By Trevor Sipos

I’ve always found that listening to music is a simple way to achieve piece of mind.  The melodies of a good song can take us away from our problems and let us feel more positive emotions.  However, a beautiful song with powerful lyrics can not only influence our moods, but also shape us as people and inspire us to make important changes in our lives and the lives of others.  John Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” has had this kind of impact in my own life.

The things that Lennon says in his song resonate with me deeply.  “No need for John Lennongreed or hunger … nothing to kill or die for…”  He speaks about a world where everyone is not so divided and peace has been achieved.  He goes on to say, “You may think I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one, I hope someday you will join us and the world will be as one.”  This song speaks volumes about the power of unification.  Alone it can be hard to make a large impact but when you find people who are also inspired to make a difference then a lot can be achieved.

Getting involved with UniversalGiving has been one of the greatest decisions in my life.  The company’s vision of “creating a world where giving and volunteering are a natural part of everyday life,” is an inspiring goal to live by.  Here, I work with coworkers who share my belief that giving donations and volunteering one’s time and effort can and will make a positive impact in the lives of those who need help.  My world-view has changed after becoming more aware of all the crises that occur in the world and the less than desirable living conditions that many face on a daily basis.  I know that my time with UniversalGiving will give me a better perspective on how to help others and enjoy my own life!

If I had to make one recommendation from what I have learned, I would say that you should live in the moment as much as you can.  It’s like the Lennon song goes,”Imagine all the people living for today.”  Think about what you could do right now that would make someone’s life better.  Whether that is smiling at a stranger, writing a letter to an old friend, or donating your time or money towards a cause, it all makes a valuable difference!


Pamela’s Weekly Words of Wisdom: Tell Your Team They Are Great and DON’T Give Them Anything To Do

One of the most powerful things you can do to recognize someone on your team is to call them and thank them and say “You’re doing a wonderful job today, and I wanted to thank you. That’s it. I just wanted you to know, and for you to take the time to recognize it. Please know how much I appreciate your consistent work and positive attitude.”  Do not add on a ‘to do.’ I know that’s tempting as we as CEOs have a lot we want to accomplish!  But just let the conversation rest in genuine appreciation. It’s one of the best ways you can thank someone — without agenda.

Dear Mr. Claus

By Cheryl Mahoney

It’s that time of year again.  Garlands are strung and lights go up and the malls are packed and kids write letters to Santa Claus.  And sometimes, adults do too.  Here’s what I might ask for, if I were to write to the man at the North Pole.

Dear Santa Claus (or St. Nicholas, or Father Christmas, or Kris Kringle–whoever’s listening),

I hope you, and Mrs. Claus, and the elves, are all well this year.  In the enchanted land of Santa’s village, I’ve no doubt you are.  Out here in the rest of the world, I can’t complain for myself, but the world in general has quite a few troubles.  But you’re likely aware of that, considering you have eyes everywhere!  So for Christmas this year, while I would like Michael Crawford’s autobiography or the complete Star Trek DVD box set, there are a few bigger matters you might look into.

To start with the most pressing, time-wise, I’d like world leaders at Copenhagen to feel some of that giving, harmonious spirit you embody, and do the right thing for all of us by coming to an agreement for reducing carbon emissions and protecting the planet.  Perhaps you’ve encountered the problem of climate change yourself, Santa–have you noticed any melting near the North Pole?  If leaders can’t come to an agreement though, please, no coal this year.  How about some CFL Lightbulbs instead?  Could be a good way to change with the times…

My mother’s been asking for world peace for Christmas (and sometimes birthdays and Mother’s Day too) for years.  I think we’d both settle for peace in the Middle East though.  And in Darfur.  And the Philippines.  And…well, perhaps you’d better aim for world peace after all.

I don’t need money, but a few millions would be nice–a million trees planted and a million mosquito nets for Africa and a million soccer balls for kids in refugee camps.  And a million girls going to school and a million babies born safely and a million letters sent to old friends.

I’d like unemployment rates to go down, and charitable donations to go up, for volunteering rates to increase and for UniversalGiving’s follower count on Twitter to reach 2,000.  I’d like people to think about others who are in need of a little help, and to think about reaching out.  And to keep that spirit into the new year.

And in the spirit of “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” I suppose I’m not really writing to the man at the North Pole at all, but rather–to whoever is listening.  Santa might be the only one who can help everyone all  by himself (with some help from elves), but everyone can help someone.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

Gratitude and Giving

By Cheryl Mahoney

I don’t expect many people to read this post the day it goes up.  I don’t expect many people to be on the internet on that day either.  I won’t be–I’m typing this on Wednesday, not Thursday, though thanks to delayed publishing that’s the date you’ll be seeing at the top.  I don’t expect many people to be reading on Thursday because, as I likely don’t need to tell you, Thursday happens to be Thanksgiving.  And I expect people will be a little too busy to be reading.

Busy with turkeys, and football games, and traditions, and long-distance calls to relatives, and arguments over drumsticks.  Busy appreciating our blessings and being thankful.

Gratitude is an important theme in UniversalGiving’s culture.  We believe in giving to others and changing the world.  We also believe in appreciation and affirmation and being grateful for the people around us, for the accomplishments we achieve, for the blessings in our organization and in our lives.  So even if no one’s here reading on Thursday, I couldn’t let the day go by without an acknowledgment.

One thing I’m grateful for: having a CEO who puts a strong emphasis on gratitude.  Our founder and CEO, Pamela Hawley, has written some beautiful thoughts on gratitude for her blog, Living and Giving, in the past.  It only seemed fitting to share an excerpt today.

Right now, can I think a positive thought? What is going well?  No matter how tough it gets, there has to be some thing that is going well.  Thank you that the sun is shining. Thank you that I have a great father, or wonderful relationship with my sister.  Thank you that I have a wonderful new bed that allows me to sleep peacefully.  Thank you for the rosebush on the street, that blooms so radiantly, and is free for all of us to smell and enjoy. 

For the challenges that seem to keep you stuck, remember, it will pass. The mountain will pass and at some point, you get to start walking downhill.  So keep climbing, keep being grateful, and…. keep going.

My 97 year old Oma and grandmother, one of my best friends once told me,” Whenever I feel down I find something to be grateful for, and I find someone else who is in a worse situation and help them. It helps me be grateful.”

Gratitude gives us a humble confidence to continue pursuing our dreams, step by step.

Gratitude brings a sense of joy, peace and then confidence so that we can maintain our course. Go for it – – and be grateful along the path!

Whatever day you’re reading this, thanks for being here.  I’m grateful that you are.  I hope you have much to be grateful for in your own life, and, if you feel moved to do so, I hope you’ll think about finding someone else to help too.