This past week I opened up a very small window of opportunity to hang out with my friend Paige Davis and the Volunteers of America to put in a few hours to help out Operation Backpack. Last years’ All Good Things post about Paige’s efforts as an ambassador with this organization was a such a good one, I wanted to just copy and paste it here. A year has gone by and that year brought new lessons and a new back to school recipe, so read on, my friends.
Operation Backpack is an annual event sponsored by Volunteers of America that collects and distributes school supplies to the children living in homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, and other centers for at-risk youth. As the daughter of two teachers, I’m sure I took my education for granted. It was a given that I would go to school, apply myself, and succeed wherever I chose to use my skills. Homeless children and those in shelters don’t have the luxury of education being a given circumstance for them. They’ve got bigger fish to fry. Hunger, possible abuse, and poverty. Getting to school sometimes takes a backseat because of the shame and embarrassment from what goes on in their family life. Operation Backpack takes a little pressure off of these children and equips them with the supplies they need to take some refuge in school and gives them an advantage in a world that often leaves them feeling less than their classmates with homes.
There’s a phrase that pops up in my house from time to time. “Tools to win.” When we talk about relationships and jobs, are we setting people up for success with our actions and words? Are we communicating clearly and not expecting people to read our minds? Are we being honest so people don’t have to navigate through our conversations, mining them for the truth? Are we being passive and apathetic, or are we taking action and participating in our relationships? We try to be clear with our needs and expectations, so those around us can show up for us and meet those needs, and not let us down. With tools like this, everybody wins.
You can take the ‘tools to win’ to a personal level. They may seem obvious, but many times, I don’t set myself up for success and am left to make notsogreat choices. My housemate Christopher packs a snack and carries it with him everyday, so he’ll always have something to eat to give him energy. He takes it very seriously. It’s adorable and inspiring. He’s actually more present with a full belly and not scrambling to find something healthy at the last minute when he’s between meetings, rehearsals, and classes. Sleep is a huge tool for success, and yet, it’s the one thing I scrimp on night after night. It’s a tool that I really want to utilize better as I move into the fall. I know I’m better prepared, calm and relaxed, and more available for what lies ahead when I start my day off well rested. I have a tool that isn’t an action or something tangible, but it is something I always leave the house with: optimism. It seems trite, but if I am hoping for the best in a situation and looking out for the best in a situation, very often I find it.
What are your tools to win and set yourself up for a successful day? It can be anything from taking 15 minutes to meditate or waking up early enough to drink a full cup of coffee in peace and quiet. Or maybe calling your mom or journaling when you wake up. I have a friend that manages a lot of people and she brings in theme songs to get her staff pumped up on big inventory days. It works! They stay motivated and happy coming back to their song as the day drags on.
As I was walking through the aisles of Operation Backpack, straightening and organizing the pencil boxes and notebooks for the backpacks to be stuffed, I became giddy looking at the boxes of school supplies. I mean, come on, these pictures are pure gold! I just saw boxes of potential. I imagined the words the kids would look up in their crisp new dictionaries. I imagined the notes they would highlight to lock the information into their little minds. I even thought about the mistakes they would make and how satisfying it would be to take the eraser, rub the miscalculation away, and start over with a new thought. I went even further to imagine how proud they would be to open up their backpack and feel like they belonged. They would know that someone cared about them. They would feel like they had just as much of a chance to succeed as any kid in their class, no matter their background or home life.
The success of Operation Backpack relies 100% on support from the community in the form of financial underwriting, donations of product and services and spreading the word and engaging others in the campaign. Please join me in helping Paige raise funds this year. As you reflect on your summer — maybe sending your kids to camp, your beach vacations, hiking with family, neighborhood barbeques, or even just running through the sprinklers and eating popsicles —please click on this link and make a donation. Your offering to Operation Backpack can be a ‘thank you’ for your summer and all of the abundance in your life. You’ll be giving these kids tools to win in the school year ahead, tools for their ultimate success in life.
I’m sharing a sweet little back-to-school recipe this week. An easy breakfast, a lunch box treat, an afternoon pick me up at the office, or dessert for the reward of a good day.
Chocolate and Banana Empanadas
- 20 empanadas discs or 20 circles cut out of ready made pie dough
- 3 firm bananas, peeled and chopped finely
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips, roughly chopped
- one egg mixed with a few drops of water to make an egg wash
- raw sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two cookie sheets with nonstick spray. Separate the empanada dough and lay out flat for easy filling. Combine bananas and chocolate chips. Place 2 tablespoons of banana chocolate mixture on one side of each dough circle. Gently fold the other circle half over the filling, pressing out any air bubbles and sealing the ends to form a half moon. Pinch one end and fold it over, continue pinching and folding until you get to the end. Tuck the little tail underneath the empanada. Place on cookie sheet. Continue with remaining dough, sealing, pinching, and folding. With a pastry brush, paint the egg wash on to the surface of each empanada. Dust the tops with raw sugar. Place the cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. If you have extra bananas and chocolate chip mixture, stir it into pancake batter, a smoothie, or spoon it on top of yogurt.