One of the best ways to find gratitude in our lives is to help someone who has less than we do and this summer I discovered one of the easiest and most gratifying ways to give little things that bring big joy.
Pack for a Purpose is a non-profit that enables travelers to make a difference in the communities they visit. Here’s how it works: Plan your trip. Visit the Pack for a Purpose website to find your destination and what's needed there. Pack a little or a lot for those in need. When you arrive, deliver your gift to the participating tour operator, hotel (even if you're not staying there), or ask to take it directly to the charity. It’s so easy! Plus you'll end up with extra space to bring home travel treasures.
My family tried Pack for a Purpose for the first time when we recently traveled to Africa and the amazing Ulusaba Safari Lodge, a place with heart and soul that supports its community in many ways, including this. Giving in this new way was a huge improvement from our old method of trying to figure out which charities were legit and what they needed. Often we shrugged our shoulders and just took cash, hoping our research would put it to work in the best place. But Pack for a Purpose takes all that guesswork away.
Rebecca Rothney is backbone of this non-profit. The North Carolina woman was sixty years old when she decided in 2009 that travelers could be instrumental in filling needs in struggling communities. She figured that taking donations was sort of like taking a hostess gift to show gratitude for visiting there. Now Pack for a Purpose is in more than sixty countries.
I recently interviewed Rebecca, a delightful, spark plug of a woman who is nothing short of inspiring, both in terms of her work and her determination to start this at an age when most people are ready to wind down. I wish you could meet her. You’d love the determined way she follows her passion and reminds us it's never too late to follow ours.
Now that I’ve tried Pack for a Purpose, I am convicted that every traveler journeying to every participating destination should get on board, especially those with families. It was different for us this time as we collected items and watched our stash grow, as we carried our bag of goodies through airports, delivered it ourselves and decided to spend some time in the community, planting spinach and painting a school. We were no longer on the sidelines, no longer just handing over money. Instead, we became active participants in the process. And that changes you. It makes giving and doing settle somewhere deep inside that calls you in a different way and says this matters. Let’s do this again. And again. And again. And today, on day fourteen of The Big Joy of Little Things, I am most grateful for that.
Rebecca asked me to write more about my family's experiences for the Pack for a Purpose website, which you can read it here.