Last week, I wrote a post about how to support someone leading a revolution. This post was written at the very beginning of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and mere hours before the simmering anger in Ferguson, MO turned into a full blown fire. These two topics may seem to have little in common, but both inspired a fury of commentary on the role of the individual in impacting change.
You’d think all “do gooders” would get along. We have one important thing that unites us – we all want to do good deeds and serve the world we live in. But for most issues we unknowingly separate ourselves into two distinct camps with opposing views on what doing good truly looks like. And that’s where the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Ferguson, MO brought our differences to the surface. All week my Facebook feed was filled with conversations bordering arguments from some of the most amazing and compassionate servers I know. Which camp are you arguing for – Evolutionary Servers or Revolutionary Servers?
The definition of evolution I’m using
The gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.
How Evolutionary Servers affect change
Evolutionary Servers work within the current system to make gradual improvements. They take a pragmatic approach to meeting the needs of today first, but also plan for the needs of the future.
Why they’re needed
- Evolutionary Servers meet people where they are. They often figure out how to get a broader audience more engaged even if they aren’t fully committed yet. They open the door to dialogue usually in a non-confrontational manner.
- An example from this week: ALS is a horrific disease that is grossly underexposed and underfunded. So Evolutionary Servers don’t mind using tactics like a somewhat trivial Ice Bucket Challenge to raise immediate funds and awareness. They are not overly concerned that the funding is coming from less committed donors. They are not overly bothered by the fact that the funding level will not likely return again. They are successfully serving in the here and now. And right here and right now they have raised a lot of money and are bringing in a major victory for a cause that desperately deserves it.
- Evolutionary Servers are trusted and respected by the masses. Their efforts though slower to bring about large scale change prepare the world for the right time to support a revolution.
Why they often clash with Revolutionary Servers
- Evolutionary Servers sometimes feel attacked by their revolutionary counterparts. They want to stand with them but don’t appreciate being judged when they don’t push the envelope as far (or as fast) as Revolutionary Servers want to see it go. They view Revolutionary Servers as preachy, judgmental and at times unrealistic.
- An example from this week: Evolutionary Servers found themselves “called out” for not speaking out against injustice. Many wanted to withhold comment until the facts surrounding Michael Brown’s death were more concrete and tensions in Ferguson had reached more manageable levels.
- Emotionally, Evolutionary Servers have spent a great deal of energy improving a current system. Having that system completely changed by Revolutionary Servers could appear to invalidate their efforts.
The definition of revolution I’m using
An overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.
How Revolutionary Servers affect change
Revolutionary Servers work to overhaul a current system in favor of a brand new system. They believe the current system is broken. They work within the old system to support immediate needs, but their main goal is to overthrow the old unjust or ineffective system in favor of a new one.
Why they’re needed
- Revolutionary Servers are the people that provide new opportunities for a better world beyond what we can currently imagine.
- An example from this week: To a Revolutionary Server the Ferguson case is an electrifying catalyst to address more than just the actions of a single police officer. It is an opportunity to engage individuals and institutions in an action-focused campaign for massive change. Revolutionary Servers stand ready to push the catalyst for revolution into systematic change. And they are not shy about forcing discussion and action.
- Revolutionary Servers are the people that make the masses uncomfortable. They push people out of their comfort zones and make individuals they touch better for it.
Why they often clash with Evolutionary Servers
- Revolutionary Servers sometimes see Evolutionary Servers as a hindrance to systematic change. Because Evolutionary Servers work within the current system their successes help give the appearance that the need for massive overhaul is less acute.
- An example from this week: This is where the Ice Bucket Challenge caused so much tension. It is a win for ALS funding and the researchers that need that money right this second. But it is a potential loss for anyone that wants to see the current system of “disengaged giving to charity” replaced with a new system of “committed partnerships for change”. Revolutionary Servers see a win for the old system as a setback in the movement towards the new system. And the Ice Bucket Challenge was a BIG win for the old system.
Are both camps needed?
Could the camps work better together?
Would love to hear your thoughts.
Please post them via social media or in the comments below.
