Sometimes The Answer Is No

I like saying yes.
Perhaps that is because I am a pleaser at heart.
I also tend to root for the underdog in most situations.
I think that is why I am still a #mariners fan.

Today I have been hiking through the rural farming district of Tororo Uganda. My purpose here is to locate and assess potential water springs that my organization #planetchanger might protect in order to provide clean water for communities who have none.

My heart and soul long to say yes to every community I visit. As I hike down to the watering hole, women and children are scooping murky water and pouring it into a smattering of jerry-cans that lie around that they will then lug a great distance to their huts and homes.

When they see us arrive, their eyes light up with hope. Perhaps fewer babies will die, maybe fewer community members will get cholera or some of the sickness if we work with them to protect the spring and provide clean water.

I like saying yes.
But, sometimes, I have to say no.

Today, we were climbing down a bouldery hill into an area where people were collecting their water from a dirty spring, but that was all they had access to.

The hike was long and hot, the trail was small and awkward, and the spring site was really large. This would be a hard project for us to complete.

On the way to the spring, I passed by a series of graves. This one gave me a gut punch:

I “really” wanted to say yes to this project. No momma should have to lose a 1 one-year-old baby because of water sickness.

After the assessment was finished, it was clear that this water site would be too large for us to do. The cost would be huge, about 10 times the cost of a normal water project. The road needed to access the water spring was so bad that we could not get the bricks (hard-cores) and materials needed anywhere close to where they needed to be. When you operate on a small budget, sometimes you have to say no.

So, the answer to this one was no.

And that hurt my soul.

I paused as I walked back past the graves. Most of the people buried there we 36-42 years old. Also too young to die. I looked again at the grave of the one-year-old and said, “I’m sorry.”

I argue with God a lot in moments like this.

I wish I had been born into a family with millions, or, I figure God could at least throw me a PowerBall win so I could say yes to more projects that inspire hope and create healthy thriving communities. But I wasn’t, and the PowerBall hasn’t hit for me.

While visiting a potential water project site a young man named John Richard Omsungu said,

“You see our conditions in Africa. We are surviving on God’s nature (natural water supply). We need spring protection for clean water. Please, will you help us with getting clean water? 

While my NGO Planet Changer is small, and although we operate on a small budget, we have accomplished some amazing things that truly humble me.

Since 2011, we have protected approximately 50 springs in rural Uganda, bringing clean water to tens-of-thousands. Communities that are now healthier and have hope. Communities that have come together to help build their water system with our National staff creating sustainable solutions that they are proud of and helped create. That continues to inspire me.

So, I like to say yes.

Today I had to say no to some potential projects.

But, I also said yes to the next round of water systems that we will able to accomplish together with the people who will benefit from their creation.

Thank you for helping me say yes to as many opportunities as possible when you invest in what we do at www.planetchanger.org

Today I heard “thank you-thank you-thank you” from many men and women who we have partnered with to bring clean water to their communities. I tend to find myself saying the same words back to them back in these moments. “Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life. We are all one no matter where we are from, and at Planet Changer we know that #waterislife.

Together we are Inspiriting hope!

5 Great Quotes About Community

shutterstock_351655727
I have a love hate relationship with “community.”

As a person who falls a bit more into the introverted side of personality yet works as an ambivert (both intro and extroverted), choosing to connect is not always an easy choice. I recharge best alone, and living and working in a world of people I notice my energy levels deplete pretty fast. The last thing I want is to connect with more people.

However, I have also noticed a tendency towards depression when I choose to isolate too much, and it is actually people (community) that have been the key to re-infusing my energy levels, remind me what is true, and love me as I am…and this is life-giving.

Experiencing real community in a culture that is immersed in rabid individualism is rare and scary but oh so powerful. In community we cultivate our “others-ness” which opens the path of love that is only available when we are authentic, vulnerable and real. This creates a spiritual and emotional connection that is a greenhouse for affection, trust, risk, honesty and love…these things require that we open ourselves up in community, with-and-for-others, resulting in a mutual if not global effect.

Here are five great quotes I came across concerning community today…chew on them…

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
― John DonneNo man is an island 

 

“People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”
― Wendell BerryThe Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

 

“A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets. Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of man is to accept his insignificance, his human condition and his earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness. The beauty of man is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day.”
― Jean VanierCommunity And Growth

“Each of us must rededicate ourselves to serving the common good.  We are a community.  Our individual Fates are linked; our futures intertwined; and if we act in that knowledge and in that spirit together, as the Bible says: “We can move mountains.”
Jimmy Carter

 

“When I am with a group of human beings committed to hanging in there through both the agony and the joy of community, I have a dim sense that I am participating in a phenomenon for which there is only one word….”glory.”
M. Scott Peck

A Prayer For Oso

oso

Here is a link to watch the latest update: http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/deadly-washington-state-mudslide-90-still-missing-as-weary-rescuers-continue-to-dig

Even though it is in my region, the devastating events of the Oso landslide seem so surreal. There are still more than 90 people unaccounted for, and with 17-18 deaths, more people have lost their life in this disaster than in the Mt. St. Helens eruption I am told.

Perhaps you have looked for a way to make a donation or help in some way. The Seattle Sounders have teamed up with the Red Cross to help facilitate a safe and trusted way to pich in. Here is what the Seattle Times said about the relief partnership:

The Sounders will partner with the American Red Cross to collect donations at Saturday’s game for disaster relief, particularly the devastating Oso mudslide.

Volunteers will accept donations at various gates, along Occidental Avenue and throughout CenturyLink Field before Seattle’s 7 p.m. home game against the Columbus Crew. Team ownership, through the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and Hanauer Family Foundation, will match donations up to $15,000.

