Insights: Give Your Hands to Serve

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This is the time of year that many local organizations hold their gala fundraising events. When attending these events, it is always a reminder of how many people live with trauma, loss, illness, or poverty in our own community, let alone our country and our world.

When we are so busy with our own lives, it is easy to forget all that is going on. Sometimes it is easy for us to live in our immediate surroundings and not realize the need out there.   

The well-known actor Denzel Washington says it well: “At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” 

I am reading an inspirational book called, ‘The Girl from the Train’ by Irma Joubert. Even though it is fictional, there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from it. In the book, a young girl – with the help of many people she meets along her way through life – was able to survive loss after loss and trauma after trauma. It took many people contributing in their own way to allow this orphaned girl to have a chance at life. 

Even when we give in small ways, we are part of making a difference in peoples lives. My first philosophy in life is “do no harm.” Being human, I am not perfect; however, I filter my actions and choices through this mantra as a way to live life. 

This past week I was fortunate to attend three charity events. 

One was a gala at The Island Hotel to benefit Laura’s House, an organization that assists and empowers victims of domestic violence. It was powerful to hear the impact such an organization has, both as a larger attempt to stop domestic violence and also each person one by one. 

When an organization like Laura’s house assists a family, they are also helping to stop the pattern of violence from further generations. As a therapist, I also look not just at the physical aspect, but the emotional trauma that violence causes, and this in-turn affects how people feel about themselves, their ability to have healthy relationships and friendships. 

What an incredible impact this organization makes, and it started with one person’s willingness to make a difference. Visit for more information on this wonderful organization.

Another event I attended at Big Canyon Country Club benefitted The Wooden Floor, which assists students who want to pursue dance, but it is not just about dancing. They help with keeping students and families on track for college through counseling, and scholarships. 

I read on their website that “100 percent of their graduates have finished high school on time and enrolled in higher education.” That is a strong statement. Encouraging youth to dance is a wonderful way for them to express and feel good about themselves. Visit for more information.

Do you know that 45,000 second and third graders cannot read, 50 percent of adults cannot read above an eight-grade level, and four out of five people on welfare cannot read?

For most of us, we are not aware of these alarming statistics. Fortunately the Newport Beach-based The Literacy Project, which held its annual gala at the Newport Beach Country Club, goes into schools and other facilities and tackles these issues. They believe by working with second graders they can bridge this gap. 

What I enjoyed about this project is the use of mentors to these young people to give them help and hope. What was also surprising is that it only takes $100 to assist one student to read well in the Literacy Project program, and they get 30 weeks of assistance, which in turn changes their world forever. Visit for more information.

The president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, Kathy Calvin said, “Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.” 

Making a difference comes in many forms, even in our own families.  Sometimes this can be even more difficult to do, because there is history or pain within the family. This does not mean we enable a family member, but maybe we take the time to check in on them when times are tough or make a call on our way to work. 

In my office, I work with other therapists, and one of my colleagues is always bringing in and taking care of the plants at no expense to the rest of us. She also keeps my office supplied with lovely plants including an orchid.  I like to bring in treats for people such as banana bread and birthday cakes. We write kind messages on our group white board.  his is why I believe that for 15 years of working together, we have not had one problem.

Mother Teresa who is an inspiration for most of us on how to give, said “Give your hands to serve and your hearts to love.” 

Take heed and think about how you want to part of the world and make a difference. 

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected]

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