Last week I attended a religious event after umpteen invitations by a friend. The session was very enlightening and I met many interesting people. At the end of the event I had the opportunity to introduce the Pocket Learner – our educational programme which empowers parents and carers of children with cognitive disabilities. To my surprise 90% of those in attendance expressed an interest in the project – whether as end users or as distributors. For several months I had found excuses to avoid attending the meeting – it’s too cold, too far, it lasts too long, finishes too late, the list goes on. Now that I had taken the time to attend I realised the value in making the effort, even when I could not see the benefit.
As I focused on this experience I realised that there was a similarity with the attitude to life that many of us sustain. We all have gifts and talents which we fail to explore or enrich, effectively sitting down on them. Talents exist to be nurtured and grown; we should add value to them and use them to our benefit and that of others with whom we encounter. In many cases our inaction is driven by fear; we dread the possibility of catastrophic failure or the fact that we could be ridiculed by others. We are scared of slipping and falling so we sit down in our comfort zones, or cower in corners and watch from the side-lines. We fail to realise that we do not grow when in a relaxed mode, we need to step outside our comfort zones if we are going to make an impact. Jamaicans say: “Mongoose says that a man who can’t take risks is not a man”, i.e. taking risks is a life skill.
If we want change we have to propel that change
It is not unusual for those who venture out to lose their way but generally they rediscover their path and are stronger for the experience. Indeed every person who is successful has experienced failure. Falling is acceptable provided we pick ourselves up and finish our race. In life’s amusement park it is those who dare to venture who enjoy the best rides. If we settle in perpetual comfort we will not grow; there are mountains to climb if we want to see the other side and often that climb is extremely tiring. Recently there was a fire in London and as I watched in awe I thought about the loss of life of so many young people who will never get a chance to continue their race. Life is for living now; tomorrow is not promised! There is an English proverb: “Procrastination is the thief of time”. We should therefore choose to start our walk today, not sit and “wait and see what happens”. If we want change we have to manufacture that change, become a catalyst, a stimulus for that change.
Last Christmas I made a conscious effort to visit neighbours and friends who are housebound. On every occasion my life was enriched. In some cases I received physical gifts and in others I benefited from the wealth of knowledge shared by my more elderly hosts. I still recall and relish moments I spent with them; it really was better to walk than to sit. When we give of ourselves to others we also receive. Giving, whether tangible or intangible – a listening ear, a short visit, a kind word, encouragement, funding… enable us not only to reach out to others but also to reach within ourselves. Being a blessing to others brings joy and other intrinsic outcomes that money cannot buy. There is no greater feeling than the opportunity to observe personal and professional growth engendered by our efforts. Sometimes that small gift is all an individual needs in order to propel them to the next level. Jamaicans explain it in this way: “If you back monkey it will fight tiger” i.e. support and encouragement boost people’s confidence enabling them to embrace bigger, more rewarding challenges. Do your bit for mankind!
If you walk today, chances are you'll run tomorrow
The act of giving does not mean that we encourage dependency; it simply means that we should be good neighbours and in the process impact positively on the life others. Too often we choose to be judgmental, focusing on other people’s circumstances. If you find yourself judging the other person it is better not to give, for that giving would not have come from the heart.
Opportunities are lurking in every corner, if only we would stop focusing on the negativity around. Don’t dwell on the past mistakes of yourself or others – what’s done is done. See today as a good day and get up and walk! If you walk today, chances are tomorrow you could run. You will fall sometimes; that’s acceptable. Get up, learn your lessons, recognise your humanity and try again.
Businesses too, need to walk and not just sit
As business owners we too have to recognise the importance of walking and not merely sitting. Those who perpetually operate at the same level - continuously sitting and not walking - will not grow. We have to introduce new ways of working and encourage the creativity of our colleagues and employees. We cannot afford do adopt a “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” attitude. If we invite and encourage complacency we’ll be overtaken and soon enough taken away by the undertaker. Ten years ago many of us did not do business online; nowadays we have to consider and explore how we can add value via this medium. There is a Spanish proverb:Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente- The shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current i.e: You snooze, you lose.
How many of our small organisations sustain a corporate social responsibility budget? More important still how many actively seek to support vulnerable people or contribute to charitable causes? The same principles of giving as an individual obtain in the case of organisations, large and small. It is not accidental that Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world. Here’s a quote from him: “Money has no utility to me beyond a certain point. Its utility is entirely in building an organisation and getting the resources out to the poorest in the world.”
Have a heart
It is not good enough to say the company's profit margins are slim so there isn’t enough available to give. Small contributions will have very little impact on your organisation but may bring significant benefit to others. My organisation sends items to disabled children and their families in different developing countries every year; it is such a joy to see the difference it makes to recipients. We have now developed The Pocket Learner and we are keen to find partners and well-wishers to enable us to distribute the resource to vulnerable and disabled children living in deprived areas or disadvantaged situations.
Let us make a commitment to start walking while we still can. Let us, in our walk, remember those who are most vulnerable and open our hands and hearts. Clenched fists can’t give and certainly they cannot receive.