Thursday, December 11, 2014

What I Would Give...

“We each get one life and that’s it. We get one shot at this, and we don’t get any do-overs, and for me, it was time to put up or shut up and the way I saw it I didn’t have a choice. This is what I was put here to do. I guess I am just a hopeless romantic, and I am an idealist, and I believe in hopeless causes.” –Peter Kassig

This has been tucked away in the deepest corners of my heart, carried along with me throughout the day and is a constant reminder of why I am here, why I do what I do, why I am who I am, and why I am so incredibly thankful.

November was the month of thanks and giving, and while I am so glad that we take time to slow down, gather, give and reflect, I can’t help but be thankful more than just one month of the year. My thanks and giving extends well beyond the dinner table, surrounded by friends and family. My thanks and giving reaches around the world as I think about what our global community is currently facing, what our world is enduring and what actions still need to be done–what giving is still left to do.

I am thankful that I strive to be part of the solution and not the problem. I am thankful that I would rather spend my whole life giving than receiving. As I reached for hands to hold around the table this thanksgiving, I quietly thought of the five Level 3 emergencies* that are taking place around the world; Central African Republic, Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Ebola. I thought about the real definition of sacrifice, of what each of us would give to make the world a better place. For some of us, it is far too little, for others it is far too much.

Giving can be difficult–how much is enough? To who? For how long? Some people will only give in exchange for a return. How will I benefit? Where will my contribution shine and my difference be seen? Giving can come with bragging. “You should thank me” or “If it wasn’t for me, none of this would happen” or “pat yourself on the back.” Giving can raise uncertainty. Will this work? What are the short-term goals? What are the long-term goals? Giving can push demands. Where are the results? What is the fastest solution? Why can’t I see immediate results? Or, raise the argument that giving alone simply isn’t enough. Giving can come in so many shapes and sizes. It isn’t always a money order. It isn’t always a check. Sometimes it is taking a risk, rolling up your shirtsleeves, holding your breath and stepping out of your comfort zone. Sometimes it is the heavy lifting, the serving, the handholding, the listening, the door holding, the packaging, sending and unloading. Whatever size or weight, there is no doubt that giving can feel good. I made a difference. I am a small step in the right direction. I am creating positive change. I know I am part of a larger, greater good.

For the rare gems in the world, giving is a part of them, it runs in their veins and they don’t even think about the “action” of giving, they are only concerned with the “reaction” of those receiving. Peter Kassig was this person. James Foley was this person. Steven Sotloff was this person. David Haines was this person. Alan Henning was this person, and many others.

This level of giving, of sacrifice, is impossible for most of us to imagine. This level of innate “call to action” can seem almost silly to some. However, for folks like Kassig, Foley, Sotloff, Haines, and Henning, this is what they, what we, were put on this earth to do. We were put on this earth to help one another, to have each other’s back, even when it is sometimes the back of someone else who is on the other side of the world. This can be the back of someone we don’t even know, someone who seems completely different from us, but in actuality, is probably very similar.

I have this call to action on a constant loop in my head. I think about it every day. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by people with that same giving loop. Like Kassig, I would say that I am a hopeless romantic, and I am an idealist and I do believe in hopeless causes, because I see hope. I see the potential for change, for peace, for a solution. However, this week, my heart felt heavy. Sometimes the weight of this worlds problems seem too large, too complex, and too deep to bear. But as human beings we are incredibly resilient. We are incredibly strong. And in this time of giving, of gathering, of reflecting, I feel hopeful. I feel hopeful for today, tomorrow and the next day and I am most thankful for that.

This cup is for all those hopeless romantics who believe in hopeless causes.

*  UNICEF’s Corporate Emergency Activation Procedure, categorizes UNICEF’s humanitarian response into three levels: 
- Level 1: a country office can respond using its own staff, funding, supplies and resources; 
- Level 2: a country office receives some outside support from headquarters, regional office, other country office; and
- Level 3: an institution-wide mobilization is called for. Level 3 is defined on the basis of five criteria: scale, urgency, complexity, capacity and reputational risk.

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