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You Just Need A Project!

Updated: Feb 11

Years ago, my grandmother was talking to my mom about one of her friends. Grandma said, "Sophie says she is depressed. But she just needs a project!" My grandmother was very emotionally steady and quite happy throughout her life. She was always involved in doing things to help poor people, cooking for Meals on Wheels, or making crafts projects with friends to sell. It was an interesting perspective to hear this thought from her. But I can honestly say I believe there’s some truth in it. 

In Victor Frankel‘s book, "Man’s Search for Meaning," he describes the basic premise of logotherapy - people need to have meaning in their lives and that’s what elevates mood and can keep us happy. 

How many times have you gotten involved in something that really inspired you, kept your mind occupied, so much that you could put aside your sadness and worries? 

I live on Maui. I was away during the horrible summer wildfires. Luckily, our home was spared, although neighborhoods near us were briefly evacuated. Two houses on our old street, up on a mountain, burned to the ground. The aftermath of these fires, especially the one in Lahaina, is beyond devastating. Returning a few months later and seeing the way things are now has been heartbreaking. Even though we live in an area many miles from the big fires, and life seems normal, they are still on every Maui resident’s mind. 

This past Thanksgiving we were away from our three adult children and I was really missing them. It would be our first Thanksgiving without any of the kids. So my husband and I decided to cook for the homeless. We went to a shelter and helped prepare a big beautiful meal, met some new friends, and it was a lot of fun. 

During this process I found out about other homeless shelters on the island. There were far more than I realized, and they needed help. In addition to all the homes and other buildings lost in the fires, a homeless shelter in Lahaina burned down. So many people needed a place to go. I spoke with a woman who helps manage two shelters, she said people came there with nothing. They needed clothes, bedding, household items, things for their children, everything to start a new life. I discovered that in these two shelters alone, there were 47 total children! 

So then I reached out to my community and asked if anyone wanted to make donations. Clothes, shoes, books, towels, bedding, toys, myriad kitchen items quickly started pouring in. I was astonished and so touched at people’s generosity and deep desire to help. Piles of donations took over my home office. 

I had an idea. I wanted to have one wrapped new Christmas gift for each of the children. Honestly I felt a little overwhelmed with the sheer number and how to get it all done. But in my mind and heart, I wanted to make that happen somehow. 

The next day my friend called. She was hosting a party where people were donating wrapped gifts for children who survived the fires! Would I like them for the shelters? I was thrilled. She collected many gifts as well as $1000 in cash! Her mother loved shopping and bought and wrapped beautiful gifts for all 47 children. 

This started with a small idea and it just blossomed. I felt so touched that I could help these people in even a small way. I met a woman in line at a store who lost everything in the fires, but her children and husband survived. She pointed to her matching necklace and earrings with tears in her eyes and said, “This is all I have left.” We talked about her kids and she said they were not doing well. We talked about what could help - school routine, YMCA visits, and time. Her level of surrender and gratitude was so touching. 

I’ve made four trips with my car jam packed to deliver donations to the shelter. Three on my own, and one with my friend when we delivered the Christmas gifts for the kids. That was a great day. 

After the first delivery, I was told by the woman who works at the shelter, that after we put out the items for the residents to look through, every single thing was taken. That made me realize just how important these donations were. 

So, when in doubt, or despair, maybe try to create a project that has meaning for you. I find the ones where I’m helping others are the best of all.

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