Key West, FL
June 25, 2017
WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO
“I’m stuck. I’m helpless. I’m stressed. I’m unable to even sleep. I need help.”
These were the words I read when I opened my messages one morning. A friend of mine in Kenya, Francis, was feeling the pressure. He needs to raise funds to feed a 1,000 mouths every morning at schools where most of the kid’s primary nutrition comes from the porridge he provides. The current drought and grain shortage was an additional complication.
Francis lives on very little himself and he directs all he can get to feeding the kids. While I’ve been following him on Facebook for years he and I had never met. And so on a recent trip to Kenya, I invited him to lunch.
Small in physical stature, Francis can best be described as unassuming. When talking to him you find him to be soft-spoken, humble and polite. His handshake is gentle, and he smiles a lot. On the surface you wouldn’t know of the responsibilities he shoulders and the mission he’s committed to fulfill.
In the hotel restaurant where we met, I listened to Francis tell his story and why he began helping to take care of these kids. Sometimes when you listen to somebody you just know they are describing their life calling. Words and body language are in harmony in a way that authenticate and bring you into their story. On so many levels, I understood not only what Francis was telling me, but also everything he was feeling.
Here is the universal truth about life’s callings: they are never easy.
No matter the vocation, the purpose, or outcome, the pursuit of that calling is continuously being challenged. The external forces are obvious: money, time, logistics, social, political, familial, etc. And then there are the internal challenges: stamina, self-doubt, burden, risk vs. reward, selfishness, ego, and even the occasional questioning of faith.
Francis’s message of despair is one I know well and frequently hear. Many have heard the same message and in many ways we’ve become desensitized to it. We live in a world of need, and while many give, others are seeking to advance a “me” or “us first” agenda. The competition is fierce and often overwhelming. Francis and I spoke for about 90 minutes. Going into lunch we both knew I was not going to be able to solve his problems any more than he was going to be able to solve mine. But that was OK, because what we were able to provide to each other is something more significant – fellowship, and a reinforcement in the belief that our individual callings are worth pursuing.
Weeks later Francis is still responsible for helping to feed a 1,000 kids every day. And I’m still responsible for the mission of PH, and ensuring the work we do meets the needs of the people we serve. For Francis and me (and others like us) the reddish Kenyan dirt paths we walk, the many hands we shake, and the people we hug, they unite us in the cause of service to others.
The motto of my home town is “One Human Family.” The lunch with Francis helped to remind me we are all human, and at some point in each of our lives we will need help. Fortunately, for all of us, for every need, there is a man or woman with a calling to respond.
Francis, you are not alone. And you my friends, neither are you.