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The Power of Giving Back

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The Power of Giving Back

Kate Raidt is the author of The Million-Dollar Parent and founder of Team Scottie. Kate is pictured with her dear friend Scottie Burchett.

“Our happiness is greatest when we contribute most to the happiness of others.” –Harriet Shepard

There is no better feeling with permanent lasting effects on your soul and spirit than the act of giving to people in need. When you develop relationships with people in need, you not only have the chance to inspire and change a human life, but many times that human life is your own. Too often we get mad about the most mundane things: the dog chewed my shoe, my daughter dripped popsicle juice on the furniture, my fax isn’t going through, etc…

So, where did my passion for giving back begin? I don’t watch a lot of television, but the week of Thanksgiving several years ago I happened to catch a man on television by the name of John Wood. While on vacation in the Himalayas, John discovered that the local schools had no books and most of the children did not know how to read.

So John quit his multi-million dollar corporate job at Microsoft to found Room To Read. According to RoomToRead.org, what started with a simple email requesting friends donate used books has grown into an award winning non-profit that over the past eight years has impacted the lives of over 3.1 million children in the developing world by:

  • Constructing 765 schools
  • Establishing over 7,040 libraries
  • Publishing 327 new local language children’s titles representing over 2.8 million books
  • Donating over 2.8 million English language children’s books
  • Funding 6,817 long-term girls’ scholarships
  • Establishing 179 computer and language labs

After seeing John’s story on television, it made my $20 I tossed in the offering bucket at church seem like chump-change. His story truly fired me up to make a difference – a big difference – in someone’s life.

Get Mad

When was the last time you got mad that our local shelters for battered women are packed? When was the last time you got mad that there are handicapped people who get teased and taunted? How mad are you that there are millions of people around the world starving, living without running water or shelter? If everyone would spend their energy getting mad about the state of the world, the state of our communities and doing something about it, were wouldn’t have people suffering all around us.

Team Scottie

I attend my local church at 9:30 every Sunday. Four years ago I saw an elderly woman and her grown son pass me by. Her son was confined to a wheelchair and both of his legs were amputated. I sat on a bench far away and watched them for about 20 minutes. My brain was stirring with curiosity: I wonder how she cares for her son being the age she is? I wonder if they have family helping them out? How are they doing financially? I wonder how he lost his legs? My brain kept saying, They are probably doing just fine but my gut was telling me otherwise: Go introduce yourself to them. They need your friendship and can use some help.

Several months went by. I saw this mother and son every Sunday. I always had intentions of saying hello but I kept procrastinating. One Sunday I was sitting in the aisle of my church. This mother and her disabled son rolled in. The church band was already playing. All of a sudden I was lifted out of my seat, down the stairs and before I knew it I was standing next to the mother.

God was obviously fed up with me not reaching out to this family so he pushed my butt out of my chair and forced me to say hello. At the top of my lungs over the music I said, “Hi, my name is Kate. Uh, can I get your phone number…I’d like to bring you and your son dinner this week.” You would have thought this mother had won the lottery by her reaction. She was so happy.

I scribbled her name and number on a scratch piece of paper and went back to my seat. Her name was Sarah. Her son’s name was Scottie. That Friday I took Sarah and Scottie dinner. While we were eating I said, “So tell me your story”. I was heartbroken as to what I discovered about this family.

Scottie was born with spina bifida – a condition where the spinal cord is incomplete. When Scottie was born the doctor sold Sarah to just let him die because he would not live past the age of 3. At age 3 the doctors said he would not live past age 13 because his body could not handle “adulthood”. On November 7, 2008 Scottie celebrated his 42nd birthday. He is a living miracle.

When Scottie was 28, both of his legs were amputated due to poor blood circulation. His father was so embarrassed that he left the family. People in public (mostly adults) pointed and laugh at Scottie. Once, a group of teenagers pushed over his wheelchair.

I discovered that Sarah and Scottie live on $1000 per month – $750 which pays their rent. The apartment complex where they live was recently sold and the company who bought the land is tearing down their building to build expensive condominiums. Sarah and Scottie are about to lose their home.

To me, the most heartbreaking part of this story is that Sarah, Scottie and I attend one of the largest churches in Austin with over 5000 members. They have been regular attendees for several years. They are impossible not to notice. Out of the 5000 members who pass them by every Sunday at church, only two people have ever introduced themselves and offered a helping hand. Two.

Knowing this, I got mad. I got really, really mad that thousands of people have walked past a 70 year old woman and her grown son who has lost both of his legs and is confined to a wheelchair, but we are too busy, too self-absorbed or too self-conscious to simply say hello. I am just as guilty as the rest – I watched them pass me by every Sunday for almost a year before I ever introduced myself.

I used my anger to build TEAM SCOTTIE. I emailed almost 100 people sharing Scottie’s story and asked anyone and everyone to help support this family. Five people replied initially. Within a few short months, Team Scottie had grown to almost 30 volunteers. In less than one year the Team Scottie volunteers had accomplished the following:

*           Scottie’s first birthday party ever
*           Sarah’s first birthday party ever
*           New apartment in a safer neighborhood
*           Summer art camp for Scottie
*           Over $500 in gift cards for groceries
*           Scottie’s first trip to a restaurant
*           Hair cuts, clothes and new shoes for Sarah
*           Family portrait of their family
*           Will and trust set up from an attorney
*           New wheelchair ramp for Scottie
*           New computer and desk
*           Christmas dinner for the family
***        Dozens of new friends

Do you know of a “Scottie” or “Sarah” in your community, at your school, work, neighborhood or church? Who is someone you know who could definitely use a helping hand? What’s holding you back from being that person who can completely turn their life around? Is the one thing holding you back possibly yourself?

Write down three people who are in need of friendship, emotional support, physical support or financial help. What is your plan of action of how you can help them?

Kate Raidt Kate Raidt is author of The Million-Dollar Parent: How to Have a Successful Career While Keeping Family a Top Priority and founder of advantage4parents.com. She is also an alumnus of the Southwestern Company's summer work program. Kate is also the mother of two young children.
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