What goes around, comes around; or Lessons in good karma

“Life’s most urgent question is:  What are you doing for others?”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s funny—most of us think that life’s most urgent questions are about what other people are doing for us. It’s all a perspective thing. If, in fact, this is life’s most urgent question, let’s all take a moment and at least pretend that we agree with Dr. King’s statement.

So, what are you doing for others? The answer could be on the level of volunteering regularly or spearheading an effort to save the world from pollution, disease, famine, war, hate, illiteracy, etc., or it could be more in league with random acts of kindness done on a daily basis. Whatever you come up with, I’m sure it will either be more or less than you estimated. When it comes to service, we are normally pretty bad at gauging our involvement. I typically find that I am surprised by all the small acts of kindness I tally up over a span of time, but that I fall short of my estimate of the larger-scale, big picture kind of acts.

Now that you have taken a moment out of your day to answer life’s most urgent question, I invite you to share how you rate. Do you do more or less for others than you estimated?

If you are looking for a way to increase your service points, ask us how you can use your talents to impact the lives of those we serve. We have plenty of volunteer opportunities and we are always open to suggestions.

Learn more about Tangram’s volunteer opportunities

To my Indianapolis readers: Enjoy the sunshine!

To everyone else: Happy Friday!



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“It’s about time you got a job!”

Remember your first job? My very first job was working behind the meat and deli counters of a family-owned market in Fort Wayne. I loved it. My interview for the job consisted of one question, “How old are you?” When I responded, “16,” the owner of the market looked at me and said, “It’s about time you got a job.” I really didn’t feel like I was too far behind schedule in this respect, but I accepted his criticism and continued with the interview (which consisted of being asked when I could start).

The thing that most appealed to me about having a high school job was that I suddenly had money. I could buy gas for my car, put some in savings, go to the occasional movie with friends or shop a little at the mall—you know, typical teenage stuff.

Now, as I sit behind the desk of my first job out of college, I reflect on the benefits of having a job.

1)      I don’t have to live in my parents’ basement.

2)      I can make payments on my student loans.

3)      I can buy lamps (if you had to deal the considerable lack of light in my apartment, you would understand the importance of this one).  

4)      I can purchase gas for the car and can sometimes afford to have the car fixed when it is broken.

5)      I can buy groceries.

6)      I have entertainment money and money to eat an occasional dinner out.

Raise your hand if you see a theme. That’s correct—I have income. And that income allows me to live comfortably, pay the bills, buy things that I need and some things that I want, etc. After college, I was just plain lucky to get the job that I did. If my boss hadn’t been willing to take a chance on an English major without a lick of experience in the real world, I would have been back in Fort Wayne peddling round steak and potato salad.

Isn’t it time that individuals with disabilities were given the same chance that the rest of us expect? Isn’t it time that more employers hired those with disabilities? Why shouldn’t they be given the opportunity to earn income, pay taxes, pay bills, buy lamps, purchase groceries,  eat at restaurants, buy movie or concert tickets, and so on? Walgreens and Goodwill are known for their practice of consistently hiring employees with disabilities, and they have barrels full of successes to show for it. Let’s follow their lead and welcome a new, more diverse population to the workplace. It’s time.

Until next time,


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A resolution that works for everyone

It is that time of the year—time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. One of the most popular resolutions is undoubtedly the determination to get into shape, lose weight, start exercising, adopt healthy eating habits, etc. I have tried this one and, believe me, it isn’t pretty.

I think it might be time for us to look into other options for those notorious New Year’s resolutions. I’m sure that most of us fall off the health and fitness bandwagon by the first week of February anyway. So, today, I will borrow a little wisdom from my Uncle Bruce, whom I greatly admire for his sense of social responsibility and volunteer spirit. He once said to me that there is so much need in our community that if we all just gave back a little of our time to help others, we could drastically reduce that need. Unfortunately, not everyone does their part to give back to the community.

I turn to Uncle Bruce once more for advice: “Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and do something civic.” With this in mind, I encourage you to choose a New Year’s resolution with a focus on others and not self. Get involved in the community, volunteer, be a friend to someone. Those half-hearted resolutions to keep a clean house or give up soda are nice, but do they actually mean anything? Your house probably wasn’t that messy to begin with and you will find other ways to get the sugar and caffeine from the pop you gave up.

