There’s something really special about giving back.
If you’ve ever volunteered, you’ve probably realized that though you intended to touch someone else’s life, they ended up touching yours.
I’ve spent the last 10 years in Hollywood volunteering with quite a few wonderful organizations but one has really stolen my heart. I want to tell you about it today because, well, for one, it’s Thanksgiving. And two, I’m grateful for my family, friends, the roof over my head and an exciting, creative career, but above all, I’m most thankful for my health.
I think this is something we often take for granted. It’s easy to wake up and expect to feel good. If you’re in good health, you have no reason not to.
But if you’re someone with chronic pain or a child with a life-threatening illness, you wake up expecting the worst and are surprised to find a day of temporary relief.
The Art of Elysium aims to give kids, senior citizens, people with special needs — and even the incarcerated — more good days than bad. I discovered The Art of Elysium while attending Variety’s annual Power of Women Luncheon back in 2008.
I spoke to someone running an information booth and was blown away by what AofE does. They believe that art is truly healing. It’s not a luxury, but a necessity. I immediately signed up for an orientation and began volunteering as soon as I could.
At first, it was intimidating.
The organization does its best to prepare you for the emotional capacity required to do this work. They have several different programs for all sorts of creatives — actors, fashion designers, musicians, make up artists, etc. And most of their workshops require you to get up close and personal with children facing very hard medical situations.
Having lost a sister to cancer in 2002, I found myself getting very emotional when I would leave the hospitals after the workshops. It’s hard to leave that heaviness behind and not feel down about the situations these families are in.
But it did get easier; I saw how the 15 minutes we spent with each family made a huge difference in their day. It’s 15 minutes for that sick child to just feel like a normal kid. To escape their pain, treatments, and worries and just play.
The moment I got out of my own pain, and put all of my attention on the child, everything shifted.
Truth is, the process was very healing for me. I didn’t know I had held onto to so much from my own experience.
Throughout the years, my husband has gotten involved and we’ve done everything from room-to-room hospital visits, to throwing a Shamrock Dance for Senior Citizens, to acting in plays written by kids in order to build their confidence and self-esteem.
It’s a truly joyful experience for everyone involved. This year, we’re honored to be on the Heaven host committee. We’ve thrown backyard fundraisers, like a paint-and-sip with our friends, to raise money for this wonderful cause.
So, as I sit here, in sleepy Delaware, where my husband is rehearsing for a play, dreaming of the faster pace of Los Angeles, I’m reminding myself it’s okay to slow down and enjoy the calm.
I’m grateful that I not only get to spend the holiday with my wonderful husband, but we’re both healthy and happy. That’s all we could ever ask for.
If you are looking for an organization to support this holiday season, consider The Art of Elysium.
(Semicolon Count: 1)