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Moving Beyond Expectations

When I talk about sports, I sound like an idiot. I choose teams based on the colors I like, unless I have some sort of vague attachment  to a team, like through extended family. Or that I lived in Spain. So, by plain luck, in the past twelve months my teams have won both the World Cup and Super Bowl!  This was probably the only winning year I will ever have.

Generally, when people talk about sports my eyes glaze over and/or fall out. I like the thrill of being at a game, or watching a game with friends as I am very social. But care about the game? Heck no. And generally, if you tell me fifty times what happens in football and it goes in one ear and out the other. I have too much other important stuff to retain in that precious brain of mine.  Unless I am trying to prove to someone I care about them, and then with deep cross-eyed-effort I will try to comprehend your beloved passion.

Why am I like this? I have no clue. Why do sports interest you, and not me? Why do global affairs interest me and not you?

Regardless, if sports-lovers are around when I talk about sports, they are thinking I am totally pathetic. But I confess, I think the same thing back at them when they talk about world social issues.

If I hear someone talk about AIDS, human trafficking, building a playground in a poor country, my ears perk up. I am interested. I want in on the conversation. I want to discuss it. Then I often quickly realize that whomever is talking isn’t as obsessive about these issues as I am. They are just learning about it. Which is great.

But years ago I would silently think “Wow. Duh.  Well of course some people in the world don’t have food. Doesn’t everyone know that?” and then I’d judge them with the “I know more than you do” thing. I’d expect people to be on the same page as me without taking the time to slowly encourage them to live this out.

Nope. I am not proud of this. Its humbling for me to even share this and I’ve had to change a lot.

Growing the Passion

To help me learn about sports, someone would have to care a lot. They would have to put in a lot of time, energy, and give me lots of opportunities to fall-in-love with sports. Of course, no one really does care enough to do that, which I am so beyond fine with. PLEASE don’t make me your cause! Its really not worth your time.

But parents do this with their kids. They give them opportunities. They encourage them. They help them feel like they can succeed. They put them in Little Gym at six-months old, soccer at age three, and by fifteen these kids are just shy of being pros, complete experts on the games. Mom and Dad are proud.

Its actually not so different to teach your kids to help, love, and be an advocate for others. In fact, its pretty much the same for all of us. We are unable to adopt a passion as our own until someone introduces the passion to us.  We are actually being an advocate for others when we aren’t quite about our passion, and invite others to experience it with us. Not when we look at the people who don’t get it with a “They are so pathetic. Don’t they see how important this is? How life-changing it is? How awesome this is?” That attitude will only make us more frustrated.

Slowly, I am learning to listen and encourage people with what they do know, whether a lot or a little.

Supporting Others

What I’ve been trying to implement in my own life is keeping an eye open to help other people fulfill their own passions by supporting their cause which I believe in.

For example, the other day the Boy Scouts left a bag on our door-step, asking us to fill it up with canned goods and leave it out for them the next week to pick up. They, in turn, would give these goods to the local food bank. Great! Except I already gave donations to that food bank. And, I help my friends lead a local organization I am very passionate about, L2F Needs Network, which also needs these same donations.

But, before I threw away the flyer, I realized throwing a few canned goods in a bag would really be worth the five minutes of my time and five dollars of my money. Why? Because that cold Saturday morning, those Boy Scouts would be looking for bags on door steps and they would be really hoping to find some. I could help them have have success. There would be at least ONE bag waiting for them. I have worked with non-profits enough to know how depressing it is when no one responds, especially when the phrase “I already gave this year” is attached. I want these boys to grow up thinking that there are some Americans who care about the needy and I want to help these boys believe they can make a difference.

Does this mean I buy everything solicited to me from every kid or every person standing in front of a grocery store? No. Although I tend to get suckered in by those annoying magazine people who want to party in Mexico (an old woman once thought I was one, slamming the door in my face. While I was pregnant. While I was doing interviews asking how I could best help her community. I cried).  When should you say no? I don’t know. But if I see someone really trying to help a cause, no gain for themselves, and its not even a sacrifice for me to help- why not?  Could it inspire that person to great things?

Here is another great example- This weekend I got an email from a friend of mine. Her teenage daughter, who typically hasn’t been into stuff like this, was inspired by a guy who helps youth in the slums of Kibera, Kenya.  So she pulled together a bake-sale with her friends’ and parents’ support. Really? At thirteen? That is great! And what is even more great is that the thirteen-year old who gets it is somehow more inspiring to adults than the other adults who get it.

That day I had hours of work to do for L2F Needs Network. And it bothered me that I didn’t really know much about the organization she was supporting, Kibera Youth Initiative.  It was Saturday, the day I hope to chill out at home. But as I was reading the plea from the mom to come out and buy baked goods I didn’t really want,  I knew I needed to take 1/2 hour to go out and support her. I am sure the organization is worthy of her attention. And if you know me at all you know all I care about is helping the poor. But those good reasons aren’t why I went. And not because I felt obligated, as I am not even close to this girl.

I had to go out and support her because she is growing into an advocate for the hurting. She took a risk stepping out, believing she could do something to make an impact in some place far away from her life in every way. So heck ya! Everything in me wants her to succeed! To feel like she made a difference! Because later in life, she probably won’t feel the same thrill, but I hope she will press forward anyway. I don’t want her first time to be her last time standing up for what is important.

These are just two examples, but in the past couple weeks I can list at least ten more ways I’ve noticed I was able to encourage people to be an advocates. Many times I am just one many who are encouraging others as they grow. Just providing opportunities for people to give of their time, money, and skills to give them an outlet to grow in their own passion to love others.

Here are some more stories:

I know another woman who for the past week has been cutting out parts of shoes with her daughter because she was inspired by our recent Sole Hope party. And now a few other people want to do their own party.

I know someone who signed up to learn more about being part of an anti-human trafficking team, because of a connection she made.

I know multiple women who have become passionate about the kids in our local schools who don’t have enough to eat, and are learning the skills needed to feed them through a backpack program.

I know over fifty individuals/families who have bought and made Thanksgiving dinners for people in our area because they heard of a need and had a tangible way to help. Its been an honor to assist them to do this.

My kids helped pick out presents, pack them up, and write a card for some random kid on the other side of the world for Operation Christmas Child. And they were excited about it.

So yes. I am just an average messed-up person who cares about overlooked people all over the world. But, as I open my eyes, I am seeing I have opportunities everywhere I turn to help my friends become advocates for the same things that pull on my heart. I have no doubt it will be the same for you.

So, these next couple weeks, keep your eyes open for opportunities to encourage the people in your circles. They will show up. Just keep looking and praying for them.