A couple days ago I found myself hunched over my laptop, frowning, wondering why I didn't want to participate in an upcoming run/walk tied to a nonprofit I enthusiastically support. The fund-raiser is called Run for Congo Women, and I wanted to be excited about it, but there was no denying it: Even after reading horror stories about what was happening to women in the Congo, I found myself incredibly sad, but completely unmoved to participate.
What was wrong with me? Well, let's see: I was overwhelmed and depressed after reading first-person stories of trauma and rape. I was put off by the juxtaposed call for donations for these women and the simultaneous advertisement that race participants would warm up with personal trainers and receive refreshments. (I thought women were being raped and murdered? Why do I get a snack?) For some reason, I couldn't get it through my head that I was helping anyone by doing stretches with trainers and strolling around Roosevelt Island in New York City. Plus, the race was scheduled for a day when I would have out-of-town guests, and I wasn't sure if it was fair to drag them out of bed at 7 a.m. My list of "reasons why not" went on and on. I was getting frustrated with myself.
These have got to be my own stumbling blocks, I thought. I know that helping women is one of the things that resonates with me. I really want to find a way to connect with this -- it's part of what I want to put my energy into most.
I kept exploring the race's web site. Finally I clicked on the story of Lisa Shannon, the woman who founded Run for Congo Women: Lisa did the first run alone, all 30 miles, losing a few toenails and getting some nasty blisters along the way. She kept running because she knew that every half-mile she ran meant another woman sponsored, another real person who could get job training and education about her own human rights. That did it. It was finally real to me. I signed up.
Like you probably do, I get requests for charitable donations of time or money all the time. Heck, I've been pestering you to donate a $10 mosquito net since this site launched. You and I don't -- and can't -- give to every single worthy organization that asks for our help, every time it asks. I choose the ones that resonate with me, that have some special meaning to me. And when I find them, I try to get past my own stumbling blocks -- thoughts like, This will never work -- and give.
To change the world, that's all anyone's got to do. My sister Marian, one of the most open-hearted people I know, doesn't donate to every single group that asks, either. But she gives wholeheartedly to organizations that resonate with her. She said to me, "It's our job to find what works for us." That's it. It's our job to help each other, but it's also our job to do that in our own unique ways. Ask yourself what that is for you. And if you're not already doing it, figure out those "reasons why not" and find a way to get past them. It's possible for you to change the world; the world actually does get better every time you give of yourself.
Wish me luck on Sept. 29, when I get my house guests out of bed early, trek to Roosevelt Island, warm up with a trainer -- and walk 5K to help three women change their lives.