Kat

 
 Photo: Jessica Zerby

Photo: Jessica Zerby

 
 

"These people are human. They are our brothers and sisters. They need help. Most of us have more than we could ever need, while these people still need the basics." -Kat


From my personal experience, the only consistent thing in life is inconsistency.  We can do our best to plan, predict and prepare for whatever’s next, but the reality is that those tools only help regulate and protect ourselves vs. having any control over external circumstances.  A phrase that I say to myself daily is “You don’t need to know what you're doing, as long as you know why you're doing it.”  I’ve been talking about the feeling of “incompetency” with others, and across the board everyone seems to experience some level of this insecurity (if you are not one of those people, and you have life figured out, I would love to take you out for a drink and learn more). 

There is so much pressure to know “what” you do.

What do you do for work? 

What do you do for fun? 

What do you do to relax? 

What do you do for the holidays?

When we focus on what we do, without slowing down enough to understand why we do it, our actions lose the feeling of purpose.   “Want to do this” turns into  “Have to do this”.


 Photo: Jessica Zerby

Photo: Jessica Zerby

Meet Kat.

 

Kat is 24 years old, and graduated with a nursing degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Kat decided to go into nursing because she loved helping people, and working in the healthcare system seemed like a career that would give her endless opportunities to do so.  It was interesting to talk about the intention behind becoming a nurse, because I experienced the same pull when I was trying to decide what to do after high school.  My story took the detour to cosmetology school, and I planned on working as a hairstylist to pay my way through nursing school.   Kat and I both have realized that once you know your “why” (in this case, a strong desire to help people), you can find fulfillment in a variety of jobs.  While in hair school, I realized that I was able to accomplish the same goals I would have had as a nurse (but without holding someone's life in my hands!)  Kat has also found that her passion for helping people isn't limited or defined by a college degree or a job description.  

Through her experience of becoming a nurse, Kat realized that the structure of working in a hospital and the health care system wasn’t quite fitting the way she wanted to love and help others.  She decided to take the valuable lessons, experiences and knowledge that being a nurse gave her, and channel it into her next ventures.  Both Kat and I agree, if we limit ourselves to what society models as the “normal” trajectory our lives are suppose to take (graduate high school, choose your career, go to college, get married, have babies, work 9-5…), we sometimes lose our “why."  For some people that timeline is exactly what they want: it fulfills them to the max.  For other people that timeline can create pressure to ignore their intuition and what truly gives them joy and purpose. 

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Create No Sorrow

“Kat is not the type of person to stay in one place for too long. When she is not working or exploring she is volunteering with Red Cross as an ER nurse during the massive fires, heading to Puerto Rico to build roofs that were demolished by the hurricanes, building houses with Habitat for Humanity, and overall living her motto “create no sorrow.” She inspires me to ALWAYS take several perspectives on a situation, to be kind no matter what, and that it is okay to fail as long as you tried. Since we’ve met I have found myself volunteering with her, cleaning the Minneapolis area, and decided to teach free group fitness classes because that is something that Kat would do.” -Amanda


As I learned more about Kat leading up to her coming in to my salon, one thing was very clear:  her heart was in Puerto Rico, and she was determined to be a part of their healing.  

Kat is half Puerto Rican, and she has family (including her dear grandmother) who live there and have been affected by the massive hurricane last year.  This devastating disaster was one of the reasons I started this project in the first place.  The pain and helplessness that I felt while watching the destruction of so many homes and lives filled me with the deep desire to do something.  Kat felt that need in such a powerful way that she has made it her mission to physically go to Puerto Rico, and be a part of the relief and rebuilding.

I was so moved to hear Kat talk about the reality of what peoples' living situations are and the amount of work that still needs to be done. Hurricane Maria hit almost a year ago and there are still people that do not have electricity.  It is so easy and comfortable for us to forget about these people, especially when they are no longer in the headlines.