There’s something magical about close friends talking with nothing in particular they need to cover. The conversation is free to dart all around and uncover new ideas. Yesterday, I was able to enjoy one of those unstructured phone calls with a friend while she waited at the airport. Somehow the conversation landed on the concept of falling in love and whether it’s possible to feel those feelings without a romantic relationship. I believe you can find many of those feelings through service. Here’s how:
- Service (like falling in love) deepens your own self-worth. It is important that I differentiate “falling in love” with “being in love”. Falling in love is more about how YOU feel than anything you’re giving to the other person. Falling in love is you appreciating someone else for appreciating you. Being in love is when you start the real work of loving them. Service definitely requires that you do work for others, but there’s a very personal impact as well. Service reminds you that you make a difference and that you’re valuable. Self-worth makes you feel safe and maybe even a bit invincible. This is similar to how you feel when falling in love.
- Following a service passion (like falling in love) requires deep vulnerability. Letting someone into your heart is extremely vulnerable. It is scary and dangerous, but it also feels great. It feels great because deep down you want to be truly known for the beautiful imperfect person you are. You may fear vulnerability, but you also crave it. You have to bring down your walls to let love in. It feels scary and exhilarating, but it also feels natural. Being open is our natural state. Service inspires the exhilaration of vulnerability as well. You have to care to act. You have to act to serve. Caring forces you to open up emotionally to let compassion in.
- Service (like falling in love) helps you grow and discover the things that you and you alone can offer this world. When falling in love, you see a magnificent reflection of yourself in your lover’s eyes. Finally you feel seen and known. And I don’t mean known for the small details that have made up your life. I mean known for the things that uniquely make you a glorious being. I’m talking about your perfect combination of wit, humor, strength, weakness, intellect, spirituality, etc. This will include other attributes like how adventurous, sensitive or faith-filled you are. When you’re falling in love your special God given gifts rise to the surface and become more pronounced. It’s like your lover has held a mirror up that shows you more than just physical beauty. This mirror shows you, “you.” It shows you the person you always knew was in there, but you may not have seen for a long while. And you’ve missed this version of yourself…a lot. Service is a similar mirror. It gives you a place to bring your gifts and uniqueness out of the shadows and place them on full display. It gives you a place to see and be your glorious self.
Would you like to fall in love again and again?
This weekend my husband and I had some extended time with a young man that we consider to be a part of our family. He wasn’t brought into our lives by birth, but he was bought into our hearts for a purpose. He’s going to start a revolution and he’ll need our support.
When I picked this title I thought I better make sure I knew exactly what the definition of revolution was, so I looked it up. Here’s what I found:
Revolution: A forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.
At the ripe old age of 19, I see the spark of revolution in this young man. His particular revolution involves overthrowing the social order that views almost anything that is synonymous with the inner-city as “hood” and “ghetto” and therefore inferior. This is a very complex issue. Like most revolutionary campaigns it will be hard work and require a massive commitment to service.
I’ve never been someone to start revolutions, but I think it’s important to support them. Revolutions don’t just make things better, they change the world. They introduce concepts and systems that were previously off our radars all together. Revolutionary people are often very passionate about service, but they need to be served as well. Supporting them fuels the fire that sets the revolution aflame. Here are three things to consider when offering support to a revolutionary thinker in your life.
- Don’t be afraid of crazy. Try to let your mind think beyond our current realties. There was a time, not that long ago, when the internet did not exist. Even democracy was once a brand new concept. Were these things crazy at the time? Yes. Were their founders crazy? Yes. Would you have been able to support them?
- Embrace naivety. In most cases being naïve can be a detriment, but in a revolution it’s a strength. People that are well grounded and informed often get deadlocked by the complexity of finding a reasonable solution. But the naive get right to action. They start trying because they believe they can make a difference. And they do, because they are actually working on it. We can offer them wisdom, but it’s important not to crush the innocence that’s fueling the revolution.
- Be a safe place. Believing passionately in something (anything) opens you up to examination and judgment. Grant them your unconditional acceptance. Make sure they know that if they make mistakes along the way, they will be learning moments. Let them know that any learning moments will just make them better prepared to serve.
Are you starting a revolution or supporting a revolution?
“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
This is a post I update every month. Many of the ideas come from your comments and suggestions.
But, I almost didn’t update the post this month. There has been so much conflict and tragedy in the world that I didn’t know if highlighting acts so small made light of the massive needs. Then I was reminded of the quote above. Every act of service matters.
I’m not suggesting that these quick ideas are where your efforts should stop. I’m just offering a place to start (or restart) your path to service. And some great ways to practice love in a world that desperately needs it.
50 simple acts of service
- Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a problem that seems hopeless.
- Cut a neighbors grass.
- Donate school supplies.
