Archive for the ‘Giving’ Category

HomelessIt is the most natural thing in the world to be self-centered – from the time we enter the world completely dependent on others (yet focused only on our needs), to the time we draw our final breath (most likely still clinging to what we want). It’s natural. But not everything natural is good.

As I observe the world around me this Christmas season, I see the usual uptick in charitable activity – bells ringing beside buckets of coins at store entrances, more volunteers than any of the other 11 months of the year at homeless shelters and elsewhere, Christmas baskets given for the needy, and angel trees with names of those who can use a little boost from other generous, kind souls. That is all good, and I am grateful for giving hearts that make a positive difference in the lives of others at any time of the year, but especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

You and I both probably know some remarkable people who live their lives as models of generosity – not just during December, but year-round. It’s just the kind of people they are. Some that come to my mind are my parents and grandparents and some dear souls I’ve known from churches I’ve been a part of through the years. I like to think I’m the giving type, but compared to some others I’ve seen in my life, I know I have a long way to go.

It’s no easy transition to make from that perfectly natural self-centeredness to one that takes more pleasure in focusing on others. Consider just a few scenarios that illustrate what I mean…

  • Someone is talking to you with the expectation that you are listening, but your mind is wandering about other things, perhaps about what you’re about to say, but maybe about things far removed from the conversation. How do you shift your attention back to the one talking?
  • You’re approached on the street by someone asking for spare change, but you’re in a hurry, you don’t want to get involved, you don’t have any change or small bills, and you don’t want to part with the larger bills you just got from the ATM. Do you get involved or just shake your head “no” and walk away?
  • Your child or grandchild approaches you with something he/she wants to do for a few minutes, but you have a long list of things you were hoping to get done before bed. What do you do?
  • A coworker asks for help with a project and your own to-do list is just as long for work as it is for home, but you’re the best person to help. Will you put in those overtime hours to help others succeed and not just get your own work done?
  • Your spouse has had a hard day or week and could use some tender loving care. Do you come through or do you just carry on as usual?

Being other-centered isn’t natural. In fact, it’s hard. Very hard. It takes time. It’s inconvenient. It costs you something – effort, time, money, emotions. But it’s worth the price. It makes us more of who we were put on this earth to be. It makes a real difference in the lives of others, leaving our world a little better than we found it.

Moving toward other-centeredness is a continuous effort. We won’t arrive at the final destination this side of heaven, but it behooves us to keep working at it.

How other-centered are you? What can you do today to move one small step in that direction?

Oklahoma Tornado SurvivorIn the midst of tragic events like this week’s tornado destruction in Oklahoma, there is always much that tugs at the heart.  We ache for the families of those who have lost loved ones.  We shake our heads in disbelief at the sight of the destruction, most of us unable to comprehend what it is like to have all of one’s belongings gone in a moment.  Those with small children hold their kids a little tighter before putting them to bed, shedding tears of compassion for those unable to hold their children any more.  We feel a little guilty that our lives go on with relative ease as so many others struggle to literally and figuratively pick up the pieces.

What can we do?  We can pray for those impacted.  We can give financially to help meet their current and future needs.  Some can go and give of their time and energy to demonstrate love and compassion for fellow human beings.  It won’t restore life that is lost or heal broken hearts, but it is the best we can do when events of this magnitude happen.

We can also rejoice in small victories – in lives spared in the midst of the rubble, in unusual circumstances that kept some people from where they would normally have been at that time that would have resulted in more injury or death, and in the touching stories that bring a lump in the throat such as when a woman’s beloved dog is found alive (pictured above).  We can be thankful that so many instinctively start helping others tirelessly.  We can be glad that in a nation where serious divisions exist, there is still a basic human compassion that overflows from the majority in times like this.

If your neighbor hurts, it matters not what political, philosophical, religious or social differences you have.   It only matters that someone is in need and you can do something about it.

Who is my neighbor?  Today, a lot of people in Oklahoma are my neighbors, even though I’m in Louisville.  They’re your neighbors, too.  Love them and show them you care in every way that you can.

Driver Oriol Servia, Jeff Ross & Humana CEO Mike McCallister

Driver Oriol Servia, Jeff Ross & Humana CEO Mike McCallister

I participated in an unusual and enjoyable charitable event today.  Indianapolis 500 race car driver Oriol Servia spent time at our company headquarters raising funds for the organization Racing for Kids.

