By MYX coach Christina LaGrega
Do you remember when you were a kid, and the week before the school year started you’d get your school supplies list together and head to the local store to pick out your favorite colored folders, princess or superhero lunchbox, and then stick your nose in a box of freshly sharpened crayons?
What about that overwhelming feeling of anticipation you had waking up Christmas morning, hoping you got exactly what you asked Santa for? I mean, after all, you’d circled so many toys in the famous Toys “R” Us “Big Book” that you had to get at least one thing you requested!
Well, I know exactly what it feels like to walk into school without brand-new school supplies. For many years, I never had the experience of comparing Barbie lunchboxes with my friends because I was on the government-funded free lunch plan. I often made due with leftover crayons from the previous year. And Santa seemed to miss my house on more than one occasion.
Those kinds of feelings never really leave us. As an adult, I came to understand that I had a choice: I could let those feelings weigh me down, or I could do something with them.
In 2012, I opened my own business, Remix Fitness and Wellness, a fitness and personal training studio in New York City. One of the vows I made at the outset was to be a place where we made a real impact. Part of my business model was to pay it forward, with my biggest driver being giving back.
As the months passed, I not only saw the impact that my “give forward” initiative had, but I felt it. I was happier, I felt my cup filling … and the people around me were happier, and their cups were filling, too. If you look up “helper’s high” you’ll find studies showing that acts of kindness and charitable activity stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain’s reward center, triggering feelings of happiness and wellbeing, even euphoria. You feel good when you make a difference in people’s lives, and with repetition, that good feeling becomes a way of life. It became my way of life.
That led me to create Project Remix in 2017 and give my community work an official designation. That September, I reached out to my social media network and together we filled more than 500 school bags—with colored folders and superhero lunch boxes, freshly sharpened crayons and iPads and gift cards—and handed them out to underprivileged children so that they could walk into school with proud shoulders and a little more confidence. That project quickly caught on and the following year we were able to fill more than 700 school bags with school supplies.
There are 2.5 million homeless children in the United States at any given time. That heartbreaking number represents 1 in every 30 children. In 2018, I “adopted” 65 children living in New York City shelters, and again with the help of my social community fulfilled their Christmas wish lists. Rather than asking for the newest Xbox, their requests were more along the lines of (grab the tissues): “Santa, can you bring me a bed to sleep on so I do not have to sleep on the floor.”
Among the school supplies and gifts we provided them with, the most treasured gift we could give was hope. Hope is the true gift that keeps on giving. With random acts of kindness, you reinforce the hope that humanity is good, that people are kind, magic is real, and miracles do happen. Isn’t that what the holiday season is really about?
My giving is a part of who I am. It has extended from my own heart, to my immediate family, my community, to strangers across the country and overseas. Help others, do good, be the change, and make someone smile. Simple.
The joy, the belly butterflies I get from the look in a child's eyes when I hand them something that they not only want, but need … I could never find the words to describe that. But I will leave it at this:
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Inspired to give? Here are 3 ways you can give back this season:
- With travel restrictions in place this holiday season, it’s important to check-in on your family. Pick up the phone and call a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. It will be sure to brighten both of your days.
- Although we may not be able to volunteer in-person this year, there are plenty of virtual ways to give your time throughout the holiday season.
- Donate to your local food bank. Many families are in need of extra assistance this holiday season and this is a simple way to make a big difference. Just be sure to wear your mask and social distance if you are going to donate in-person.