I’m typically not the jealous type. I’m that person who usually is genuinely happy for other people’s happiness, success, and achievements. With one exception.
I am often jealous of the zealous do-gooder. I read/watch these INCREDIBLE stories of people who’ve overcome intense tragedies and then turned them into a pay-it-forward spread goodness campaign of some sort, or of people who do beautifully selfless things with their wealth, or of people who travel the world perpetuating progress and change… and I get jealous. “I wish I had more money so I could do something big like that.” “I wish I could take time off work and life to take my family to do humanitarian trips.” “I wish….” Blah blah blah. If I really wanted to, I could probably find the way to do it eventually. The things that typically get featured on blogs, websites, movies, and books are the really epic stories of do-gooders. It would take a total change of life as I know it to be able to participate on the same plane of grandiosity.
And that’s where pride comes in.
Crippling my ability to be satisfied in the more simplistic ways of doing good, that nasty pride quality does good damage. I’m good ‘n guilty of letting it rule me, luring me away into the idle land of good intentions. If I’m going to be found guilty of jealousy, at least I was jealous of humanitarian gurus, not of somebody’s rad car or rocking’ bod. #amIright??! NOPE. It’s lame. I’ve seen many socially ‘shared’ campaigns to raise money for somebody’s friend’s adoption, to pay for medical bills of somebody’s niece’s son’s wife, or to help fund somebody’s humanitarian trip… and I skip right on down the feed. Why???? If I truthfully was so anxious to be involved in doing good, why isn’t it grand enough to get involved by simply pitching in some spare cash? Because I don’t know them directly? Because I didn’t get to actually go to these different countries to experience the poverty first-hand? Oh, hello Pride. You nasty house-guest… Welcome back. Here’s the best bed in my place.
It’s stupid. And let me be the first to call it what it is: Selfish. And you know how I learned this invaluable lesson? By being the one asking for help in a non-grandiose way.
My story is a simple story. Don’t be prepared to be wowed. Nobody died and visited me in a dream to reveal how I could achieve my heart’s wish of being involved in an enormous effort. If a story of that sort is the only thing worth your attention, I’ll just stop you right now. This is a story of my mom going to Kenya for the first time, and my siblings & I wanting to give her the best birthday surprise ever. If you can relate to my life’s perspective of being more “normal/boring/typical”, I think you’ll be glad you finished reading my story.
The story goes like this: My mom ran into an old friend who told her 2 things: 1- That she started a humanitarian organization after my mom inspired her through a simple conversation. 2- That her organization was leaving to Kenya in less than two months and she needed a few more volunteers. Since my mom has a serving, giving heart- of course she leapt at the possibility of going with her friend. She deliberated and decided to go. That’s where my part comes in. Shortly after she decided to go, her birthday approaches. Knowing that the volunteers are supposed to help fundraise to be able to accomplish more projects on their trip, I called my sister-in-law about the idea of us creating the fundraiser for her. She loved the idea. Originally the concept was simple: Start the fundraiser by writing something meaningful to send out to my mom’s friends and family, to then surprise my mom on her birthday with the funds raised in her behalf. “Help my mom who has helped so many of you & us, to go help even more people” kind of concept. Quickly, the fundraising project turned into a bigger ordeal than that. We found ourselves realizing that if we were going to go through the work, why not put our very best efforts into the project in hopes of spreading this campaign further? After talking to my mom’s friend/organization founder we realized that there was SOOOO much we could do that needed more money than they currently had, and we were sold. We wanted to get involved even more so now, but this time, as much for the needs of these villages in Kenya as it was so help my mom fundraise. Hilarie (my SIL) and I decided we needed to involve our other sisters to help us accomplish this larger project. We thought & thought about what we could do. We are just a few ordinary girls from Utah. Nothing particularly ‘special’ we could offer to make this campaign more meaningful. We started talking about the things we do/could offer. I’m a hairstylist, mom, and I like to sing and play piano. My sister is a science teacher and she sings too. My SIL is a talented Public Relations manager, a mom, and she sings and plays a few instruments. My soon to be SIL is a tireless giver and a beautiful dancer. Common denominator: Music. We decided it would be cool (and terrifying!) to record a live video of us singing a trio while playing the instruments accompanying us.
Phew, this story is pretty boring.
But you’re getting the gist. Nothing extraordinary to offer, never done something like this before… figuring out how to be involved in a good cause.