- Offer support to a grieving soul.
- Share a piece wisdom that only comes with age.
- Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
- Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
- Give someone a gift you made yourself.
- Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
- Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
- Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
- Loan someone a book you love.
- Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
- Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
- Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
- Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
- Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
- Give someone more credit than they deserve.
- Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
- Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
- Fight indifference. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
- Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
- Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
- Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
- Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
- Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
- Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
- Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
- Listen carefully. Many people yearn to be heard.
- Thank a teacher for their service.
- Tell someone a joke.
- Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
- Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
- Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
- Pray for someone.
- Teach someone something. Anything.
- Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
- Give someone you love your undivided attention.
- Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
- Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
- Hug someone.
- Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
- Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
- Leave change in a vending machine.
- Pay the toll for the person behind you.
- Thank a solider for their service.
- Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
- Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
- Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
- If you love them, tell them.
What are some others?
I resigned from my job this week. It feels odd to even be sharing that. But this may be the best place to do it. I often feel as if we’re on an intimate journey together. So I want to be transparent about what my journey looks like right now. I hope you’ll do the same.
I’m leaving a good job. I knew where my career path was leading. And I felt supported. I don’t take lightly what a blessing it was to have that job (or any job).
The decision is made, but it still feels risky and sometimes foolish. That is why this post is about the concept of risk. Risk is on my mind. To me, risk feels like a series of questions that begs each and every one of us to answer. If we don’t take time to contemplate the questions, our lives will still reflect the answers. Even in the most conservative of gambles we reveal our relationship with risk. Ask yourself:
- What should I be willing to risk?
- When is the right time to take a risk?
- Why should I be willing to take a risk?
- Who is worth taking a risk on?
- Am I strong enough to risk failing?
- Do I have enough faith to lean on when I’m afraid?
There is one distinct pattern I’ve noticed about the readers here – you instinctively know that you are needed in this world. You know that you have powerful gifts inside and a destiny to follow. Some of you definitely know what your gifts are already. Others are just beginning your journey to reveal them and walk into your purpose. I’m somewhere in the middle.
Either way, the journey to live a life of service requires that we get comfortable with risk. Whether that is risking emotional vulnerability or risking financial security. Risk takes many forms and what’s right for me definitely may not be right for you. But whenever you feel the pull of purpose and the greater call to serve, you will likely feel the pang of risk. And you may hear risk’s questions being whispered all around. I hope you will take the time to deliberately and thoughtfully answer them for yourself.
What are you risking right now?
Last week, I wrote a post about caring. It was about the tracking of our interests in news stories and how that data reflects what we support or care about. My point was that the simple and seemly insignificant act of caring about a social issue can actually help create tangible change. If you’d like to read that post you can find it here.
I realize now that I wrote these posts out of order. Though this post will be Part II on caring, it really should have been Part I. I should have started by talking about caring in a more personal way. Because broadly caring for others is core to serving, but more importantly it is core to being fulfilled and happy.
Here are the two things I should have pointed out last week:
Caring will teach you how to identify your feelings.
What are you feeling right now? Can you tell? If you’re like most of us, it is often hard to pinpoint exactly what we feel. Happy? Sad? Bored? I get pretty irritable when I’m hungry so I have to watch that closely. Knowing what we feel is the first step to managing our requests. We have to know what we feel if we hope to accurately express what we need. Sometimes what we need is food, but it can also be something more important like respect. We have to express what we need if we hope to have others honor that. And we have to know who will and won’t honor our needs if we want to have the right support team in our lives.
Caring about strangers in a news story helps you get familiar with your feelings. It helps remind you what sad feels like for you. It helps you pinpoint how anger builds for you. Are you familiar with your pang of hopelessness? What about your version of fear? Are you familiar with how you experience these things in your mind, in your body and in your heart? You can’t think through the answers to these questions. You have to feel them yourself. Caring about strangers gives you a chance to experience these feelings in a more controlled fashion. If it’s too much at first, turn the TV off or switch to another webpage. Try again later. But remember how it made you feel.
Caring for strangers is a low risk way to increase your tolerance for being vulnerable.
If you want to have strong, amazing and dynamic relationships you will need to get comfortable with vulnerability. Period. This is not negotiable no matter how much you may like feeling safe and being in control. Do you like the idea of having an awesome marriage, “to the grave” friendships or crazy-loving family bonds? If so, you will HAVE to get comfortable with the idea of caring deeply for people that can and will hurt you. You will have to get comfortable with letting the actions and choices of others have an impact on your emotional wellbeing. It isn’t easy. But it is through vulnerability that love and trust grow.
