Running for a Reason

As you know, Amber and I are passionate about living and serving in our community. (We hope that passion is contagious!) Lately, we’ve also grown a passion for running. So logically, this post is going to be about the marriage of those two passions – supporting non-profits and running.

On any given weekend, you can find a 5k run/walk to participate in where the proceeds of the race go to charity. In fact, this month alone, you can still choose from all of these area races:

So what’s the point? I’m not advocating that everyone run out (pun intended) and sign up for any or all of these races. But what I would advise is to treat these events (and golf outings, fundraisers, etc.) as you would when investing your dollars through donation and time through volunteering.

If you’re just looking to run, you can do that on a local trail. You sign up for these events because you want to support the cause, yes? If that’s true, I recommend you do the following before registering:

  • Make sure you match your effort with your passion. Especially when there are this many events to choose from! Are you passionate about children’s causes? Healthcare? Clean water?
  • Ask how much of your registration goes to support the mission of the organization. If you were making a donation or paying for a ticket to an event, they would disclose this.
  • Learn how much of your gift goes to operating costs, etc. and how much goes directly to the mission? This will vary with each organization depending on if they operate from an endowment, have staff or are all volunteer.
  • Consider whether your not your gift stays local. Does the event support a local charity, national or global? Consider if that even matters to you?

This might seem like overkill for something as simple as a 5k. But if you’re making the investment to train and pay a registration fee, you might as well make sure you’re making a wise investment for your personal passion.

Give a Little Bit

One of my favorite blogs is Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog. She recently posted two ideas to advance your cause for free. She shared two ideas, but I couldn’t get past the first one and wanted to bring it to you here. (Consider the video you’re about to watch was created via crowd-sourcing and is available free to use for your cause customized with your logo and everything. Amazing, right?)

This quick video really struck me. It also reminded me of the mission of this blog. To inspire service through information and personal experiences. We want (y)our passion to be contagious. We ALL have an opportunity to give. To give a little bit of ourselves to something greater. Will you?

Attending the Hunger Banquet

While many of us are preparing to give thanks over a Thanksgiving meal, many in our community and around the world will not be feasting. Students at IPFW had the opportunity to experience this food disparity at a Hunger Banquet.

Imagine being invited to a “banquet”. It’s free and you are told that food will be served. My assumption is that your thought would be the same as mine – a free meal. Based on the volume in the room as students learned who would be eating, and who would not, I believe that most of them had the same thought.

Upon entering the Walb Student Union ballroom, students sat at eight-person tables. Each seat had a place mat that was either purple, green or yellow. As the ‘banquet’ began, they were informed that the color of their place mat was significant. Purple meant you would be served a full, multi-course meal including clean water. Green signaled that you would eat rice and beans, but only after you served yourself from a central distribution table. Yellow indicated you would have to retrieve rice if you wanted to eat. Those without a place mat, were left with only ‘dirty water’.

      

As students ate their lunch, they learned about what hunger is in America and northeast Indiana. I was introduced to a term I had never heard before – food insecurity. That really hit home with me. I’m sure we’ve all experienced feeling insecure. Can you imagine what having insecurity about food feels like? For most of us, we can’t. The unfortunate reality is that 56,160 of our Allen County neighbors do. (Based on information from Feeding America)

If this number surprises you, you may want to take a Hunger Quiz similar to the quiz all Hunger Banquet attendees were asked to take.

Feeling called to act? To get involved? I recommend getting started by donating and/or volunteering with Community Harvest Food Bank. The keynote from the Hunger Banquet was from this local organization that is one of 200 Feeding America organizations around the nation. You might also consider donating through the Change a Life Project going on now.

As you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, will helping satisfy the hunger of others be on your list of things you are grateful for?

Generosity Experiment

What would you do if a man approached you on the street asking for donations so he could buy food, sandwiches, deodorant, even hand sanitizer to give for free to homeless people?  He told you he lived on the street two decades ago, and now does this part time to give back, in addition to a part time job he holds. Would you believe him? Would you give him a donation?

Well, read Sasha Dichter’s thoughts in response to that very same situation over on his WordPress blog.

Those thoughts lead him to complete a Generosity Experiment. I encourage you to take a moment and watch this TED video on his idea.

That original blog post was written in 2009. Just last week, Sasha updated his thoughts on the generosity economy. The thesis of the current post is this:

Increased transparency (e.g. living in a Facebook world) + frictionless idea-sharing (e.g. living in a blogging, YouTube, TED world) = We are living in a generosity economy

If the concept sounds familiar, read my book review of Tim Sanders’ “Today We Are Rich” and also check out a favorite of both Amber and I, “Love is the Killer App”.

I couldn’t agree with Sasha (and Tim Sanders) more. What about you?

Being Contagious

When Amber and I started this blog, we were sure to write our mission statement and the About Us page. But, I’m not really sure that we’ve really explained what we mean by “contagious”. Here are a few thoughts.

Being social also means being contagious. Social Media is about relationships. If you’re using the tools well, you’re forming connections, having conversations and sharing. When someone (or better yet, many people) share information and it is an idea that is shared multiple times, it becomes contagious. How many times have you read a book because of a recommendation? How many events have you attended because someone shared the invite with you personally? How many times have you made a purchase because you knew someone who loves it as well? If you can yes to these examples, you’ve acted on contagiousness. (Is that even a real word?)

Being contagious doesn’t mean just sharing germs. I work in the healthcare field so it is difficult to use the word and not think about disease. Especially when you’re talking about using social media and “going viral”. That said, it’s the perfect example of the power of sharing something – no matter the size. You don’t have to have a huge wallet to give. You don’t have to have limitless time to serve. You don’t have to be “the” leader to impart knowledge. You have to care. You have to love your family or your friends or your neighbors or your networks or simply strangers. If you have gratitude, you can be generous. And that means doing so with whatever means you have and in every way you can think possible.

