Friday, I had the task of going to the five different locations to check on the raffle baskets Denver and I made, pick up any funds collected, draw a winning ticket and notify the recipient to get them. One basket did very well because the owner of the business was enthusiastic about the cause and she encouraged people to purchase tickets. I guess we made about 300.00 in that case. In the other four locations, we didn’t even make enough to cover the costs of the baskets, so we ended up doing all that work to break even. Drat. I found our beautiful, lush baskets shoved off in a corner on the floor behind a coat rack or under a desk. Our community is featuring a raffle for “Toys for Tots” with Christmas coming, and apparently, the raffle tickets for this fundraiser are everywhere. I guess the businesses here think helping to raise money for toys is a more worthy cause than breast cancer, because face it, it’s certainly more fun to imagine kids smiling on Christmas than women dying of breast cancer. Anyway, they were quick to replace our baskets with the other fundraiser literature and no one thought to call to notify us of the decision. It was rather frustrating to find the baskets we slaved over pushed aside and forgotten. Of course, no one is going to buy a ticket to win something they don’t know exists.
Whatchagonnado, you just don’t know what will work until you try. I chalked it up to bad luck and I just wanted to pick winners and get the baskets off my to-do list. But something happened that made me realize raising money for breast cancer was not the reason we made the baskets – at least not in the big cosmic scheme of rhyme and reason.
At one location, a bank that happened to sell the least tickets (this basket only raised 24.00 while it held over 100.00 in beautiful goods within, not to mention the time and effort devoted to all the handcrafted items inside) I drew a man’s name. David Morgan. I called him to tell him he’d won and could pick up his basket at the bank. He had a mature voice and sounded very delighted. He said he had never won anything before. But he also told me that he and his wife had discussed what to do with the basket if they won, and they decided they’d like to donate it to someone who is actually battling breast cancer. They figured a woman dealing with something like that could really use some pampering. He said, “Can you handle that for me?”
I told him I certainly could, and called Denver to tell her about our winner’s generous attitude. We both had someone in mind.
On the day we had the soggy bake sale (another not so successful fundraising concept . . . what can I say, our heart and effort is in the right place but it seems fate is working against us) a woman came sloshing through the rain to be our first customer. She works in a legal office next door and she bought 20.00 worth of muffins and cakes and then took a fundraiser slip to her boss. He also made a generous donation.
We told her we were surprised she bothered to face the rain to visit us, because it looked as if no one else was going to. She said, “I been waiting all week for you and I wouldn’t miss it just because of rain.” Then she told us that she had breast cancer, and had just finished chemo and radiation. She stood there in the rain sharing some of her ordeal, thanking us for working for a cure. She was very positive and friendly, and after she left, Denver and I both talked about how everywhere we went, we met people who had breast cancer or people with someone very dear to them battling it, some surviving, some not. Once you get involved with breast cancer fundraising, it is remarkable how many people come forward to share their story.
Anyway, I met this woman again at our closing, because it took place in her office, and she was very gracious and lovely. We again talked of her health and she said she was “hanging in there.”
Since she is the one person we know in this area who is actively fighting breast cancer now, I decided to take the basket to her. I had to rush because it was a Friday and I had already devoted a full day to running these baskets around and I just wanted to be finished with them. When I went into the office, I saw her at the desk. She was not her smiley self. Her wig seemed a bit off, and her eyes were puffy. Her skin even looked gray. She greeted me, but her smile was vacant. I was shocked.
I told her about the basket and the man who wanted to pass it on, and that Denver and I had thought of her and decided she was probably just the person it was meant for. She got up from the desk, put her arms around me, and then burst into tears. She told me she’d had been a particularly bad day and I would never know how this particular day she desperately needed something nice to happen to her. Things were not going well for her, but it was very uplifting to think someone out there cared. Just when life feels darkest, she needed reminding that she is not alone. Looking at her, so dejected and sick looking, I suddenly knew that all this basket work that Denver and I felt compelled to do was not about fundraising at all. It was about this moment. It was a very poignant, life affirming moment.
I called Denver to share what had happened, and driving home I was feeling pretty good about it all. So, I decided I should share that feeling with the man who actually chose to give the basket away. I called him and said, “David, I just wanted to thank you for your generosity again, and to let you know that the few dollars you donated to the raffle will help, but the decision you made to give the basket away to someone with breast cancer made a huge difference to one person. I thought you’d like to know.”
He thanked me for calling to let him know how the story ended and told me he couldn’t wait to tell his wife because he knows it will mean a great deal to her too.
I got off the phone, marveling at how a brief decision and a small act of generosity made so many people feel good. David and his wife feel good, because they are obviously caring people who want to give something back to the world. Just giving away a few bucks to a good cause is the kind of thing we barely remember – it feels disconnected. Now, he has a concrete image in his mind of how his donation really made a difference to one person. That day when he threw a dollar into our bucket skewed the fateful end of this event. Denver and I feel good about making those baskets now, even if they didn’t make any money for the cause. Had someone else won and walked away with an expensive basket at our loss, I’d be feeling pretty frustrated by our insufficient returns on all our efforts, and may give up devoting so much time to a good cause in the future – cause what is the point if no one else out there cares? Now, thankfully, I feel differently. Last but not least, the recipient of the basket feels good, because in the middle of her private nightmare, she was reminded that even strangers care and are pulling for her.
Sometimes it feels the problems of the world are too massive for one person to make a difference. We assume we can’t make a dent in the problem, so we do nothing. . . except complain about the problem. But today reminded me that even slight acts of good will, however small, can make a difference. So I will continue my small acts knowing there may be a chain reaction that creates ripples on the flat water of despair. You just never know when these ripples add up and suddenly you are making waves. It is not about saving the world on a macro level. It is about making the world a gentler, easier place to exist for a even one real person, helping on the micro level. For example, I can’t end world hunger, but I’ve sponsored a child in Ethiopia for over 14 years, so I know one person is not starving because of me. And to that one person, I know my efforts make a huge, life altering difference.
When you think, “What can I do, I’m only one person”, remember that life can and should be, very personal. “One person” helping “one person” is life at it’s finest.