29 Gifts:  How a Month of Giving can Change your Life
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Now here I sit on the phone with Mbali. It is the night before my psych ward stay to detox, and she listens intently and lets me cry for a while. Then, in her British lilt, she attempts to pull me out of my self-pity.

"Cami, I think you need to stop thinking about yourself."

For a few seconds, I’m shocked silent. I imagine Mbali on the other end of the phone, sitting near her unique altar, her silver hair and bronze skin reflecting in the soft light of her apartment. She’s probably wearing one of the beautiful, colorful necklaces she makes and smiling at my stunned reaction.

"Thinking about myself ?" I howl. I start in on her about what a wreck I am, what a wreck my body is, telling her I don’t have room to think about anything except myself right now.

"I know, that’s the problem," she says. "If you spend all of your time and energy focusing on your pain, you’re feeding the disease. You’re making it worse by putting all of your attention there."

I absorb this information quietly.

"Cami," she says, her voice soft and soothing but her words hitting me hard, "you are falling deeper and deeper into a black hole. I’m going to give you a tool to help you dig yourself out."

"What should I do?" I ask.

"I have a prescription for you. I want you to give away 29 gifts in 29 days."

I blink and consider this for a moment before deciding it is stupid. For one thing, I’m going into the hospital for eight days—how can I give anything away there?

"There will be others at the hospital with you," Mbali counters. "You can give to them. These gifts don’t have to be material things."

I continue to insist that I need to focus all my energy on my own healing, while Mbali calmly points out what I’m forgetting: "Healing doesn’t happen in a vacuum, Cami, but through our interactions with other people. By giving, you are focusing on what you have to offer others, inviting more abundance into your life. Giving of any kind is taking a positive action that begins the process of change. It will shift your energy for life."

I’m starting to tune out, wallowing in thoughts of what I am about to endure. I’m in pain and I can’t freaking walk! Are you telling me that giving away spare change or doing someone a favor will make me better? Come on!

Mbali tells me about the effects the "challenge" of giving 29 gifts had on her when she first did it. It makes sense in a way, but I’m not really taking it in. She’s saying how giving can make you humble, keep your heart open, revitalize you, that kind of thing.

In addition to giving the gifts, you’re supposed to keep a journal for those 29 days. If you skip a day for some reason, she’s saying it’s best to start over, to release the energy that is building and allow it to begin building again.

Now, I’ve been into alternative medicine and spirituality for a long time, but even I have no patience for all this. And I’m in the midst of a medical crisis. Without any intention of following through, I grab my journal and write a note: "Give away 29 gifts in 29 days." I close the journal and politely say goodnight to Mbali.

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