 
"Oh, Puerto Rico. Where to begin. I am half Puerto Rican and have family living there including my grandmother, so when Hurricane Maria hit the island it was extra terrifying. We didn’t know if my grandma was okay and had no way of reaching her as the power to the entire island was knocked out and cell service was basically non-existent. We finally heard from her after a week and thankfully she was alright, though she was without water for awhile and remained without power for eight months after the hurricane. I guess that’s why I felt motivated to go down and volunteer there - because I knew from her what the situation down there was really like even though it stopped being in the headlines. I can’t stress enough how messed up I think it is that what happened has been mostly forgotten or ignored - many people down there are still lacking power and are missing roofs or have roofs that are very very leaky. With the next hurricane season having started 2 days ago…. this is a problem. These people are human. They are our brothers and sisters. They need help. Most of us have more than we could ever, ever need, while these people still need the basics. What gives me hope is all the people I met down there who are also volunteering and who haven’t forgotten about the Puerto Rican people. These volunteers are absolutely amazing and selfless, and the gratitude we felt from the homeowners we were helping regularly made me emotional." -Kat

 

 Photo: Jessica Zerby

Photo: Jessica Zerby


When Kat decided that she needed to put her passion to work, and plan her trip to Puerto Rico, she discovered the non-profit  All Hands and Hearts.  This organization creates opportunities for people to “spontaneously” volunteer.  They set up housing, organize meals,  give training and help people navigate the ins-and-outs of showing up ready to help (there are no requirements for having experience, or certain skill expectations). 

Have you ever thought “I want to help, but I don’t know how”?  All Hands and Hearts gives you the “how”.

When I checked out their website, I was so inspired by the first paragraph on the home page: 

“All Hands Volunteers strongly believes in the untapped power of the individual when driven by a desire to make a difference. While some relief organizations utilize volunteers, more often than not they only engage pre-trained volunteers or those from their existing networks or memberships, while others charge a fee for volunteering. All Hands takes a unique approach and accepts spontaneous volunteers from any background or faith, providing on-the-job training free of charge. This broadens our capability to help those in distress, offers a transformative experience to those who serve with us, and brings a wider pool of skills to the relief effort. We want to ensure that those who are willing to help are provided with the opportunity to do so and that the process is as low-cost and efficient as possible!”  (Learn more by clicking HERE)
 Photo: Jessica Zerby

Photo: Jessica Zerby

I asked Kat to tell me more about her desire to help, and what her thoughts are when it comes to being kind:

“When I hear the word ‘kindness’ the first person to come to mind is my mom. She taught me how easy kindness can be, and how the seemingly smallest, simplest actions can have huge impacts. She would cut up watermelon for me and leave it in the fridge with a note on it, or she would put together a basket of essential oils and the like for me if I was feeling stressed. Knowing that someone was thinking of you and doing something for you when you weren’t even aware of it at the moment it was in progress is an amazing feeling, so now I strive to give that feeling to others by modeling myself after my mom.” -Kat

Throughout our time together, I learned so much about this beautiful person.  She is passionate not only with her words, but with her actions as well.  We talked about what was next for her, and she told me that she had just gotten back from Puerto Rico, and she couldn't wait until she was able to go back again.  She and Amanda decided to move to Denver (on a whim, in true Kat-Fashion), and were leaving that next day.  The beautiful thing about Kat knowing her “why” is that she can find it anywhere, and in anything.


I asked Amanda for one more favor, I wanted to know what type of gift would feel extra meaningful to Kat.  Besides doing her hair, I wanted to give her something that would show her that what she is doing in our world matters.  Amanda told me that Kat needed boots.  Working on rebuilding Puerto Rico meant that you are in water, stepping on nails, and doing labor intensive projects.  Kat had been borrowing a pair of boots from a fellow volunteer, but could definitely use her own.  

I did some research, and decided to head over to the Red Wing store to learn more from the experts.  I ended up leaving with the most durable pair of footwear I have ever seen!  These things were waterproof, puncture proof, heat resistant, steel toe: you get the picture.  I wanted to make sure that Kat had the boots she needed to do her best work, and to keep her safe.  

Meeting Kat and learning more about her “why” was encouraging, humbling and inspiring.  It doesn't matter how old you are, what you went to school for, how much money you have, or your experience.  If you truly want to help others, there is nothing that can stop you. Your story might not look like everyone else’s, and that is actually pretty rad.  

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Update on Kat 

Shortly after moving to Denver, Kat decided that she needed to put her body where her heart was, and head back to Puerto Rico.  

Kat has now accepted a position with All Hands and Hearts as a supervisor for roofing projects, and is putting her boots to good use.  

Let's Show Up, Let's Be Kind.

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#StellerKindnessProject