We can all agree that the desire to contribute to some sort of charitable cause is rooted in our innate need for a sense of purpose. Making a difference, serving other, etc., is fueled by passion. That passion is an inspirational force deep within us to do good deeds. Passions and callings are well-understood concepts, but many people have difficulty translating them into tangible and meaningful acts of service. Furthermore, effectively engaging a cause to make a difference often requires others’ help. So how does one make this process easier? How does someone embrace passion, get others on board, and make the world around them a little better?
Almost nine months ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Haiti to serve and learn about its people. I had a wonderful experience because my time was split among a variety of things like working with children, repairing things, visiting government buildings, and seeing the countryside. I returned from Haiti on January 9th just before one of the deadliest natural disasters occurred three days later. Following the earthquake that claimed 230,000 Haitian lives, I was considered an expert within my community and was frequently consulted on how to best respond to the disaster.
As soon as I learned of the earthquake, I knew immediately that I had gone to Haiti to organize an effective relief effort. Although I had the passion needed to help them, I didn’t know where to begin. One of the best things you can do when you are passionate about something but have no idea how to embrace it is to seek expert opinion, which is exactly what I did. I called up my friend Dean Yoder, President of Christian World Outreach, an organization that operates several churches and trade schools in Haiti, and asked him how I could help. He told me that supplies would be needed to help the people after the immediate response teams had left the country. With his help I came up with a list of supplies that would be useful and then began to think about how I could get other people on board.
Based on past experience I knew that the only way to get people engaged with a cause was to clearly define the action steps they needed to take, make them simple enough so as not to discourage participation, and motivate them by explaining how their actions will make an impact. Imagine for a moment if I had gone up to people and said to them, “They need relief supplies stuff down in Haiti, you need to help them out.” I probably wouldn’t have seen much of a response because most people would have no idea what to send or where to send it. Instead, I chose four general items that wanted to collect; non-perishable food, sleeping bags, medical supplies, and clothing. Next, I coordinated drop-off locations and times. Finally, I spoke in front of several different church congregations in the West Lafayette area asking for their participation. I also shared my experiences in Haiti and some photographs I had taken while I was there. With their help I was able to collect enough supplies to fill a large cargo van. Those supplies were eventually delivered to Port-Au-Prince a few weeks later.
I realize that I was fortunate enough to be working with a cause that was getting unprecedented media coverage, but I still think that one can still effectively make a difference without attention. In my opinion, the media coverage only expedited the process. I think there are three steps that make it much easier to effectively engage a cause. First, identify your passion and consult an expert as to how you might act on it. Second, clearly define a simple action step you need others to take to help you. Third, complete the action step, evaluate it, and make adjustments if necessary. Remember that you have the power to make a difference. It may seem difficult at first, but if you approach it methodically, you will probably find it easy to be successful.