Since I was a little girl growing up in the 70's I'd wanted to do something important to help others. I distinctly remember watching Unicef commercials on television, Sally Struthers beseeching viewers to give generously as she held emaciated African children on her lap, flies buzzing mercilessly around their dark, wet eyes. I remember thinking I wanted to be just like her when I grew up and help poor innocent children get the food and water they deserved.
Well, life didn't exactly turn out that way for me. My dream went dormant for many years as teenagehood took over and time kept marching on. Once I reached mature adulthood, however, my desire to do something to help others resurfaced. For awhile, I focussed my efforts on college courses, aiming to one day join the ranks of social workers. That, I thought, would be a meaningful and worthwhile endeavour and satisfy my need to do something good in the world.
Then I had my first child. As my new career as a mother quickly kicked into high gear, I realized that I was doing something good in the world, I was raising a child. Our first daughter was so amazing my husband and I decided to have another one.
Being a stay-at-home with two little girls, I decided, was definitely my calling and one I was completely fulfilled by. I quietly and happily released the balloon that held my fantasy of one day becoming a social worker. I felt fortunate that I had found my path in life, that I didn't have to complete two more years of full-time schooling and job hunting to find it. It was right here at home.
However, as my girls grew and started school my mind again opened up to the greater community around me that went beyond my family and friends. With one child in school full-time and the other in pre-school, I suddenly found time to think about life outside the tight and cozy sphere of our home and family.
At this time Meghan and I were fast friends, along with our children. One day, as Meghan was on her way out the door after a playdate, she casually asked me if I had any toys or clothes that my girls had out-grown, to donate to the Mustard Seed. I was shocked. My husband and I had always donated money to the Mustard Seed and I had envisioned it as simply a food bank; a sterile place that collected and distributed food to poor people. Meghan explained that the Mustard Seed gratefully accepted donations of clothing, toys and all manner of household items. That innocent conversation is what started the seed that grew into Seed Ladies.
At first I was happy to off-load some things onto Meghan for her regular trips to the Mustard Seed, then one day I did a huge purge and decided that, with so much stuff, I would take it myself and see what the Mustard Seed was all about.
Was I in for a big surprise. The first day I drove in to the parking lot of the Mustard Seed, there was a long line of hungry, dejected faces lined up outside waiting to collect food hampers. I felt self-conscious and uncomfortable as I got out of my truck in the middle of the lot. Immediately, one of the many personable volunteers that are always nearby came over to me and asked if I was there to drop off a donation. I indicated my truck full of stuff and together we carted everything in.
After that life-changing first trip, I became obsessed with going through my children's toys and wardrobes, looking for things to donate. I cleaned out all of our closets and cupboards, removing anything that hadn't been used in recent months, things I was "keeping for a larger home."
And I had many rewarding visits to the Mustard Seed. Times when I opened the hatch of my truck and women would look over interested in what I was bringing in, sometimes trying on clothing or shoes right there in the lot, asking me how they looked. One day I had two scooters that my girls had outgrown. A family with their hamper food, clothing and other items stowed in a shopping cart was coming out and were thrilled to take them for their little girls. I felt an overwhelming urge to offer them a ride home, since I couldn't imagine how they would manage to carry the scooters and push the over-flowing, wobbly cart, but I quickly realized that logistically and otherwise it probably wasn't a good idea. Still, the experience nagged at me all day, never finding a way to reconcile itself in my head or my heart.
Fast-forward to winter later that year and it was a day I will never forget. I was pulling into the parking lot to drop off some donations before I had to pick up one of my daughters from school and I saw three different pregnant women with small children in tow coming out of the Mustard Seed with food hampers. I was completely taken aback. They looked totally worn out in a way that I'd never observed before; the kind of exhausted that comes from being a pregnant mother and living in grinding poverty.
I dropped off my stuff, drove away and for the rest of the day, I could not get the images of those young women out of my mind. That could just as easily been me, I knew, if my life circumstances had been different. I thought to myself that there must be something else I could do to help beyond taking things from home.
Finally, I had the idea that I would e-mail all my friends and see if they had anything to donate. In fact, I would do it every month and pick up their stuff. All they had to do was bag it and put on their front doorstep for me to collect. I set to work e-mailing everyone I thought would be interested and the response was overwhelming. Everyone loved the idea and was thrilled to be able to help the Mustard Seed by cleaning out their closets.
My monthly pick-ups yielded everything from boxes of children's books, to garbage bags of clothing, to car seats, to formula samples from a doctor friend. It was so successful and I felt infused with energy each time I delivered a truck-full of goods to the Mustard Seed and saw the people that would be helped by the donations.
But it still didn't feel like enough. A very close friend of mine is one of those people with big ideas and she suggested that if I wanted to do something more that I host a wine and cheese party and ask people to bring donations. It was a brilliant idea and became the first "Seed Ladies Night Out." Thirteen women showed up with formula, diapers and baby clothes for the Mustard Seed. It was also an opportunity to speak to the women about the work of the Mustard Seed and the ideas of "raising awareness" and "sowing the seeds of compassion" were born.
By the time I was ready to host the next Seed Ladies Night Out, my big idea friend had convinced me to start a website in order to spread the word more efficiently. At this point, Meghan, who had consistently provided a huge swell of support and enthusiasm to my project officially joined Seed Ladies. The next thing I knew, Meghan and I were having our picture taken at the Mustard Seed for an article in the Oak Bay News and the next day I was launching the Seed Ladies website.
I don't know where Seed Ladies will take us next, but our vision for the future is increased support for the Mustard Seed and the amazing work they do to help those less fortunate in the community. If you like what Meghan and I are doing, pass it on. Send your friends and family the link to our website. Help us help others by raising awareness and, together, we can make a real difference.