There were two ways to participate and contribute.  One was to donate $15 in order to have your photo taken while standing by one of the two Indy cars there with Servia on one side of you and our company CEO on the other.  That’s the route I took (pictured here).  The other option was to donate $100 in exchange for a very fast but once-in-a-lifetime ride around our block in downtown Louisville in the other Indy car driven by Servia.  There was no shortage of men and women waiting in line to pay $100 for that one-minute experience.

People ask you and me for donations all the time, from homeless people on the street to unsolicited phone calls, mail, email, churches, plus a host of others on TV and various media.  Today’s experience made me think about the approach solicitors take to request donations.

How often has someone tried to get you to give by making you feel guilty?  How often has some story (of questionable authenticity) been told to tug at your heart and drain your wallet?  How many times have you heard the same old tired sermons trying to use a few verses out of context to guilt you into giving a certain percentage of your income only to that church?  How effective are the above methods with you?

Contrast that with today’s example where people were lining up to pay $15 for a 15-second photo or $100 for a ride around the block.  People wanted to give today and even signed up in advance to do so, myself included.

Think about that the next time you solicit funds.  I’ll give a pass to the homeless person on style and wow-factor points.  As for the rest of us, it looks like we can still learn a thing or two about effective fund-raising.

Leap year lesson #345 is Make people want to give.

I’ve been a little more stressed than normal for a few days.  Some of it is work related and some is personal.  Some is due to the crazy list of things I’m supposed to get done this week that doesn’t give me a minute to pause, even throughout the weekend ahead.  The tiring pace of the schedule is made more tiring when there isn’t even a large block of hours over the weekend to just chill and catch my breath.

That’s why I am thankful for a little bit of kindness and mercy shown to me today.  The kindness that really touched me was an extremely nice note shared publicly on our internal social network about the work I do and this person’s belief in it’s positive impact on the company.  The mercy shown was when a 6pm Friday deadline for a quiz I need to take was extended to late Sunday evening.

I knew I wouldn’t make the original deadline because of work demands, so I let the person know that I would get it done later tonight.  I usually have to do these at home on my own time, anyway, so 6pm deadlines are tough to make.  Doing it last night or any other night this week wasn’t an option, either, due to my schedule.  So you can imagine the sigh of relief when I learned that the gentleman was extending the deadline a couple of days.  Several others were also delighted at the news.

It reminds me of a general principle that I tried to follow as a parent more often than not – when you can, say ‘yes.’  The idea is to not be so rigid on things of little long-term consequence that you end up saying ‘no’ just because it’s the rule or more convenient to do so.  Sometimes it’s much better to say ‘yes’ to requests even though it may alter your plans or inconvenience you in some way.

So my thanks go to Teri for her well-timed words of encouragement and to Jim for saying ‘yes’ when he didn’t have to.

Leap year lesson #292 is Kindness and mercy make a healing salve.

Earlier this evening I looked out my front door and noticed an old man with a hunchback walking by with 4-5 grocery bags.  The man was wobbly and not able to walk many steps in a row without pausing.  His feet pointed into each other at the toes, making it more difficult to walk.

I’ve seen the man before in the neighborhood, but never trying to carry so much.  He had already walked about three blocks from where he purchased the groceries and I had no idea how much farther he had to go.  I knew I needed to offer some help.

When I caught up with him and asked if he’d like some help, he didn’t have to think long before saying “That’s very kind of you” as he let me take the bags from one hand.  I reached to get the bags from the other hand as well, but he insisted on carrying those himself.

We walked another couple of blocks as he occasionally looked up from his normal hunchbacked stare down at his feet to see what the street address was of a nearby house.  I finally asked him his house number and he told me.  The full distance from the store to his house was about 5-6 blocks – a tremendous distance for this man even if he wasn’t carrying anything.  I can’t imagine the tenacity of the man to take on that burden and attempt that distance with such a load.

We reached his house and I held the screen door open while he found his house key and unlocked the front door.  It was apparent he wanted me to give him the groceries at the door and not come in, so that’s what I did.  After thanking me again, I told him my house number and invited him to stop there anytime he’s walking by and needs something.  We parted company and I went back home.

I know nothing about this man other than he is old, he has a hard time walking, and he appears to have nobody else to help him.  Maybe next time I’ll get his name.

Leap year lesson #283 is Carry one another’s burdens – literally, if necessary.