Seeking a Life of Passion and Purpose

by Bridget Farrell Belden

Belden sells handmade jewelry with one of her "Ripple Kids"

Belden sells handmade jewelry with one of her “Ripple Kids”

Living a life of passion. Having a purpose. Being fulfilled. As I contemplated my life in my mid-tolate 30s, these were the critical elements I sought. I was determined to live a life of no regrets and to appreciate every day as if it were my last.

I started with my marriage of nine years. I questioned everything and challenged how we had been living our lives—as separate entities marching along with little in common other than our two kids. After an intense, painful experience, we eventually made it through. Together, we redesigned our marriage and how we wanted to live as a family. With my home life finally on the right track, I turned my focus to my career.

After working at various positions in the apparel industry—both retail and manufacturing—I had landed a great job during an exciting time in the business world. I was director of ecommerce for a denim manufacturer and retailer at a time when the “new frontier” of ecommerce was taking the world by storm.

For a few years, the excitement of the business and working for a great company was enough to keep me making the hour-plus drive from Orange County to LA. But as my personal life improved, I contemplated my position not only in the company but in the world. My quest to live a passionate and meaningful life led me to desire something more than selling jeans to people who didn’t need any more jeans. As I looked for opportunities to involve myself in meaningful ways, I was overwhelmed by the amount of need. How could I possibly make a difference?

Then, I learned something from my own children. When they held a bake sale to assist the starving children in Africa, it didn’t matter if they raised $5 or $500. They could make a difference. Period. I began seeking out stories of kids who were actively interested in solving problems in their communities and then finding ways to help. I was so moved by what I found that I wanted to share their stories with others, to inspire both kids and adults alike.

With newfound inspiration and purpose, I was fortunate to be in a position where I could quit my corporate job. After several months of research, I eventually founded a nonprofit organization, Ripple Kids, Inc. (www.ripplekids.com). A Ripple Kid is a kid who has identified an issue and taken action to resolve it. By publicizing the success of Ripple Kids, we hope to empower their peers to do the same in their own communities.

Starting a nonprofit organization has been an educational experience. As with any business, funding is a big challenge. While we started out 100% self-funded, we have received donations through fundraising events and corporate donors, which has helped to defray operational costs. Our goal is to eventually build a retail business to continue to generate income so we don’t have to rely on donations.

Despite challenges and a steep learning curve, I’ve found it incredibly rewarding and inspiring to work with kids and their parents who have so much vision and commitment to making positive change. I have found my passion and my purpose; I am fortunate to be living the life I once dreamed of.

 

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