We received this lovely expression of gratitude from a Yoga Moves MS student based in Canada. 

I am so grateful for all the work Yoga Moves MS did putting the Giving and Gratitude challenge together — the Zoom calls, the emails and journal prompts. In the communication about the challenge, you asked people to share their experience participating in the challenge: who we helped, how we felt.

From the YMMS emails launching the challenge I learned about and subsequently signed up for the 365Give challenge (give a gift every day for a year, this is Jacqueline Way’s organization.) Three of my friends signed up to do it as well. We have weekly check-ins so we can learn from each other’s experiences. It is our commitment to follow through for the entirety of 2023.

The January Giving and Gratitude challenge has been an incredible experience with some fun ripples. One of my favorites is that after the Zoom call with Dr. Amy Sullivan, I looked up her daughter’s baking business. and I sent her $100, telling her to put $50 to her charity of choice and the other $50 to cover costs of making baked goods for the MS clinic where her mom works. I love this kind of pay-it-forward joy.

There are many other “gives” I could share, but the most meaningful part has been the way the Challenge has supported me to care for a close friend in the street community I first met in the late ’90s when I was an outreach worker. My partner and I have been her primary support for the past five years. She became family to us and was my best friend. Her generosity was unparalleled, and she had a lot of magic — she lived in dire poverty but the universe would provide her with things that she could gift to other people, which was hugely important to her. She somehow found a Jewish lamp for me and a meditation/prayer rug.

We loved her unconditionally and she loved us unconditionally, too. We saw her every day for years, until her mobility and my mobility tanked at the same time in 2022. As I regained my mobility through the YMMS classes I was able to start visiting her again. She had been very ill and also facing eviction and I provided support. She rallied briefly health-wise, but died suddenly at the end of January.

We were with her for the last couple hours of her life and she died peacefully and surrounded by love. She was a very magical person and I’m so grateful to have been – through the challenge – able to dig deep and give more than I thought I could.

At times it has felt simple and open-hearted and joyful to be able to show up with so much love and without conscious effort — to let go of the small-self “I”, and let the universe flow through me to benefit others. This experience has helped me reconnect with the capacity I have to give very deeply, which has been there since I was little. I lost touch with it last year with all the self-concern about my health.

I took Bodhisattva vows to become a Buddhist years ago, but haven’t been consistently living them. This challenge has helped me do that again. Sometimes in giving I felt resentful and overwhelmed. Being honest about the feeling that giving is not always sunshine and roses has been important for me. I’m accepting, holding compassion for, and having empathy for the full human experience, not only the “nice” feelings.

We are so grateful to this student for sharing their experience of the YMMS Giving and Gratitude Challenge! Do you have a story of giving and gratitude to share? We’d love to hear it. You can be anonymous if you like. Email mindy@yogamovesms.org