Day 118. Doing Something

I don’t know about you, but I’m being bombarded with letters and phone calls from charities and causes looking for donations.  I get them all the time, but it escalates at givingthis time of year.

And nowadays, with government funding becoming less likely with each passing day, the need for individual donations is greater than ever.  A challenge in and of itself, with so many out of work, worried they could lose their jobs, or just tightening their belts because of the economy.

Throughout my career, I’ve done a fair bit of work for non-profit organizations; and even in good times, it can be a tough go.  One of the main obstacles is, it’s hard for an individual to believe that their $5 or $25 or even $200 donation can make a difference when the problem is huge.  Like trying to cure a disease, or feeding the homeless, or keeping the local ballet company afloat, or disaster relief.

It’s understandable, of course.  But in reality, if everyone felt that way, and no one ever donated because of it, then where would we be?  In a major mess!  Because even a single dollar, when combined with hundreds or thousands of single dollars from other folks, adds up.  And does good.

Makes me think of a quote I love.  I’d actually read that it was a Helen Keller quote, and it may very well have been at one time.  But the man who first uttered these inspirational words, was Edward Everett Hale:

“I am only one.  But still I am one.  I cannot do everything.  But still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

A wonderful message, don’t you think?  I didn’t know who Edward Everett Hale was, so I looked him up.  Born in 1822, in Boston, he was an American author, historian and Unitarian clergyman.  He was also a child prodigy and was enrolled at Harvard when he was only thirteen years old.  His father, Nathan, whose uncle was a war hero, was the founder and editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser.  Interestingly enough, they were related to Helen Keller, so it’s not surprising that I’d found the quote attributed to her.

While at Harvard, young Edward became part of the literary set, won two Bowdoin prizes, was considered the Class Poet and graduated second in his class.  In 1846 he was licensed to preach and in 1903 he became Chaplain of the United States Senate.  He had a deep interest in the anti-slavery movement as well as popular education and the working man’s home.  He also contributed often to newspapers and magazines and, in fact, he founded two magazines himself, which he used to advance a number of social reforms, including religious tolerance, the abolition of slavery and education reforms.

It was in the story “Ten Times One is Ten”, that a motto of his, which became the basis for the formation of Lend-a-Hand Clubs, Look-up Legions and Harry Wadsworth Clubs for young people, first appeared:

“Look up and not down, look forward and not back, look out and not in, and lend a hand.”

With the holidays fast approaching, this seemed like the perfect time to reflect on his words.  There are so many in need.  In our own backyards.  And around the world.  And I know that as much as its our money that’s needed, our efforts are, as well.  We can serve a meal at a homeless shelter.  Pack boxes at a food bank.  Give clothes we don’t wear to abused women, and their children. Deliver meals to those who can no longer cook for themselves.  Visit the elderly in nursing homes.  Help someone who needs it, cross the street.

Yes, we can do something.  And then we should count our blessings.

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