I was sitting at my desk with a cup of coffee, scanning my Facebook news feed, as I do most mornings when a close friend’s caption caught my attention. “Any of you have a few minutes to write a note, a card or a letter of encouragement to this Mama? Sometimes having happy mail can make all the difference in a person’s day. It sounds like she is really struggling…”
I wondered why she was struggling and how a simple card or letter from a stranger might fix it? So, I clicked the link, and it took me to a website called Together Rising (formerly Monkee See – Monkee Do). The “Mama” my friend was referring to had written a post in a program called “Holiday Hands” — an online forum where people post a snippet of their current situation then make a specific request of how to help.
Once I began reading the posts, I could not pull myself away. There were dozens of humble requests — a single mom with two forms of cancer who would like help buying Christmas gifts for her children; a request on behalf of a family with six kids who recently lost both parents; a woman that just fled an abusive relationship who is in financial trouble; a family who lost everything to a house fire…
Many of the women were asking for nothing more than simple words of encouragement. Each request was small even though their needs were big.
What an incredible program — I had to share. My initial thought was to select a few posts that had not been answered and feature them in an article as a way to help get the word out. But, as I skimmed through the posts, almost all of the wishes had already been fulfilled!
People were offering gift cards, Christmas presents, letters of support, and more. The responses to each request were as sincere and humble as the request itself. The outpouring of love and kindness between strangers was touching. Reading the Holiday Hands posts was so moving that I immediately felt an overwhelming desire to get involved.
Holiday Hands is an effort by the all-volunteer non-profit, Together Rising (an impressive grassroots organization that has raised over $1,600,000 since 2012 to help families in need!). It originated from Glennon Doyle Melton’s popular blog, Momastery.com, where she writes deeply personal thoughts on overcoming bulimia, addiction to food, drugs and alcohol, and talks openly about motherhood, marriage, love, and faith. She shares the brutal and beautiful — or “brutiful”, as she puts it, nature of life.
I reached out to Glennon asking if I could write an article about Holiday Hands. She was gracious enough to call and personally answer my questions. Our conversation felt more like a chat with an old friend than an interview with a stranger.
“I didn’t even start this,” she confessed during our call. “I’m a recovering everything, and just wanted a place where I could tell the truth about how I was experiencing life. And, what that’s turned into is a whole community of women wanting to do the same thing, and wanting to help other women do the same thing. It’s a very upside-down story.”
Glennon explained that the holiday giving started one Christmas when someone from the Momastery community suggested they adopt a family. It was a success and felt good, so they continued the next year.
“It was a very organic thing,” she told me. “Holiday hands proves that people are as desperate for connection and to feel empowered and to feel like they can make a difference, much more desperate than people are for “stuff” they need. We’re all givers and receivers. It really does feel like an even playing field.”
To my surprise, Holiday Hands is only a small part of Together Rising. With the motto, “we can’t do great things, we can only do small things with great love” Glennon and her community came up with something called a “Love Flash Mob.” A couple of times each year a “mob” raises astonishing amounts of money, from donations all $25 or less, to make an immediate impact in someone’s life.
For example, a teen mom with nowhere to go needed $80,000 to get placed in a program that would provide housing and childcare for two years. Glennon wrote about this young woman’s need, and the “Love Flash Mob” raised $83,000 in five hours, at a rate of 300 donations per minute, from 15 different countries, with an average donation of $16. The mom and her baby were in their new home that same night.
“At Momastery we always say, “Love wins,” “We can do hard things,” and “We belong to each other,” Glennon said. “Which is all well and good and true, but for someone who has never gotten a break and had never been taken care of those words seem empty. Strangers and other mothers all over the world decided that she’s worth it. For the first time, she started believing that. From that moment, she never missed a day of high school. She’d get up at 5 a.m. take her little boy to daycare, go to school, tutoring, then to an evening job. She’s saved enough money where she’s already out on her own now. That shows the power of someone believing in you.”
Another Love Flash Mob raised $125,000 in six hours — enough to provide four families with service dogs for diabetic babies who need their blood sugar checked every couple hours. The service dogs will wake up the families if the child’s insulin drops too low which could save their life.
“People think that giving is just for rich people,” Glennon noted. “But, giving to a stranger is the most amazing, life-changing thing.”
“When women get filled up they overflow,” she explained. “The reason we don’t overflow in our everyday lives is because we don’t take the time to fill up. We think we can just keep giving and giving without ever being a receiver. At Momastery, we take the time to fill each other up.”
The impact of Momastery and Together Rising is extending far beyond the online community. “When women are walking around in their daily lives and look at other women, I want them to have this knowledge that that other woman is going through all of the same pain and joy and struggle and triumph that they are. I want them to see past the surface stuff and see deeper into each other woman.” Glennon added, “I feel that now. That makes me feel so connected and safe because we’re all the same.”
After thinking that I had taken up way too much of her time, I thanked her and said that I should let her go. She told me that she enjoyed the break, and had been locked up in her bathroom during our call while her kids played. I hung up feeling amused, and inspired.
Glennon is an example of what is possible when someone decides to show up every day to do their best and make a difference. She and her community of more than 600,000 people are changing the world by coming together in a small way to make a huge impact.
Since speaking with Glennon, one of her Love Flash Mobs raised $475,000 in 24 hours to build a maternity wing in Haiti and to provide critical resources to refugees in Greece, Croatia and Germany. And, just today she announced The Compassion Collective. In a statement on the Momastery Facebook page,
“People always ask: Glennon, how do I find my purpose?
I look at them and say: Tell me what breaks your heart.
There you go. THAT’S YOUR PURPOSE. Serve those hurting ones. When you arrive to love them — you will find there all of the people whose hearts break for the very same reason yours does. AND VOILA: YOU WILL HAVE FOUND YOUR TRIBE.
Service heals the world and our own loneliness at the same time. Today, I am asking you to join a tribe of people who have followed their broken hearts toward refugees and toward each other.
Today’s refugee crisis is the worst humanitarian emergency the world has seen since World War II. Just as the Greatest Generation’s response to the holocaust defined them, so will our response define us. We want to be remembered as the generation that chose Love over Fear.
The five of us — Elizabeth Gilbert, Brené Brown, Cheryl Strayed, Rob Bell and I — have a plan to alleviate the unimaginable suffering of our refugee brothers and sisters by raising one million dollars through small gifts with great love. The max you can give is $25. Every $5 offering is critical. We’ll need all of us to make this happen. YOU ARE PART OF THE PLAN.
If you don’t join us — our plan will fail.
If you do — the world will change today.
Please, please join us to say: I STAND WITH LOVE. Please please please show up. I am not afraid to beg you on behalf of those desperately leading their families toward safety.
We Belong To Each Other. Let us prove it. Let us say to hurting ones: WE SEE YOU. YOU HAVE NOT BEEN FORGOTTEN.
I hope that you will join Glennon and the amazing company that she keeps in their efforts to help lift up others and themselves by small, consistent acts of love. Together we really can make a difference. Initiatives like Holiday Hands, Love Flash Mobs, and now, The Compassion Collective are proof that we all are powerful enough to create the world that we want to live in and leave to future generations.
UPDATE: The Compassion Collective raised ONE MILLION DOLLARS in 31 hours with 40,000 donors! You can still give and help exceed their goal by visiting www.thecompassioncollective.org