The good news is you can actually build up your tolerance to vulnerability every time you chose to care about anything or anyone you can’t control. Try this the next time you watch the news or read an article about human struggle. Don’t just take in the information analytically, pause and try to feel yourself caring for the individuals. Imagine if it was you or someone you love. Let their faces stay in your mind. Let them in fully knowing that you can’t fix things and you probably can’t help them. Let that vulnerability in. Then say a prayer for them and move on. Every time you do this, you will get more comfortable with accepting vulnerability. This will serve you when being vulnerable has higher more personal stakes. And it will make you more at ease when you need to choose between opening up or playing it safe.
Ok, this is my second case for caring and I hope it’s a strong one. I sincerely believe that caring broadly will serve you more than you might imagine. Trust me, it’s not a waste of your time.
Do you have a better case for caring?
I’m all ears.
A day ago, a close friend posted two very different status updates. One post was about the astounding level of violence in the streets of Chicago last weekend. The other was about getting her day kicked-off with iced coffee from Starbucks. Same person. Same day. Which post do you think was most popular? If I’m being honest, I’d have to admit to enjoying the Starbucks post more. It was fun, light and relatable. I’d just left Starbucks too.
The Chicago post made me sad and left me feeling helpless. I scanned by it at first and only came back to it out of guilt. I knew what the story would say before I read it – 1. Random violence in poor neighborhood. 2. Things are getting worse. 3. Many dead. It was not in any way uplifting. And I read nothing that made me hope things would get better. Was that a waste of time? Was that a pointless drain on my positive outlook? I say no, and here’s why.
The case for caring.
Media outlets, politicians and marketers have become increasingly sophisticated at noticing what we care about and then feeding it back to us (again and again). For the purpose of this post when I say “we” I mean the vast middle class that everyone hears so much about during election season. They notice that we care about celebrity stories. We care about feel-good rescue efforts. We care about the untimely deaths of people that are supposed to live in safe areas and aren’t supposed to die young. We care about strong beliefs and the showmanship of political fights. We definitely care about consumer products (hence the Starbucks post). And you better believe we care about anything that involves winning big from sports to business.
So that’s what we do care about. What’s something we don’t care about?
We don’t care about people dying in poor drug-infested neighborhoods. I won’t pretend that race isn’t a factor too, but that’s a different post for a different day. The urban death toll story has been told a million times so in many ways we are desensitized to it. And we find it hard to relate to the victims. They may have been involved in committing crimes. They may just be poor which means they have yet to “boot strap” their way to more safety and success. This implies that being poor is mostly their own fault and clearly not how we would be living if in their shoes. Again, we can’t relate nor are we trying to. Yes we feel bad, but no we don’t want to read stories about it. No, we don’t want to click on that link about young people dying in senseless ways on a weekend we spent celebrating and eating hot dogs. It is an emotional drain to care and our caring doesn’t seem to help anything.
They know what we care about.
People in power (within business, media, and politics) spend hours tracking and analyzing the numerical data on what we care about. They know what we click on and what we don’t. They closely track what we tweet on and post on. They know if we share a link or simply “Like” it. They even know if we stayed on the page long enough to have actually read the article or if we quickly left. They may know if we ran any follow up searches on the topic. They know if more people than normal are sending emails with the word “Chicago” in it. Thanks to Google Analytics, I’ll know if this ends up being my most unpopular post yet.
I realize we can’t pay attention and care about every issue. What’s happening in Chicago is just an example of what mass indifference looks like and how it spreads. It perfectly illustrates how a holiday massacre can become just a minor national story. It isn’t my intention to imply that urban violence deserves more focus from you than a service area you may care more about. My main point here is that caring is tracked closely and caring makes a difference. Whether or not people care about an issue has a dramatic effect on the resources and public attention given to finding a solution. And our small acts that demonstrate we care about a topic (reading and sharing articles, liking posts, and engaging in thoughtful dialogue) matter. They matter a lot.
It’s a struggle to care. As the title says, it is often uncomfortable and sometimes inconvenient. But every little bit counts. Have you closed your emotional doors to the plight of strangers, current events or problems that seem unsolvable? If so, I’d encourage you to try to open them again. I’d encourage you to fight ambivalence and to care more freely and more broadly. Caring does matter and they’ll notice when you do. Numbers don’t lie.