by Dianne Sivulka, owner of Travel on Purpose
As a small niche travel company that "connects travelers to organizations doing good," I can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the need around me, and I wonder if you do too. So let me explain what I mean. If your email inbox and physical postal box are anything like ours, you have a constant stream of appeals and non-profit organizations sharing how you can get involved in their work.
At Travel on Purpose, we partner with more than a dozen do-good organizations and ministry leaders worldwide. So if you've been following along for any length of time, we are certainly adding to that steady stream of information. Whether through our weekly emails or on social media, we share the good news and the needs of the organizations we partner with. It may feel like trying to take a drink from a firehose. And so today, I wanted to share some thoughts on how to do that well.
The first time I heard the phrase, drinking from a firehose, I sat in a Barnabas Group meeting in San Diego. This is a gathering of business owners and marketplace professionals who apply their skills and expertise to non-profit work. My husband and I became members about seven years ago. We have met countless non-profit leaders with big hearts and impressive dreams for the future. We get introduced to dozens of global leaders every year. The phrase, drinking from a firehose, will sometimes be mentioned at these meetings because of the enormous amount of information we receive.
I'm a visual person, so when I first heard this phrase, drinking from a firehouse, an image of trying to get a sip of water from a monstrous gush
came to my mind. I didn't realize that this phrase, an idiom, has a qualified definition in the dictionary. It reads, To be overwhelmed (with work, information, etc.); to be inundated with an uncapped, unfiltered amount.
So how do we take in a constant stream of information and not feel overwhelmed? How can we be encouraged by the excellent work we learn about and not feel guilty to participate in every cause?
There will never be a shortage of need. But you and I both have limited resources. So how do we discern which causes to get involved with and which to let go by?
Here are five tips to help you determine where you put your time, talent, and treasure.
Be okay with letting a lot of water go by
Know that you can't meet every need. If 100 opportunities pass your way, realize that you might only engage in a couple of them. Be okay with tossing appeals into the trash and deleting emails from your inbox. You might even need to unsubscribe from some email lists to slow the flow. Too much information is sometimes... too much information. We can't meet every need, and we should not feel like we have to.
Take a sip, not a gulp
Can you imagine what would happen if you put your mouth around the firehose and attempted to turn the water on? You'd end up with little to no water and a terrible experience. A better approach is skimming a little off the top. Curious about something? Like what you see? Then take a little sip. If you like that sip, then have a little more. Curiosity is a great driver for learning more. The first step to getting involved with a non-profit is to learn how they operate and how they are meeting needs.
Listen to your heart
What interests you or speaks to your heart? From education to clean water and microfinance to fighting human trafficking, there are incredible organizations worldwide changing lives and bringing hope to hurting and marginalized people. So ask yourself, what causes are near and dear to your heart? God places specific interests and passions in our hearts for a reason. We can't meet every need, but we can meet some of them. I know a group of ladies who use their sewing skills to make dresses for girls living in poverty because they love to sew! I also know a doctor who enjoys contributing to medical missions. Many teachers support organizations that provide education. Do you have a special interest? Listen to your heart and find an organization that shares the same passion.
Pass it on
Over the years at the Barnabas Group, I've met many organizations with a unique purpose that prompted me to think of another person I know. For example, I connected a friend who spent her life as a professional dancer with an organization that reaches at-risk youth through afterschool dance programs. In addition, I recently connected my mom (who spent decades doing Bible studies in women's prisons) with an organization writing a discipleship curriculum for the incarcerated. Networking is a beautiful way to get the right people connected to each other. So if someone comes to mind, pass it on!
The Good Samaritan rule: Help where it's most obvious
In Luke 10, we read about the parable of the Good Samaritan.
This story was Jesus' response to a series of questions. If we are to love our neighbor, then who is our neighbor? If Jesus was using the parable to demonstrate who our neighbor is, then it's pretty clear that our neighbor is the one right in front of us that's in need. Rather than cross the street to avoid the hurting man, the Good Samaritan allowed his time and resources to be interrupted. As a result, he didn't have to go out of his way to find someone to help that day. The need was there on his path. What's most apparent in your life? Where is a need presenting itself right in front of you? Maybe it's not an organization across an ocean, but perhaps a great initiative in your town. Perhaps it's your literal neighbor.
I think wisdom and action go a long way when deciding where to help. First, ask God to guide your time and resources. Then act. We can't meet every need, and we shouldn't feel like we have to. But we can meet some, and we should.
Richard Foster summarizes this concept in Celebration of Discipline: "Discernment and obedience are the keys. Learning when to say 'no' is important. So is learning when to say 'yes'.
I hope this helps! Send me a note at [email protected] and let me know how you determine where to put your time, talent and treasure.