This blog post was originally published on the Faithful Traveler Blog.

I am blessed that from a young age, giving back to the community has always been instilled in me. It’s a gift that my mother gave me from a young age. I can remember cooking meals for spouses whose husbands were deployed when our family was stationed in California, or volunteering at the American Red Cross office at the age of twelve when stationed in Washington state. These acts have stuck with me long after the physical acts.

I think that is why now as an adult, I continue the act of giving back to the community with such a passion and dedication. It gives me a sense of meaning, and the men and women I work besides give me more than I think I give them.

This last weekend, I volunteered with a group called Help-Portrait. The concept is simple, what if for one day, photographers, make-up artists, and hairstylists gave their services away to those who would normally not have access to these items. How would this simple act change the world? For the last four years, our little volunteer group has been going to the Carpenter’s Shelter in Old Town, Alexandria. The response has been overwhelming. I’ve watched children grow from infants to little people, interacted with mother’s who each year remember my face and give me a hug and blessing as if I’m a member of their family. It’s these interactions that keep me coming back

At the same time, the volunteers who work this one day are amazing, their talent, dedication, patience, and giving nature are a joy to be around and keep me going through out the day. Most of the time, I don’t know these people until I meet them the day of. But at the end of the day, we are planning our next adventure together.

It might be a small act of giving one day a year to help these families, but the love, smiles and kind words are ones that I carry with me throughout the year.