We got together to pick a song that called out to us, try to add harmonies to turn that song into a trio, and practice to get ready for a live recording. Way too many hours later it was apparent that we were in over our heads to accomplish our task in the time we had left. This would take weeks to do. We had a few days. We stopped mid-practice to say a prayer. Once we knelt down, held hands and began our prayer, the Spirit entered into the room. By “Amen” we were fully aligned together and knew that we would do whatever it took to do this project. For mom. For us. For these Kenyan people. We started to think about outsourcing. Who did we know between us that could help us get this done, and do it as best as we could give it? A few people came to mind. One being my voice teacher who has a recording studio, and the other being my husband who travelled to Africa for a photography project a few years ago.
Fast forward a week later, 100s of hours, more behind the scenes help than we could acknowledge in the video, and we were ready to surprise our mom.
She had no clue. (although I’m not sure how, since we had given her so many cover stories that our lies were overlapping on many occasions- hahaha) We sat her down in front of a TV and pressed play for her to see this:
She knows how ordinary we are. She knows her daughters. She also knows most of the pictures featured in this video because she has poured over them with us after Jason’s Africa trip years ago. And yet, here it all was. All brought together, wrapped up into one 3 minute video. It worked. We surprised her. Our love for each other deepened while tears flowed during the presentation. Mission accomplished for my mom and for us, but we still had an objective not yet reached: Actually earning the money needed to help the Kenyan people where my mom would be headed.
We all got on our social sites and started sharing away. My SIL spent the entire next day sending off press releases and media pitches to help us spread the word, resulting in little nibbles but so far, no bites. Mostly because it isn’t GRAND enough of a story. As of today, 3 days into the campaign, only a few friends and fewer family members have actually donated. It’s too soon to count your chickens before all the eggs have hatched, but not too soon to have yet another nasty unwelcome guest enter…. Judgement. Similar to pride, this guy can do some serious damage in a short amount of time. I was disappointed. Why wouldn’t at least the people who know my mom and love us be willing to donate even a small amount of money to support us in this good cause? Ahhhh….. now we are bringing it full circle. And I know why.
Because it isn’t grand. Because it isn’t sad enough to feel like it’s a cause worthy of our hard earned dollars. Because it doesn’t serve our interests…. etc. How can we stop this cycle?
I’m genuinely grateful I got the chance to experience this cycle on a bigger scale in MY normal/typical/boring life. Apparently that’s what it took to learn the lessons I needed to learn:
- If the GOOD SAMARITAN story happened today, it wouldn’t be interesting enough to pique a reader’s interest, let alone inspire people to go about doing good. And yet, of all the interesting stories the Savior could have come up with, that simple story is what He chose. Perhaps He knew that most of His followers wouldn’t be able to free thousands of people by miraculously parting the Red Sea. Most of us would encounter much simpler situations to make a difference in other people’s lives. I believe He is teaching us about the importance of doing what we can, with what we have, where we are. The money needed to pay for the care of the wounded man was most likely not an enormous amount. The actions needed to save this one man didn’t take months or years to carry out. It was not grand in the scale of grand stories, yet to the saved man, it was grand. To all of us, listening to the message from the Savior, we can learn that small and simple things are grand to Him. We need not idle away our days, waiting for the “cause of a lifetime” to get involved in. In our cause, we are raising money for bathrooms. It’s not something that tugs at American heartstrings because we’ve been spoiled with so many of them that we only pay attention to toilets when there isn’t one close by. But to these people who’ve been without, much gratitude and progress would be made in their village schools.
- Beware of pride. It’s everywhere. Ruining everything. Don’t give it place. None of us are too important or too insignificant to be justified in self-centered, pride-filled thoughts and behaviors.
- Beware of comparisons. It’ll steal away achieving our best accomplishments and the ability to celebrate others.
- Be satisfied with doing every day acts of brotherly kindness.
- Don’t judge others for doing the very things you’re likely to have done or will yet do.
- Don’t become complacent. There’s always something good to be involved in. Some days that will look like a few dollars to somebody else’s campaign. Some days it might be pulling together your resources to get something larger accomplished. Other days it will be a smile to a weary friend, a hug to a loved one, a kind word to a brother. No matter what is it, how big or small, how subtle or pressingly important… all good deeds do good things. And collectively, all good things bring humanity one step closer to true brotherly love and unity.
We are all important. There is no such thing as a cause or person too simple to matter or make a difference in their own way.