A friend and pastor in Canada (Carey Nieuwhof) wrote these simple lines in Twitter (which showed up in Facebook, where I saw it first):
“You know what's more exciting than funding your own dreams? Funding someone else's.”
The Weekend of Service
I don't know that I ever thought about generosity that way, but it's right on. This past weekend I played a tiny tiny role in a much larger event that was going on in north county San Diego. North Coast Church decided that for two days, on Saturday and Sunday, they would cancel their 25-odd service options and send all 8000 folks out into the community for service – aptly called the “weekend of service”. No message. No propaganda. No preaching or evangelizing. Just serving. About the only way you knew the church was doing it was because of the tons of people wearing green shirts (with a big “weekend of service” on it) walking in and out of Lowe's and Home Depot. So my wife and I signed up.
We barely helped
Now, to be clear – we're both working on various health issues (my back has been undergoing treatment for weeks) and neither of us are particularly experienced as professionals in the handyman business. We painted, we taped, and we moved things inside and outside of a community center. We were among forty or so folks that served at our project site and we probably served the least – only 4 hours on Sunday morning.
I write this to make it really clear that we weren't the center of any of this.
The bigger narrative
Part of our motivation is in the storytelling that goes with it. We want this event and our daily actions to be part of the overall narrative that we share with our kids – that they see what service and community participation look like. So we prepped our kids for weeks about this weekend – to the point that they wanted to come paint too (but they were too young for this site). I had no idea, however, that things would turn out the way they did.
Now, again, before I share this, I want to make clear – this event had little to do with us and we weren't at the center of it at all. But I was able to be helpful in a way that actually leverages my strengths. You see I don't mind painting but I'm not that skilled in it and I wasn't created to paint. But I can do it to help out. But where I am skilled, where I have some experience and talent – that's what gets my juices flowing – and that's what I walked into on Sunday morning.
There's not enough!
After all the folks had worked hard on Saturday, they had run out of paint. Like I said, I don't mind painting but I LOVE buying the paint. I know how to be generous and we, as a family, make sacrifices so that we can have a “slush” fund to help out the needs that pop up. So when I heard that we'd run out of paint, I asked if there was still budget for more.
It was clear that we'd run out of budget and that's when I got to do some real service. I offered to buy the paint. Then I offered to buy the brackets we needed for some counter tops. Neither was that expensive. Neither really “saved” the job. But suddenly it was really a weekend of service for me. Because it pulled me into my sweet spot where I could do joyfully what I know how to do and what I love to do. I used my money to fuel a project that could ultimately deliver value to someone else. I funded someone else's dream.
Little Decisions Along the Way
Again, this isn't really a story about me, or my generosity, or the weekend of service. It's about what becomes possible when we each step into the gap that is around us. What becomes possible, which may have felt impossible just moments before, because we respond to the needs around us. Most importantly, it's a story about being prepared. If we didn't have our “slush” fund, we couldn't have offered. But we did have it. We had it because we made lots of other little decisions along the way.
Two questions for you:
- What are you doing to prepare yourself to be part of a solution that makes something possible?
- How are you shifting the way you think about your talents, time, and money – so that you're ready to put them to use not just for yourself but for those around you?