If you are struggling to pick a cause, or choose between causes, allow me to share a story about my friend Ronald that will likely help. I met Ronald while in Uganda serving and doing research for iEmpathize . One smoldering African afternoon we were walking through the “bush”, as the endless tall grass fields are called in Northern Uganda, taking water filtration systems to widows near the Sudanese border. I was struggling to put together a speech that I would be delivering upon return to the US and was searching for a way to motivate a group of anti-trafficking novices to get off the fence and delve into the issue in deeper and more meaningful ways. I kept going back to the importance of them connecting with and finding their passions.
As our group passed through the tall sunburnt brush I closed my eyes to think. How do we ignite their passion?
“What?”, asked Ronald, his voice breaking into my thoughts, revealing that I was actually thinking out loud.
“Oh, I was just mulling over a talk I’m giving when I get back to the States.”
“Really? Tell me about it.” Ronald inquired.
“Well, its about engaging people. Getting them from a place of sympathy to a place of empathy, as my friend Brad Riley likes to say. I think it’s about helping them find their passion,” I responded.
“No disrespect, but I’m not sure it’s about helping people find their passion.” replied Ronald.
“Really?” I asked, “ What do you mean?”
“Well, people can be passionate about a lot of things, but passion often wains. We can bounce around from volunteer activity to volunteer activity. However, the real engagement and long term investment happens when someone finds what pains them. Then, as they engage in this pain, there is transformation, for themselves and for others. The transformation happens when we become brave enough to speak out about the pain and find others who are doing the same. Then we form groups, or what I would call tribes, to do something about that pain we all feel.”
Wow! Here was this 20-year-old laying out a serious life lesson. Such perspective. And Ronald did have perspective. You see, Ronald had grown up in Uganda and had been captured by the Lord’s Resistance Army, which forced him to commit horrendous atrocities to other human beings. Upon his escape, Ronald was sponsored by an organization. It was through this sponsorship that he was clothed, fed, nurtured, and educated. The tribe of people had found what pained them, banded together to overcome this pain, and through this process helped raise up this young man who was wise beyond his years.
So as you set out to partner with an amazing organization like iEmpathize, I recommend following Ronald’s advice by finding a cause that connects deeply with who you are at your core, down deep, perhaps where it causes you pain.