A Long Road


“I pray for a vision/And a way I cannot see/It's too heavy to carry/And impossible to leave” -Sarah Groves, “The Long Defeat”

It can be inspiring or immobilizing. Defining or distorting.

When you work for an organization that says they are ‘partnering with Africa to end the HIV/AIDS and water crises,’ you know what you’re in for.

A long road.

The countless thousands that have played a role in these crises have been working a long time against them, long before the last 10 years that we’ve been on this road. We know we won’t get there on our own. And we know what it will cost us to get here; we can only imagine what it will cost us to get there.

Yet, when you’re on this journey, you also know what waits for you at the end of the road.

The end.

But along the way, the journey is filled with questions and doubts. Successes and celebrations. Corrections and failures. Re-dos and re-thinks.

Recently, I found myself sitting at a theater in San Diego with hundreds of people who the world would define as “change agents.” I was amazed at what they were doing, from their corner of the world, to make a difference in the lives of others. As we were acknowledged for our efforts, assembled under the auspices of the Classy Awards, it was easy to be overwhelmed by the work they’ve accomplished. Reducing poverty and hunger. Creating innovative responses for disaster relief. Honoring veterans who have served us by serving them. Serving the mental and physical health of the young, old, rich, poor. Truly wondering, inspiring work.

stay classy

From a distance, it’s easy to get a ‘Pinterest’ view of their journey. Everything in the right lighting. The mess hidden in the junk drawer. Bow ties on straight. Not a hair out of place.

But for those of us in those seats, we all know it’s never as pretty as it seems.

Jacob Lief, founder of the Ubuntu Education Fund, a group that is investing in the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, said it honestly during a collaborative session at the Classy Awards—“If we were doing half of what we say we are doing, there would be no poverty. There is no blueprint for what we are doing.”

In the comparison culture of the world we live in, it’s easy to match each other. Who is doing it ‘better?’ Sizing up who is 10 steps ahead. Feeling the pride from what you’ve done. But when the lights go dim, and the bow tie comes off, the real conversations happen.

Conversations in the corner over struggles in funding and messaging. Donor demands. Political conflicts. How do you handle….? What are you doing to respond to ….?

Barbara Van Dahlen from Give an Hour said it well—“We are rewarded by leading and winning, not by collaborating.” Yet, all of us in that room realize we aren’t winning when we are running alone. It’s by collaborating where the real winning happens. Leaning on the shoulders of others. Learning from our own mistakes and being transparent enough to share it with others.

It’s also easy for those who aren’t in the audience of that theater to be overwhelmed.

Is what I’m doing with my life matter? Am I truly making a difference?

Don’t fool yourself. You don’t have to work for a non-profit to be absent of that question. We all have the same questions, regardless if we are working for a non-profit, or a for-profit. Doesn’t matter if we are a pastor, a doctor, a missionary, an accountant.

We all wonder—does it really matter? On those long days when we can’t see the end of the tunnel. On those days when we take two steps forward and three steps back.

Yet we still take that next step forward. Not because of who we are or because of what we’ve accomplished or the awards we’ve won, but because we believe it’s worth it.

There truly is joy in the journey.

Will you take your step forward and make your move? Here are three things you can do today:

1) Lend your voice to the important issues you value in the World You Want - http://www.worldwewant2015.org/ 2) Make Your Move with Blood:Water and partner with Africa to end the HIV/AIDS and water crises. 3) Encourage someone in the journey to not grow weary in doing good.