I almost quit wearing the dress today, made an appointment to get my hair cut and colored and stopped at Starbucks for double-Grande mocha on my way to work.
“Words don’t change the world, actions do.” This is the quote that rolled through my head as I contemplated quitting the “Well” Dressed Challenge. I thought of all the “well” wishers I had encountered in person and on Facebook who had told me how nice it was that I had taken on the challenge to wear the same dress for six months, giving up shopping, haircuts and color, and then Starbucks (at my son’s urging) to raise money and awareness for Living Water International; a non-profit organization who drills wells in developing countries. I wondered if people thought I joined this cause for self-recognition, compliments, and PR. If they did, they were sadly mistaken. The reason for join the challenge was specifically to spur others on to do this with me and make a difference in the world. But instead, I had a lot of people telling me that what I was doing was nice. Nice was getting the world nowhere. Nice was nothing more than another four letter word.
God is always quick to correct bitterness in my life, especially when it begins to taste like a bag of rotten lemons. So as I prayed for help, God began to gentle remind me of the people who had joined the challenge. Maybe it felt at the moment like we were in the minority but as their names and stories came to mind, I knew we were making more of a difference than someone who quit! Like the mom and daughter team who raised over $1000 in a month wearing dresses and selling cupcakes after church each Sunday. Or the mother of five who has committed to wearing a dress for a year (no shopping), and selling one un-needed item from her house each day on Craigslist or EBay. As I pondered their creativeness, more awesome people came to my mind, like my son who raised over $200 by getting pledges for giving up chocolate milk. But then God gave me another thought. What about all the things that my “well” wishers do behind the scenes that they don’t advertise.
I quickly felt my attitude improving and hope rising again as I thought of my neighbors. (Maybe, I was the only one who was completely self-absorbed.) One of these fabulous women is a tireless volunteer at our school in the classroom and as a reading buddy and her church leading Bible study and helping in the office. I just recently found out that another neighbor (who didn’t want to boast about her volunteerism) has been rearranging her husband’s work schedule to be home with their four children every week so she can volunteer to care for families in crisis at Children’s Hospital. She is also hand making scarves to give to people who need encouragement and love.
When I hear these stories, I am inspired to do something. I didn’t know what a reading buddy was or that there was a need until my neighbor was a voice for those children. And before I heard that my neighbor was working at Children’s Hospital, I didn’t think that there was a way to help at the hospital besides writing a check. When these ladies shared their stories, they opened up the door of opportunity for me.
These stories teach us that we all have a voice of influence but many times we hold back from telling anyone what we are doing because we don’t want to sound like we are bragging. Let me illustrate my point with the game Angry Birds. How did Angry Birds become the most popular downloadable app overnight? Someone spoke up. I believe that every person who has told me that what I am doing is nice is doing something to change the world. Maybe they are not wearing a dress, but they are doing something. They just aren’t posting a picture of it on their Facebook page. People will have no problem telling you about their last GrouponTM deal or phone app, but when it comes to talking about the good they are doing in their communities, you will not hear a word.
But remember what happened when I learned about my neighbor’s volunteerism at Children’s Hospital. The doors of opportunity opened up for me and for other people that I tell about it. What if I was a person who was not passionate about clean water but I was over the top excited to work with children and families with cancer. Now that my neighbor spoke up, I have the opportunity to do something. If she doesn’t, the information dies with her. The same applies to Angry Birds. If no one would have said anything about Angry Birds, it would have never become the most popular download overnight. This is evidence that you and I, through the power of our voices have influence beyond our imagination.
Think about all the people that promote things that are of no particular value to our world. And in many cases, they are evaluing our world. Theses people don’t seem to have a problem speaking up for their cause. Next time you go online or watch television, pay more attention to what is being said to you and your family. Advertisements for all kinds of pharmaceuticals (with the list of side effects), make-up, pornography, plastic surgery, dating services, casinos…the list goes on and on. None of these people are shy about what they will sell to us. Why are we shy about the good that we are doing or the change we would like to promote in the world? Why don’t you see that on television, in the news or on the internet?
Over Christmas there was a report that Americans have $41 billion dollars of unused gift cards since 2005.1 This proves that we not only have a voice of influence but we have the means to solve problems. Think about this. It is estimated that it would take an average of $19.5 billion dollars a year to give every human clean drinking water. Can you see how the water crisis is solvable if it has a voice? How about the children in your neighborhood that go without food on the weekends and during school breaks. Maybe you are the person who has been called to be a voice and a resource for them?
Mother Teresa said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” I think I have come to really understand what it means to be a “drop in the ocean.” Please don’t be the missing drop.
I have changed my definition of nice. I want to personally tell you that whatever you are doing, whether you think it is big or small, it is nice. Decide today that you have the ability and influence to change the world when you invite others into your world of what you are giving back. It is time that we shared nice with the world instead of everything else. Will you join me?
1$41 Billion In Gift Cards Gone Unused Since 2005. (2011). Retrieved from: http://kfyo.com/41-billion-in-gift-cards-gone-unused-since-2005/ on January 16, 2012