With this blog, we hope to be contagious with our personal experiences of service and giving as well as information we think you might find valuable including opportunities to serve. After all, this isn’t about us – it’s about sharing ideas and information in an effort to improve and demonstrate the value of the community we so dearly love.

As a bit of a P.S., I’d also like to note that I believe generosity sustains itself. The more you give, the more you will have to give. (Shout out to my favorite author’s newest book Today We are Rich that really talks about the value of living a generous life. My book review here.) As we’ve been working on this blog, it seems that relevant articles and resources cross my path more than I ever noticed before. I thought I’d share a quick list of recent ones in case they spark something inside you as well.

Giving Thanks

“It is better to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35

How many of you really believe that? If you’ve ever given, served or put someone’s needs ahead of your own, I’m willing to bet you do. But, if we recognize that amazing feeling we have after giving, why don’t we give more often?

Do we need to be reminded of that feeling?

Do we need to be incentivized to be generous?

Do we need to be thanked?

Recently, my husband volunteered for a Go Day at our church. His team served at a local childcare facility that serves low-income children. He loved it. Loved the staff at the center, their mission, and serving there. He came back inspired to do more. (Dare I say his service was “contagious”?) We are always looking to inspire our children to serve when they recognize a need. (Warning: mom bragging begins now…) For example, when teaching our 4-year old that not everyone has as many toys as she does and that many children don’t even have the food they need, she simply said, “We should help them, Mom. We can.” From the mouths of babes. Of course it is that simple. So that’s what we did last Christmas by adopting a family. She participated in shopping and delivering items the family needed and a few they wanted as well.

Fast forward a few months after our Christmas family experience and church Go Day. We’re blessed with generous family members so we frequently do a purge of toys. Rather than drop the toys off in the Goodwill bin as usual, my husband has the idea to call the childcare center to see if they could benefit from them. They were excited about the idea to gift the kids with ‘new’ toys. Always looking for a teaching opportunity, he involved our 4-year old and together they selected toys to give to the children. They both went and delivered them and what a delight it was to hear how much they both enjoyed the experience.

Remember – it is better to give than to receive.

A few weeks later, the following thank you arrived in the mail.

They didn’t give to get thanked. But, doesn’t feel extra-special when you do receive a thoughtful thank you? What a nice way to remember those children and the smiles on their faces.

What motivates you to serve? Do you need to be thanked? When you have received a “thank you” what could you share as an example to inspire others to show gratefulness when they have been blessed?

How do you serve?

Below is a guest post by Jon Gordon on Michael Hyatt’s blog. As I read it, I was reminded that we don’t need to have extra resources to serve our community. You don’t need a free weekend. Though, a lot can be done in a few hours on a Saturday. You don’t need extra money in your budget. But, if you do have reserve funds, consider putting them to work for others. Serving in community simply means working with purpose. Are you looking for opportunities to serve? I promise there is an opportunity to make a difference every day. Will you seize the day?

Jon also talks about ordinary people with an extra-ordinary purpose. I have the privilege of working on the Murosity Project at work. This mural celebrates the generosity of 160 Everyday Stars around our region and exemplifies the power of the individuals Jon describes. At Parkview, we’re hoping the visualization of generosity will inspire and comfort those who view it in the waiting room of the Emergency Department at the new Parkview Regional Medical Center. Imagine being shown 160 examples of Everyday Stars who are living with a bigger purpose at a time when you need to be inspired to hope the most. These Everyday Stars don’t serve to receive recognition. But, each of us recognizes these individuals in our lives. Will you be someone’s Everyday Star today?

Working for a Bigger Purpose

What if work wasn’t just work? What if work was a vehicle to live and share a bigger purpose?

A Man Standing on a Pinnacle - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/vernonwiley, Image #7112779

I believe there’s a flawed perception in our society that in order to live a life of purpose we have to leave our jobs and go solve world hunger, feed the homeless, move to Africa, or start a charity.

While these are all noble, needed causes with many who are called to do these very things for others, for some of us our bigger purpose can be found in the here and now, in the jobs we have, right under our noses. And when we find and live this purpose, it will provide the ultimate fuel for a meaningful life.

You may not build libraries around the world, but you can find the bigger purpose in reading to your children. You may not feed the homeless every day, but you can nourish your employees and customers with a smile, kind word, and care. And while you may not start your own non-profit organization, you can begin a charity initiative at work. After all, “charity” means “love in action.”

You can make a difference every day and touch the lives of everyone you meet. While these people may not be starving because of a lack of food, you can provide them with a different kind of nourishment that will feed their souls (and feed your own in the process).

Here are a few examples:

  • I heard of a janitor who worked at NASA. And even though he was sweeping floors, he felt his bigger purpose was contributing to put a man on the moon.
  • I met a bus driver who knows his purpose is to help kids stay off drugs.
  • I met an administrative assistant who has become the Chief Energy Officer of her company.
  • I received an email from a man in the mortgage business who sees his job as a way to help couples save their marriages by keeping their homes.
  • I know a Popeye’s Chicken employee named Edith in the Atlanta Airport who makes thousands of air travelers smile each day.

The list goes on … ordinary people with an extra-ordinary purpose.

In any job our purpose waits for us to find it and live it.

I can’t tell you what your purpose should be, but I can tell you that every one of us can find a bigger purpose in the job we have.

I can tell you that every job, no matter how glorious or boring it may seem, will get mundane if we let it.
Purpose keeps it fresh. And when we are filled with purpose, we tap into an endless supply of energy.

Don’t wait until you go to Africa to start living with a mission. Don’t wait until the weekend to feed people who are hungry. Bring your mission to work, start working for a bigger purpose and nourish others in the process.