“It is within my power either to serve God, or not to serve Him. Serving Him I add to my own good and the good of the whole world. Not serving Him, I forfeit my own good and deprive the world of that good which was within my power to create.” —Leo Tolstoy “If you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.” —Homer Simpson
I love the last minute. All the high stakes moments in sports happen in the final seconds: the buzzer beater, the shootout, the hail mary. Also exciting: barely making it through the yellow-turned-red light, the climactic movie scene, witnessing the countdown to LIFT OFF. The last minute provides a rush of adrenaline that my otherwise jittery attention span locks onto.
I’m sure this “rush” is the only conceivable explanation for procrastinating so badly on a recent challenge I accepted. The task was simple: take $100 and see how much you can multiply it for good in a year. The possibilities of multiplying $100 looked bright at the dawn of 2017, but each week I tallied the same dim result: nothing risked, nothing gained.
The burden of the $100 challenge grew heavier with each passing month. Spring flew, and summer closed with an incredible halftime show eclipse. In the third quarter record hurricanes thrashed the Caribbean again and again and the trees in Tennessee shed their leaves right on schedule. By the time retail stores stocked their shelves for Christmas I still hadn’t moved on a single idea.
Ready to quit, large letters suddenly caught my attention: 60% OFF ALL PRODUCTS. A major online printing company announced a sale, which gave me an idea: design a irresistible holiday card, print it on the cheap, and donate all the sales to our storm-ravaged neighbors in Puerto Rico. It wasn’t a perfect plan but time was running out.
The week of Thanksgiving, my wife and I took a stroll across the Woodland Street Bridge to capture a few shots of Nashville at night. I designed a postcard from the photos I took and had them printed in time for a holiday market at our church the next week.
With the 60% discount the print order for 100 postcards totaled $99.85, including shipping in time for the market. I had my postcards in hand the day before the market opened!
One of my favorite stories in the Bible describes a certain landowner that paid the same amount to each day laborer no matter what time they showed up. One worker showed up at the “11th hour”— an hour before closing—and got paid the same amount as others who worked all day. What a system! Boy does everybody hate the 11th hour guy. Unless you are him.
Turns out I sold out of postcards. Actually, I sold 96. I sent two to friends, put one in a frame for posterity, and sent one to Puerto along with the total sales: $300. In addition, my father-in-law was inspired to do donate to Puerto Rico as well – bonus!
Swish. Goal. Touchdown.
The whole ordeal taught me a valuable lesson: even our small and last minute efforts to bring good into the world can generate multiple positive results, and even a small gift is better than nothing at all. I could’ve quit and nothing would’ve happened. But because of a small effort, people in need received some valuable goods and 100 people received hand written notes in the mail.
Most of all I learned once again that engaging the power we have to act in the face of overwhelming odds can be FUN. Heave the ball up there with a prayer and someone might just come down with it. I needed this reminder not to deprive the world of the small good within, no matter how tiny it seems or how long I’ve waited to get started. Truly, the only way to lose is to keep the ball to yourself.
But, knowing what’s on the line, why wait? 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 …