Resolve to improve yourself from the inside by giving back to the community this year. The benefits you will gain are wide-ranging: by involving others in your resolution, you have a greater chance of sticking to it; by actively participating in volunteer activities, you will feel better about yourself and may even improve your health.

This is my challenge for 2011. I hope you will join me in giving back and I wish you a peaceful and prosperous New Year.



Volunteer at Tangram

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There’s no place like home

I mentally checked out last week. It is hard to stay focused and motivated when I know that in a few short days I will be home for the holidays.

Fewer and fewer people may be living and working close to their “homes,” but the volume of holiday travel indicates that family remains important, especially during the holidays.

Being surrounded by people you know and love is such a good feeling. As Gary Portnoy sang, “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.” However, we all know from experience that getting there is the issue. For those who will travel by automobile, there is the chance of inclement weather. For those who travel by air, there are lines to contend with and regulations galore, not to mention overbooked flights, delayed flights, cancelled flights. There are options to travel by rail, but in a day and age in which faster is better, that option is quickly falling by the wayside.

We have all experienced travel woes at holiday time. But what if there wasn’t even an option for you to go home for the holidays? What if the cost prevented you from going home and being with the ones you love, those who know you best, and can make you laugh?

This situation is a reality for many of the people we serve. The cost of transportation is great and Tangram does not get reimbursed for the full cost or for all the trips. Our fleet of 12 vans requires regular maintenance so that we can continue to provide transportation to those who wish to be with their families for the holidays or at other times during the year.

When you donate to Tangram, you allow us to connect our clients with their families during this special time of year. Everyone should be allowed to go home for the holidays. After all, there’s no place like it.



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Mice into horses and other tales of impossibility

It’s possible…

“And because these daft and dewy-eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes, impossible things are happening every day.” –Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Yes, impossible things are happening every day. Things that seemed impossible a few decades ago, are realities today. And it is all because “daft and dewy-eyed dopes” kept believing in and working for a future filled with possibilities instead of impossibilities.

At Tangram, we believe that possibilities should be a key component of everyone’s life. Those who have contributed to the 25 Days of Tangram campaign have helped to create more possibilities for the individuals we serve. And the 25 Days of Tangram lives on…because we believe it’s possible.



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Winter Warlock and the power of kindness

Transforming lives…

Transformation: to change in form, appearance, nature, or character

I recently stumbled across the stop-motion animated Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. It was one of my favorite seasonal movies when I was growing up, probably because the young Mrs. Claus is portrayed as a red-haired schoolteacher, and as a red-haired child, I thought I had a pretty good chance of becoming Mrs. Claus someday.

As I simultaneously watched the movie and revisited my childhood, I remembered that my favorite part of the movie is when Winter Warlock undergoes his transformation.

Winter (as he prefers to be called post-transformation) is transformed through the power of kindness. His icy façade melts away when Kris (Kringle) gives him a toy choo-choo train. Winter becomes a less-scary, rosy-cheeked version of his former self, who, for the rest of the movie, lends his magical aid to Kris as he delivers toys to Sombertown and ends the reign of Burgermeister Meisterburger.

The transformation of Winter Warlock appeals to me because it demonstrates the power of simple acts of kindness. The gift of the toy train turned out to be more magical than the Warlock’s powers. But Winter was not the only one who benefitted from Kris’s act of kindness; Kris gained a friend and an ally.

In giving to others, we receive gifts ourselves. When we think that we are transforming the lives of others, we realize that it is actually our lives that are being transformed.



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Oh, the mistakes I’ve made!

Your path is your own…

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” –J. K. Rowling

Right you are, Ms. Rowling. Like anything else, we don’t recognize the importance of having choices until our choices are taken away. Most of us probably don’t realize the enormous role that choice plays in our lives. I mentioned in an earlier post all the choices I make daily between the time I wake up and the time I arrive at work. Take a moment, right now, and count how many choices you have made today. Think really hard, because you make hundreds of choices a day, and you probably don’t even realize it.

Did you come up with a total? If you aren’t shocked by the number of decisions you have tallied up, you probably missed quite a few.

Now think about this: How would you feel if someone else made all your decisions for you? What if you were never given the opportunity to make a mistake? How would you learn? How would you grow?

My parents can tell you that I made plenty of poor choices growing up, and I continue to make mistakes now. But my parents gave me the option of choosing my own path (with a healthy amount of guidance, of course), and, as a result, I learned.  

Shouldn’t we all be given the chance to make choices? Just food for thought…



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