Now here I sit on the phone with Mbali. 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." 

How to start your own month of giving based on Cami Walker's powerful story 

From the book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker. Available now from Da Capo Lifelong Books (, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009.


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