By Elisabeth Corcoran
When I was a freshman in high school, I ran for class vice president. Pretty bold seeing as I had transferred just the year before. And I wasn't in the popular crowd. And I was an introvert. I lost. Despite all those rockin' posters. But something happened in me with that loss. The rejection, if you will, felt like a big "no" coming down on me. In that moment, I realized I didn't much like being told no, by anyone. So I ran again for vice president as a sophomore. Another no. And I ran again as a junior. Nope, didn't happen. I'll let you decide: hugely determined or a bit insane? They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. (No, I didn't run my senior year - by then I had found my niche as the yearbook editor and just didn't have the urge.) But that losing streak was the start of a fortitude in me that would come in handy down the road.
For instance, when I wrote my first book, I sent it out to publishers. One publisher at a time. (That's what they require of you.) Then I'd wait for about six weeks for the rejection letter. Then I'd send it out again to a different publishing house. I did this fifty two times (yes, 52) over the course of thirteen months before I landed my book deal. That was 52 times of me basically saying, "Don't tell me 'no'." A bit insane or hugely determined?
With each "no" I've been dealt in my life, especially when I've felt like I had decided to do something that God urged me to do, I have stood up a bit straighter, looked the situation (or person) in the eye (in my mind only, of course) and said with my actions, "Who are you to tell me 'no'?" Resolve or rebellion? (You decide.)
I've gotten two "no's" this past month. One has to do with a writing project that is hugely important to me (but we won't go down that path today, other than to say, I'm working even harder on it now). And the other has to do with Africa . Sort of. I wanted to do something to bring light to the situation to a certain group of people that I know and it was put on the back burner for me. Of course, that just turned up the heat in me. Fine, I thought, if this group of people cannot be my audience than I'll just have to find another audience. Aren't you the lucky ones? I know, I know, I just talked about all this last month. So this is my last shot. If anything I said in last month's column moved you in any way at all, I want to talk to you for a few more moments. If not, we'll catch up next month, no hard feelings.
I have a feeling, if you're anything like me, that the word "no" rubs you the wrong way too. And, if you're anything like me, sometimes the "no" that's being whispered is in your own voice. I can't do anything about Africa.. I'm too busy.. I've got little kids.. I can't go over there.. I'm strapped.. I don't want to know.. other people, surely, are doing good things there. No, no, no.
Yes, you can do something about Africa (or anyplace or person who is hurting). I know you're busy. I live on Busy Street myself. Yes, you've got little kids, all the more reason to care for kids who don't have their parents anymore because they were stricken with a disease that they didn't mean to catch. No, the majority of us won't actually ever make it over there, but you don't have to go there to find out what's going on there. Money's tight, you have bills to pay let alone the need to start thinking about college for the little ones. I'm right there with you. But no one is asking for thousands of dollars here. $1 is one year of clean water for one African. Who of us does not have one dollar to spare? (You could probably find that amount in change under the seats of your van.) You don't want to know what's going on over there --- ignorance is bliss and all? It's only bliss for you. Not knowing doesn't change the reality of the pain and the reality that we really can do something. Other people are doing good --- yes, they are, but it's not enough. They need our help - bottom line.
I've done some reading. Let me share with you some easy, quick, inexpensive, non-changing-your-entire-life steps you can take even if you're busy/broke/up-to-your-neck-in-mommying that will help you to make a you-have-no-idea-how-big-of-a-difference.
You like to read?
Grab a copy of The Revolution: A Field Manual for Changing Your World. You could finish this entire book in about four hours. Or a handful of 15-minute sittings.
You have some Christmas shopping coming up?
Head to Ten Thousand Villages.
Another cool idea: visit www.samaritanspurse.org and click on their 2006 Gift Catalog. For the people in your life who will be content without receiving an actual gift, you can donate to this organization in their name in amounts as small as just $4 to provide a needy child with healthy milk for a week or $9 to purchase a packet of seeds for a family in another country to start their own vegetable garden. This won't take any longer than the time it would take to order from amazon.com.
Or, go to The Gap. All (PRODUCT) RED items will give 50% of the net proceeds to fighting AIDS in Africa by providing medicine that will help pregnant women prevent the spread of the disease to their babies. Who doesn't love shopping at The Gap?
You like to write?
Compose a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or to your favorite magazine telling them about an issue that is important to you or highlighting an organization that is doing good in your community or on the other side of the world. We're looking at about ten minutes with this one.
You want to teach your kids about the world around them?
Go to www.compassion.com or www.worldvision.com and choose to sponsor a child (you can even plug in your children's birthdates and find children who were born on the same day). Then involve them in saving every month for their support (which is only $32 and $35 respectively), and then have them write these children and become pen pals. Same amount of time it would take to write Gramma and Grampa.
You like to surf the web?
Here are just a few of the probably thousands of sites that can give you more information about some of the needs of our world:
Next time you're killing time on the internet, spend a half hour looking at some of these sites instead.
You want to dip your foot in politics?
Go to http://www.house.gov/, type in your zip code, and you'll be given your representatives names. You can sometimes even email them right then and there. Don't be intimidated, just tell them what's on your mind. Remember, they are called representatives for a reason, they are elected and paid to represent your opinions. Fifteen minutes tops.
You like to talk?
Instead of husband-bashing (can you believe he left his socks out again?!), take about 60 seconds and share what you know with one of your girlfriends. Tell them what you're learning and then encourage them to tell someone.
Don't like to be told "no"? Neither do I. By me or anyone else. So what are we going to do about it, ladies? Hugely determined is looking pretty good to me - let's go change our world.
P.S. If you decide to take any of my suggestions for actions, it would mean the world to me if you let me know how it goes at info AT elisabethcorcoran DOT com.
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