“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ―  Winston Churchill

I have always had a strong desire to give back. I acknowledge that my life on this earth is a minor blimp in time, a moment passed by the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things. A piece of me has always wanted to leave a footprint behind. Make a difference and touch people’s lives.

Why do I feel so compelled to give back and spend endless hours fulfilling this desire and dream?

These beliefs and values grew over time, slowly forming, changing and molding through the years as I traveled more and begin to see the world and scratch my head in disbelief.

The first time I saw extreme poverty was when I was six years old.

I grew up in a leafy suburb, not living extravegantly but having everything a young child needed. Love, affection and a world to explore. We had a nice home with a beautiful acre of forest surrounding it. A loving family of five with a mother who stayed home to raise the kids, volunteer at school, serve a family meal each night and be there to help us, comfort us and guide us when we needed. This was my reality. A wonderful reality and a beautiful, memorable childhood.

Yet, a family trip through inner Mexico in the late 1970s opened my eyes. Opened my eyes to how good we had it back in Minnesota and how hard other people had it around the world. We drove by comfortably in our station wagon while glancing out the windows. Then we saw how people lived. In flimsy, filthy shacks along the steep mountainous road. One hard rain and it was gone. One mistep and you were hit by a car. That image has remained in the back of my mind for over 30 years and it won’t go away.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve been blessed with more than I can possibly imagine. I went to college, studied abroad, pursued a career and followed my dreams of seeing the world. I’ve been to places that I never imagined possible from the southern tip of Patagonia to the mountains of Nepal. Yet in the depths of my heart, I am constantly reminded of the inequities and injustice in life each time I travel.  I can no longer turn blindly away from what I’ve seen. I’ve realized that travel is a gift and when you receive one, you must give something back in return.

Hence, I’ve dedicated my life to the gift of giving back.  

I give my time…

Volunteering with Javiar at a nursing home in Costa Rica.

I give my mind…

Advocating for UN Foundation Shot@Life with my children.

I give my heart…

Volunteering with under-privileged children in Guatemala.

I give my soul…

Before going to Nepal to follow my dreams of hiking the Himalayas, I raised enough money to build a reading center as a gift in return.

I give myself…

Nothing is more important than my family. I give my love, my life and my time to them.

There could be no better thing in this world to give than to get.

This post is in response to Giving Tuesday. To learn more about Giving Tuesday, click here.


  1. Nicole this is such a beautiful post. World travel had the exact same effect on me in opening my eyes and my heart, and inspiring the desire to give back. I am in awe of how much you have already done and continually do for others, and so admire the passion with which you pursue your philosophy.

    1. Oh Elizabeth! Thank you so much! Yes travel has truly opened my eyes and I feel so blessed to be able to do it and to give back in return. I just booked my next volunteer trip for this January to Honduras. I can’t wait to do more. 🙂

  2. Beautiful post. Reminds me of the saying from a song “to be understood is to understand, to be loved is to love and it is in giving that you receive and in pardoning to get pardon…” 🙂

    1. Cool! I checked it out and I really like your ideas! There are tons of blogs and people you can follow on this such as “The Armchair Advocate” which I really like. Good luck and keep writing! 🙂

  3. What a fabulous article! As a mom-philanthropist as well, I can identify with your passion and endless persuit of making the world a better place for all. Keep up the great work! You inspire me to do more…

    1. Cool, thanks! Your blog looks really cool and sounds like we work on some similar issues. DO you have a twitter account? I’ll take a look and see if I can follow you. It is good to pool our resources together to make a difference! 🙂

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