People can also donate by visiting www.redcross.org or sending the text message “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

More from the release:

A gift to the American Red Cross will help people affected by disasters like the Oso Mudslide and countless other emergencies. These gifts enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

Join me in praying for the people and the responders involved in this unfathomable loss, and if you can, make a donation to the Red Cross/Sounders effort…

mudslide1

God, in times like these we need your voice,
Your Spirit, Your presence, Your care.
Please hold the hearts that have lost so much,
From life to hope to faith.

May we be Your voice, Your presence, Your care,
May our eyes convey Your tears.
Remove all fear and ease all pain,
As people begin the journey of grief and loss
and find their souls stretching to receive Your comfort.

God of the broken, the lonely, the scared
I know  that sometimes life does not make sense,
Sometimes there is no immediate answer to the mystery,
but there is always Your presence bringing about light in the darkness.

May we all believe that “Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall surely be comforted.”
In this hour, we need you..

~Amen

Seven Habits Great Leaders Share

shutterstock_118121788

I have had the opportunity to work with and interact with some incredible leaders over the years. The more you hang out with a particular group of people, the more you begin to see patterns and similarities in key areas. The following are some key areas of commonality I have encountered among some great leaders that are worth considering and embracing:

1.  Great Leaders Balance Their Energy:

Too many people spend too much energy simply being busy. There is a big difference between working busy and working smart. When you are constantly saying that you are “too busy” you are right! Great leaders work smart, delegate well and balance their input and output. If you are constantly running on adrenaline, you are depleting your cognitive abilities to react and respond well. Just like the damage a car would experience if it ran at 10k RPMs constantly, eventually the human body will “burn up” and “melt down.” We hear people say, “I hit the wall,” or “I burnt out,”or “I crashed.” Those are all very visual analogies describing what happens when leaders don’t manage their energies. Great leaders make sure that they are building margin into their lives by rest, exercise, meditation, study, and even scheduling people loads that are doable. When a leader has energy they lead from a place of health and centeredness instead of chaos and reaction.

“Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.” ~Brian Tracy 

2.  Great Leaders Focus on Their Strengths:

Most of the great leaders I have encountered focused on leading from their strengths and not trying to conquer and reform their weaknesses. This is not to say that they were unaware, ignorant or indifferent to their weaknesses. They continued to grow and improve, but by concentrating more on what they were good at propelled them much farther than they would have gone if they were more concerned about improving their areas of weakness. Most of the great leaders surrounded themselves with people who were strong where they were weak and empowered them in those areas. This way everyone including the organization as a whole experienced growth and forward movement. This requires a good sense of self-awareness and an ability to put the ego aside and acknowledge your weaknesses and allow for others to excel where you are not as well gifted.

“The great mystery isn’t that people do things badly but that they occasionally do a few things well. The only thing that is universal is incompetence. Strength is always specific! Nobody ever commented, for example, that the great violinist Jascha Heifetz probably couldn’t play the trumpet very well.” ~ Peter Drucker

3. Great Leaders Limit Negative Thinking:

This is so important. I have never met a great leader who has a negative attitude or outlook. Negativity breeds pessimism, defeatism, and can destroy a marriage, team or organization. Great leaders exhibit an ability to see beyond the obstacles, through the valleys, and above the dirt of the ground floor. They have a 30 thousand foot view of things and choose to limit negative thoughts. This does not mean that they are in denial, no, rather they choose to believe in something bigger than themselves and tenaciously cling onto faith and hope in their vision. The person who thinks it can’t be done and the person who thinks it can be done are both right. We establish our outcomes by the way we frame our thought processes. Think small and receive small. Think big and receive big. Great leaders make positive thinking and positive interactions a daily necessity.

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” ~Zig Ziglar 

4. Great Leaders Focus On Something Bigger Than Themselves:

Truly great leaders live for something bigger than themselves. Something grander than money. Something beyond self gratification. They long to see people helped, communities healed, injustice dealt with and the marginalized empowered. These leaders have a sense of “God” and calling in their lives. They know that their own life is not an accident and that they have a divine purpose to fulfill before they breathe their last breath. This drives them to accomplish great things aided by the divine power that God infuses them with. If your greatest dream is to win the powerball your vision is too small. Powerball thinkers never accomplish anything because they think change is connected to money. Money follows vision…vision never follows money.

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” ~ Goethe

5. Great Leaders Empower Others:

Leadership is not about tasks, it is about empowering others.  The great leaders experience exponential growth because they do not limit themselves to what they alone can do, instead they empower others and this creates a tidal-wave of compounding returns. Equipping, delegation, time investment, and relational care are the tools to empower the people around us. When leaders micro-manage and keep their fingers intertwined in key areas they are choosing to limit growth and success. Empowering the right people is perhaps the fastest road to success.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” ~Sam Walton 

6. Great Leaders Hang Out With Great Leaders:

Are you always helping someone who is needy? Are you constantly the only one in your circle who is giving advice, consolation and help? If you have surrounded yourself with friends who are less successful than you then you will cease to grow as a better leader. We need to be investing in those who are not yet at our level, but we also must have relationships that are pouring into and improving us as well. Great leaders tend to hang out with other leaders who are as successful or more successful for the most part.

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” ~Ronald Reagan

7. Great Leaders Work Hard:

For a great leader there is no such thing as luck, only hard work positioned and employed at the right times and with consistency and perseverance. These leaders know that things don’t just drop from the sky, even though it might seem that way to those who look at their lives. Rolled up sleeves and worn out knees are the trademark of great leaders. They are not afraid to work and never look for the easiest route. Instead, they work hard to ensure no corners were cut, and integrity has the final word on what they are accomplishing. While great leaders work hard, remember that since they balance their energy and work smart, it appears that they have available time to enjoy life, and guess what? They do!

“Leaders aren’t born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” ~Vince Lombardi