Friday, April 27, 2007
A day like no other
My policy is to try and meet with as many people who ask for my time as possible. And I must admit, sometimes I feel (especially with all the other demands on my time) that I should be more strict with my time but I've always believed that for every meeting that I feel misused my time..That it will all balance out.
A man called me last week saying he was from an African country and telling me that he was a survivor of torture and wanted to do some things back home for other survivors. He was scheduled for 10:30. Yesterday afternoon, a local Vancouver man called and said he had read some press on GiveMeaning and wanted to meet quickly just to learn more about what we do. I was more reticent to accept (not wanting to schedule anything that might make me miss my time with the team). I told Ruby (my assistant) not to agree to anything.
The man from Africa was late this morning. I was busy with a number of end-of-the-month issues so was happy to have the extra time. When he arrived at my office, I was still distracted with administrative tasks. I asked him to tell me his story. He apologized in advance, saying it was very difficult to tell his story. I started to focus in on him. As I did so, I noticed aspects of his physical appearance that made me think he had some physical disabilities.
Over the next two hours, he recounted his life from 2 years old to a man of 30 something. I had originally written an account of his story but have decided to delete it as I know I can't recount his story to you. What I can say is that this man sobbed through his life story, and saddened me with a story that filled me with hate, cynicism, and shock (in the truest sense that I was left without words, thoughts or even ability to respond to what I was hearing). This is a man that has been repeatedly tortured to inches within his life and harassed and intimidated even after fleeing his country and arriving in Canada.
This man came to me not asking for anything for himself but wanting to help people worse-off (I quite frankly can't even fathom how that's possible) than him, still living in his home country. He has every right to be entirely self-absorbed, tell his story to garner financial support for himself and his family and yet he's tenacious in his desire to support people who he feels need the support more than him.
I introduced this man to colleagues here at GiveMeaning who met with him separately to talk more about the specific project he wants to do back in his home country.
Ruby told me that the man who had called yesterday looking for "20 minutes" (I have never had a 20 minute meeting with a stranger in my life). I relented begrudgingly. Meeting with him would mean missing my time with the team but something in me told me I needed to meet with him.
By the time he came to the office, the team was leaving the office, leaving me to man the phones by myself. I apologized for having to interrupt our meeting but sitting in my office and listening to how I answer questions about the site is probably one of the best introductions to everything that GiveMeaning is. The more we talked, the more I wanted to say to this guy, in part because I was certainly robbed of my normal pretenses (i.e. armor) from the man I met in the morning.
In one of the phone calls that interrupted the meeting, I told someone about my fundraising page for Victoria Women's Sexual Assault Centre. At the end of my meeting, I ended the first meeting how I almost always end first meetings about GiveMeaning: "Hey, just go on the site and if you see something you like, make a donation or if you can't find something, submit a news story or your own project proposal." He responded by emptying everything he had in wallet on the spot. It ended up being $400. I was totally and completely floored.
The next meeting after that was a friend of someone who works here at GiveMeaning who , upon hearing about what GiveMeaning is all about, wants to create a free radio ad for us! By the time that I started my meeting with him, I was (and am still) emotionally run-down. The generosity of spirit that I am exposed to, and the serendipity that occurs in my life on an almost daily basis day chose to fully whack me over the head today.
I am incredibly blessed. For all who ask why I do what I do, the answers are above.
Quite the day for you, today, indeed. I'm writing to sincerely thank you for your work. I found you through Peter Dietz from www.foik.org. He writes about micro-philanthropy.
I put my proposal on the givemeaning site and it is exciting to watch my friends and their friends cast their votes. I am truly grateful for what you and your staff have done to make this site possible.
And, I'll go to a little Flea Market table tomorrow here on the Sunshine Coast to sell a few things for CanaDares and to tell a few more people about our charity. I will not frustrated by these small efforts now because I know that,as the days go by, people from around the world might be reading our proposal on the givemeaning site.
As Lynda Kearns, our founder, said from the beginning of her CanaDares vision: "It may be just a drop in the bucket, but that drop will spread out in ever-widening circles."
Take care of yourself, Tom.
Blessings from Dayna White;
"We Can Because We Dare" proposal.
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