By Caroline Leedom | NB Indy
How do you counter the negative undertone of getting older? Simple: rebrand the experience.
That is what local resident Tracy Stayton has done since entering her 30s.
At 31, she minted the age as “thirty-wonderful.” At 32, she was, “thirty-too-good-to-be-true.” At 33, she was “thirty-free.”
She wasn’t married, didn’t have kids and was free to do as she wished, including travel.
After a trip to Hawaii, she had an unexpected “ah ha” moment during a conversation with a friend who shared with her a story of his recent near brush with death while boating, and the joy of realizing he was given a second chance at life. The “ah ha” moment came when her friend suddenly stopped mid-sentence and asked her, “Are you happy?”
“Of course I’m happy!” she immediately answered. “I have a great job, a great income and a home I was able to purchase on my own. Why wouldn’t I be happy?”
Her friend shook his head and stated “No, Tracy. Are you really happy?”
The question got her thinking. She realized she had strayed away from what was truly important in life. She knew she was fortunate yet she found herself craving material things to fill a void. That’s when she knew she needed to make a change.
So Stayton made a pact with herself in honor of her 34th birthday that she would devote her “thirty fortunate” year of life to committing 34 acts of service around the world.
To accomplish this, Stayton, held fundraisers and as a Rotarian with the Newport Beach Sunrise Rotary. She rented her condominium and quit her job as aquatics coordinator.
In order to decide which organizations to volunteer for, Stayton chose organizations and causes that spoke to her personally. Stayton also leveraged the contacts she acquired during her year-long fundraising efforts. Among these contacts was Steve’s Vision, an organization located in Newport Beach that provides reading glasses to seniors in need around the world. Stayton was provided with enough reading glasses by Steve’s Vision to be able to donate as she saw fit to seniors she came across in nearly every country she visited.
Prepped with supplies, contacts and her overwhelming desire to help others, Stayton officially began her “34tunate giving adventure” on Thanksgiving Day of 2014.
Stayton left California for Utah and Wisconsin, where she did everything from volunteer at Best Friend’s Animal Sanctuary to organize and facilitate a fundraiser for myTeamTriumph in Green Bay to participating in a shoe donation and sorting party for Soles for Jesus in Milwaukee.
On December 17, 2014, she embarked on an 11-month international journey. With only one trusty backpack holding what would be her only belongings for the next 333 days, Stayton set out for Mexico to begin work with her first International project: Centro Cristiano Internacional Monte Ararat, a Church in Mexico City who had connection ns with Saddleback Church in Orange County. During her time there, Stayton volunteered in a men’s prison, at an orphanage and with immigrants on La Bestia (a cargo train that many Central Americans risk their lives to take north looking for a better life).
Her journey took her to 25 countries, spanning six continents, enabling her to volunteer with over 34 organizations on construction, conservation and community projects.
Stayton wrapped up her year long giving journey serving meals with the Salvation Army at the Blaisdell Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Upon her return, Stayton was impressed by the desires of so many people to help but surprised by the lack of direction to do so.
Stayton then had a vision to turn her experiences and insight into a 4tunate movement inspiring people to commit to four acts of service a year. It’s based on the simple formula: One act of kindness + every three months = 4tunate.
This grew into social media postings with hashtags such as #4tunate and #4tunateFriday.
This has now turned into an entire movement, with schools, organizations, and corporations jumping on board to participate.
Stayton understands the power of gratitude. Gratitude improves physical and psychological health, enhances empathy, reduces aggression and opens the door to more relationships.
“Ask yourself, how much more fortunate we would all be if we did a minimum of one thing every three months to serve others and the world around us. It may be small but the impact would be huge,” Stayton said.
Stayton has spoken at local Rotaries (Newport Beach and Irvine) as well as Leadership Tomorrow in Newport Beach, where she was honored with the Excellence in Leadership Award this year.
Stayton books herself as an assembly speaker for schools, and helps the students and staff implement the 4tunate movement via social media with #4tunate and #4tunateFriday.