Sunday, November 26, 2017

Doing the Hard Stuff

My Dad says that if it wasn't hard, they wouldn't call it work.  I've had the opportunity to work on both ends of the for-profit and non-profit spectrum.  Both provide very difficult challenges and hard work to be done.  Both also provide rich soil for cultivating meaningful relationships and bearing fruit from meaningful work.  Along the way, I've learned that the greatest fulfillment and the most significant, meaningful, and lasting impact is rooted in selfless acts of serving others, done in the most difficult of circumstances.  In short, serving others even when it's hard.

Give Even When It's Hard

Recently a business owner engaged in a long and tedious debate over expanding his business in a local community.  While there was support for this effort, there was also some very vocal opposition  Ultimately, the business owner agreed to not proceed with his plans in exchange for a monetary settlement.  He and his family decided to donate the entire amount to charity, in the same community that has opposed his plans. 

Kuppy's Diner will receive part of the donation.  They posted this on Facebook, "Got a message today ... [that the business owner] wanted to donate $2,500 to our car show charity for 2018. He was paid $25,000 to keep a crematory out of our town and instead of being spiteful to our people, he is donating 100% of the money to these different community services. Bravo to [this business owner's] generosity, we would have been lucky to keep more business in town. A very commendable move and we will put our share to good use next year."

It would have been fair to reason that the monetary settlement should offset some of the personal investment the business made into the battle to expand his business.  It would hard to reason to gift the entire amount back to the community. 

Serve Even When It's Hard

I attended a retirement party this weekend for a man who gave 40 years of his life to the non profit world.  Surrounded by family and friends, his impromptu speech noted that from the start of his career, he simply wanted to serve others.  He said that it's what we all strive to do, really - serve others.  However, if you can find a way to serve others in your work and enjoy the work you're doing, you'll find real contentment.  The work of CPARC is not easy.  It's interwoven with families far extended in time and energy to meet the special needs of individuals, an ever-changing landscape of health care, funding challenges of a non-profit, multiple sites and facilities to manage, and I could continue. 

It would have been fair to reason that this man put in an appropriate amount of time in serving others with special needs and that he might transition to a role less taxing in the last chapter of his career.  It would be hard to work relentlessly for four decades, serving those in great need with an unwavering focus.

Love Even When It's Hard

I know a Director at a local alternative school.  The type of school where a student goes when they are not functioning well in a public school.  A school that can be the last stop before a student either redirects to find a path toward graduation or, too often, drops out all together.  Defiance, verbally and physically, from students in outspoken and aggressive ways is not uncommon. 

While he affirms the work can be difficult, I've never heard him speak poorly of these kids.  When a dramatic story includes student behavior that results in police intervention, he peels back the layers to expose the context in which the student is living.  Almost never a Dad to be found.  Almost always brokenness and dysfunction at best, abuse and neglect at worst.

How does this man, who has a family of his own, spend his pre-Thanksgiving break?  Coordinating and delivering 40+ Thanksgiving meals for the families of the students he serves.  In the garage where these meals are assembled, there is a huge mural painted by this man's family and friends that reads, "Love Wins." 

It would be fair to reason that showing up and doing the work of a Director at an alternative school is doing your share of loving others.  It would be hard to go above and beyond and spend your time off with your family preparing meals for these same students. 

Most would agree that loving, giving, and serving are action items to be embraced.  Few of us find the courage and motivation to love, give, and serve when it's not reciprocated, applauded, funded, required, fair, or when we're just simply too tired from life to offer any more.

Speaker and Author Andy Stanley says that any time you identify that you have power (resources, influence) in a situation, look to leverage that for the least powerful (those on the fringes, the least, lonely, or lost) in the room.  I believe that makes a life well-lived.  Receiving.  Giving.  Living.  I also believe that we always have more to give to the degree that we receive it from an inexhaustible source found in Jesus;  the Christ who relentless seeks to love, serve, and give to us - freely and unconditionally. 

I have a book signed by Author Bob Goff with a handwritten quote that I've made into my life's mantra, a decree I hope to aspire to daily.  It reads, "Love God.  Love People.  Do stuff."  I'd add, "(Even when it's hard)."

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