30 December 2010

Be the Change: Three Cups of Tea

About a year ago, a friend of mine threw down a challenge: start a non-profit by the time he was 35. He had some funding, but wanted me to come up with an idea and run with it.

This idea is somewhat paralyzing for me...there is so much I'd like to do, but I am not exactly sure in what way. Volunteering, paying it forward, etc. has always been a big part of my life; I started volunteering at about 16 and haven't really stopped, from joining the community service fraternity in college to being on the executive board of directors for a prominent local non-profit. While I have worked hard throughout my life, I know I was lucky to be born into the situation I was, and had excellent role models in my parents, who do a lot of good without ever asking for recognition or thanks -- it is very important for me to help give back and participate in making the world a better place.

To help inspire me more, my friend recommended that I read Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson. And I am so grateful he did, because this book is not only inspirational, it is has changed my perspective on life (which may sound melodramatic, but thems the truths).

Greg is one person who was able to help many. Through a truly grass roots effort, he worked tirelessly to fix a problem he saw. He lived in his car, using his money instead to rent time at the local copy shop to write letters, and buy postage to send them. When he finally hit pay dirt, he was able to use fairly minimal funds to build something that will make a huge difference to current and future generations.

One person. Being the change he wanted to see.

It makes me think, if every one of us did just one thing, once a week/month/year, to be that change... what could we accomplish. If we concentrated our efforts, what greatness we could achieve. To me, Three Cups of Tea is something we can all do, and is my rebuttal when people say to me, "well, that's nice that you do that, but I don't have time and don't really think my effort will make any difference to anyone*."

As I move into 2011, this has been weighing heavily on my mind. When something significant happens in your life, you tend to reevaluate things...am I on the right path? Am I doing what I enjoy and makes me feel like I am doing something relevant?

I am starting to wrap up my last year on the board of directors, and looking for my next focus. In my current role, I have helped make a difference in the lives of at least 6,000 high school girls, at least that's my hope, and I have loved (almost) every minute of it. I want to be able to continue this, maybe with a different demographic.

If this past year has taught me anything, it is that we don't know what is around the corner, so it is important to just DO, and not think too much. Hearing about so much of what my parents have done, things I didn't know about prior to my dad passing, is really inspirational to me...I always wondered where my brother & I got this bug, and now I know.

So there is my challenge, my resolution, my hope for 2011: to continue to make a difference, and continue to strive to be the change I'd like to see in this world. There is so much opportunity, and just one person can make a ginormous difference.

*caveat: I don't hear this from many, or any, of my friends. I have an AMAZING group of friends, many of whom are involved in their own associations, and all of whom make an effort to get to each others' fundraising events, volunteer days, etc. This is something for which I feel truly blessed.

No comments: