Let Why Lead celebrates Christmas in July by raising money for charity. Get to know Erica, her beneficiary and her answers to our questions about the virtues of generosity and compassion with this post from the Balsam Hill blog.
If you’re looking for living proof of the adage “opposites attract,” Erica Neilsen is the quintessential example. Happily married to her “opposite in more ways than one,” Erica is a loving mother of three young children ages six, four and one. Her blog Let Why Lead shows readers that it’s all right to have big dreams and to pursue them. Erica herself dreams of someday writing a book on family life. And she always keeps an open mind so that she will continue to learn through her blog. She believes that Let Why Lead can help others learn about life and also help her gain insight through meaningful interactions with her readers.
The name of Erica’s blog stems from her belief that why you live should determine how you live. Focusing on one’s deepest intentions help put focus on what really matters. It also relieves the pressure of trying to do everything at once. It helps in letting go of the things that, in retrospect, don’t really matter at all. For now, her goal is to build a family that is filled to the brim with love, while seeing the beauty in everyday things. Erica aims to empower women by helping them believe that their best is good enough and by showing them how she has become the “purpose-driven wife.”
For Balsam Hill’s Christmas in July Charity Campaign, Erica has chosen to support Mothers Without Borders. This organization has worked tirelessly to provide love, care, and support to orphans around the world, and now Erica joins them to continue that beautiful and important works. It is a worthy endeavor, one that is important especially in this time when more and more kids need all the guidance in the world.
BH: Could you tell us a bit about the cause you’re supporting and what it means to you?
Erica: What I love most about Mothers Without Borders is that in addition to the other work they do in Zambia, Africa, they house 22 orphans in a family setting. Ten years ago this month, I volunteered in Zambia with MWB. Their mission was to contribute sustainable solutions to the global orphan crisis. So I’ve sat on these children’s beds and I’ve watched them sing and dance on a dusty porch in the setting sun. Children who had almost nothing before coming into the home have found themselves with a family and a new sense of belonging.
BH: Deciding on a charity to support can be difficult. What led you to choose the charity you’re helping for this campaign?
Erica: As a blogger, I focus a lot on helping women (and myself!) build families that are so full of love and belonging that their children derive a deep sense of identity from their family unit. On the opposite side of the world, Mothers Without Borders is helping 22 beautiful children have a second chance at that. It was a perfect fit.
BH: Charity and giving are two things that are often associated with the holiday season, but can be easy to forget in our day-to-day lives. Do you have any tips for how people can incorporate the spirit of giving more into their everyday lives?
Erica: I think gratitude is the birthplace of giving. In our home, we focus a lot on gratitude, because my husband and I believe that really noticing and appreciating your blessings is the first step to wanting to share them with others.
BH: Could you share a story about a time someone did something kind for you that really touched you?
Erica: When I was in Zambia with MWB, we had just finished volunteering at a school for the day and had driven a few miles away when our rickety bus broke down. We all piled out and stood around in groups, chatting and waiting to see how bad the damage was. Within minutes, I felt little arms encircle my waist from both sides. Children had started appearing out of the brush. We barely spoke the same language, but I could see flecks of glitter on their hands and faces, so I knew they had been in my class that day. With their whole hearts, they offered what they could give—their companionship. I’ll always remember those glittered little faces passing the hours with us.
BH: Could you tell us about a time you observed a random act of kindness that resonated with you?
Erica: On my volunteer expedition, we ate a home-cooked meal every night in a local woman’s home. Every single evening, Eda greeted with a big hug and an even bigger laugh. She knew we’d only be there for a few weeks, but she treated us all like lifelong friends. I want to welcome people into my life like she welcomed us.
BH: Could you share a story about a time you did something for a friend or family member and how they reacted?
Erica: Because of my writing, I’m often privileged to have women open up to me about difficult stages they’re going through in marriage or parenting. Shame researcher Brene Brown says that it’s easier to flip on the (figurative) lights and say, “It’s okay! It’s not that big a deal!” It’s harder to look inside of yourself and draw on similar, often painful experiences to share. Through my conversations with friends and readers, I’m coming to deeply appreciate the friendship and understanding we can gain from being honest with each other.
BH: How do you encourage your kids to be giving?
Erica: We often take turns at the dinner table—or even a on car ride—saying one thing we’re thankful for, and we go out of our way to encourage our kids to say thank you to their teachers, relatives, and mentors. We hope that cultivating an awareness of their blessings will help them choose to reach out to others as they grow.
BH: Is there a time when your children acted generously in a way that surprised and delighted you?
Erica: Just the other day our 15-month-old daughter was upset about something and had thrown herself onto the floor in despair (classic toddler style). Before I said a word, both of her brothers were running for her crib, and in seconds she was holding the two soft blankets they had brought her. I figured we are at least on the right track with helping our boys see others’ needs!
BH: What do you think is a simple way people can give back to their communities?
Erica: Build a strong family. I absolutely believe that building a strong family culture is key to raising confident, grounded children and teenagers—kids who will eventually contribute to the world, whether it’s by serving orphans in Zambia or by raising families of their own right here at home.
If you would like to donate to Mothers Without Borders, please visit Balsam Hill’s Christmas Charity page.