Monthly Archives: December 2014

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Happy Holidays from Thrively

Dear Friends of Thrively,

My business partner Girish Venkat and I started Thrively almost 2 years ago with the goal of helping kids discover and pursue their passions in life. We are both dads – I have three kids, ages 7 to 14, and Girish has two, ages 6 and 16 – and not a day goes by that we don’t discover something amazing from the experience of creating Thrively.

As we complete our first full year, we wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for spending some of your precious time exploring our website. Hopefully we’ve helped generate some smiles from your kids this year, along with a bunch of great questions and some requests to try cool new activities.

We trust you’ll all enjoy wonderful holiday and New Year celebrations with your families… and just maybe your kids will find a new robotics set, or some art supplies, or even some new sporting equipment or dance slippers among their gifts this year. Anything to spur on a new or existing passion!

Happy holidays from Girish, myself, and the entire Thrively team!

Cheers,

Jon

PS. Our latest additions to Thrively center around career inspiration! Check it out here.

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The ‘Season of Giving’ is Year Round – Fostering Compassion Beyond the Holidays

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It’s the classic image of celebrities helping the disadvantaged around the holidays – serving meals to the homeless. Spend twenty minutes spooning mashed potatoes in a cute apron on Skid Row, just long enough to get that photo, and they get to pat themselves on the back all year long.

Just as celebrities go back to their lives, so too do the residents of Skid Row go back to their lives. A gesture like this is just that – a gesture. Let’s be real, it’s far more about the ego of the reality star holding the spoon than it is about the reality of life for the people with the empty plates. But the flip side is, why would you discourage any kind of volunteerism? Isn’t anything people can do a good thing, a step in the right direction? What if that celebrity is inspiring someone else to volunteer?

I’m not here to judge either way. One big rainstorm helps a lot, but it will only take sustained regular precipitation above normal levels to make the drought go away. Similarly, one afternoon of volunteering helps a lot, but it will take higher than average participation levels to make significant improvements in someone’s life that needs it.

One great takeaway is to use holiday volunteerism as a gateway to a lifetime of giving. Compassion is something that happens all year long, and if you want to instill compassion as a core value for your children, then we need to foster it all year long.

The best way to do this is to get your kids involved in volunteer work that’s long term. You can certainly get started during the holidays, when it’s at the front of your mind and when you’re caught up in that holiday spirit.

For most of us, our time is more valuable than our money. It’s a bigger gift for you to give three hours than to give thirty dollars. And when it comes to creating a sense of shared struggle with individuals who need help and creating an understanding of their hardships within yourself and your children, offering time will have more of an impact. There’s an emotional connection with people in that time and place that embeds itself in your mind, and stays with you. And it stays with them too.

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We all live busy lives. Who has time to volunteer too? Isn’t this just one more thing on my to do list? On my kid’s to do list? Great, now I have guilt.

Think of it this way – why do you do all of the other things on your list? What’s driving you? What’s driving your kids? It’s great to be ambitious and to teach your children that drive for success. In fact it’s essential. But it’s also essential to temper that ambition with compassion; think of it as a way of creating balance. You’re nourishing your child’s emotional health by creating opportunities to develop empathy and purpose.

Our minds create categories of tasks  and marks them as essential or not essential. It’s how we decide what we can first take off of our plate or push to another day (hello, laundry).

Essential

    Non-essential

SAT prep      Going to a movie
Volleyball practice      Sleeping in
Dance lessons      Volunteering

Things in that right hand category get knocked off in service of the things on the left. That’s great, and completely an appropriate tool for managing life. All you have to do to help create a compassionate child is to move volunteering over to the left. When you prioritize volunteering, your children will grow up prioritizing it as well.

Our schools have tried to institutionalize this process by making it required. However, surveys continually show that kids and teens volunteer because they want to, not because they have to. Partly because it’s social, partly because it’s the best way to get involved with causes they care about.

Here are a few ideas of places to find long term volunteer opportunities. A few hours a month, that’s all you need. A little is far better than none. And what you’ll find is that both you and your children will want to do more once you get started!

Find somewhere that you enjoy going and that gets your kids excited. You don’t need to join a program, just find a place that piques your interest and ask to help out. And you don’t have to be feeding the hungry directly to be helpful. Sometimes filing, answering phones or sorting donations is a poignant need that charities have. Or, maybe you have a special skill like accounting, web design, or fundraising. Be creative!

  • Nursing homes
  • Museums
  • Animal shelters
  • Social activist groups
  • Food banks
  • Environmental organizations
  • After school programs
  • Community theaters
  • Family crisis centers
  • Non-profit thrift stores

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Celebrating Peace: The Christmas Truce of 1914

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It’s a little known moment in history but an incredible example of how the holiday spirit can have an impact even in the most dire of situations. War doesn’t generally stop for the holidays – but one hundred years ago it did.

the power of peace 1914 credit Diana Overbey – Presently in the Past

It was Christmas Eve 1914, and World War I was raging fiercely in Europe. British and German troops were battling in the trenches of the Western Front near Ypres, France. Of course the trenches of World War I were more than mere holes in the ground – they became home to the soldiers who fought from them day in and day out. As evening fell on Christmas Eve, the soldiers in both the British and German trenches were singing Christmas carols.

With dawn breaking over the horizon on Christmas day, several German soldiers peeked out of the trenches, and with hesitation called out “Merry Christmas” in English. Of course the British at first thought that this must be a trick. They discovered however that the Germans were unarmed, and then they climbed out themselves and shook hands with their enemies.

The soldiers exchanged simple gifts and shared food and songs. And unbelievably, it’s documented in some places that the soldiers indulged in soccer! Historical accounts tell us that the kickabout happened with a ration tin for a ball, but no one quite agrees on whether the Germans or the British won the match.

Troops during an intense war found a few hours of peace through thanks to the holiday spirit! How amazing is that?

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Unfortunately, fighting continued the following day, with the same men who broke bread and sang songs together shooting at each other again.

But one hundred years later, we can perhaps take solace in fact that peace is possible even in the most dire of situations. And maybe that can inspire us to create opportunities for peace in our own lives.