimed at helping business women in West Michigan make connections to help stimulate the growth of their businesses, and to share lessons learned. We want to help women to not feel alone in the learning process.

In a little more than a year, this organization has become a non-profit organization and we have grown to about 300 women interested in making connections. We meet 3 times a year and talk about things like setting goals, time management, networking skills, marketing, dressing for success, and how to run businesses on a shoe-string budget. We would like to become a 501(c)3 organization when we come up with the funds to do so.

We have a local interest in helping women, but as this organization has developed, I’ve tried to help women understand, that our lives with our stresses is so much more appealing than the life given to women and children elsewhere. We have the ability to make a difference. We have taken on the service project to raise awareness, and raise pennies through the program “pennies for peace”. You will see canisters in local stores throughout our community where we will be saving pennies to help purchase school supplies, or build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We will be collecting money from May – August this year, and with the help of young girls through Girls Scouts Troops or Girls on the Run, we hope to count those pennies. We hope that we will teach people the value of a penny creating an opportunity for educating children, where a teachers salary is about a $1 a week.

The reason I’m sharing this with you is, we would like families within our church to collect pennies for the next 3 months. We would also ask that you share this message with other families you know outside this church. Take a recycled water bottle, place it on your kitchen counter and begin to fill it with pennies. Bring it back to church or deposit at one of our local businesses that has a canister, and let’s see what a difference our community can make to improve the lives of others. If anyone has a business where they would like a canister, please look me up, give me a business card, and we will make sure you get a canister.

Within a year, you will see many more signs of this mission showing up in the community through book clubs, tea receptions, and school district involvement. We’ve already made some great connections with two universities and hope to develop more understanding of the plight of women in children in our world.

The reason that I have posted this story on our women's network, is that I want to encourage all women to "know their why". "Why are you running your business, why are you involved in a women's network, why would you give to a good cause." When you know your "why" it makes all the difference in the world. Don't just know it in your head . . . write it down on a piece of paper.

Written by Rhonda W. Geneva, President of Geneva Girls Designs, LLC, wife, and mother

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