Jim* is financially cleared for this semester.
Jim’s bank account is out of the negatives.
Jim can register for next semester’s classes.
Jim won’t be kicked out of his apartment.
Jim has a bed.
A few weeks ago, this was not the case. But through a series of fortunate, yet intentional, events, few friends from my seminary (Joseph McCarty, Robert Dabney Jr, Ashton McFall ) and I were able to raise about $7100 in just over 7 days through a GoFundMe page which opened new possibilities for Jim.
Here are 4 life-changing truths that I’ve gathered from this experience.
1) Leadership is a conversation
Andy Stanley said it well:
“Leadership is not about getting things done. It’s about getting things done through other people.”
I’d like to add that it’s also getting things done with other people. The initial and only plan was to talk to Jim after our class and contribute whatever I could from my personal resources. I was surprised to see 3 other classmates who stuck around after class, and one of them had initiated conversation with Jim even before I did.
To make the long story short, based on what Jim needed, we got our heads together, came up with a plan of action, got on a texting group chat, delegated responsibilities, and the rest was history.
All four of us were united in one purpose: Help Jim.
A united vision coupled with a mutual respect and appreciation for each other allowed us to communicate with each other effectively and implement what we’d planned efficiently.
2) Orthodoxy is not enough
I am currently preparing for a profession which requires me to uphold orthodoxy to the highest level.
I wholeheartedly support our beliefs and what we stand for. But here’s what this experience reminded me:
Orthodoxy is not enough.
Knowing right principles, understanding right principles, and teaching right principles are simply not enough if they don’t lead to right behavior.
Because there’s a difference in being righteous and right-ish.
The existential crisis of learning how to present the gospel in an effective way to others while effectively neglecting to reveal it to a brother seated next to me highly disturbed me. I had to do something and I’m glad that there were others who felt the same way.
I think Dwight Nelson, Senior Pastor of Pioneer Memorial Church, summed it up well:
Orthodoxy without orthoproxy is pointless.
3) Money is not everything
As I mused with a friend who helped move the furniture to Jim’s house, we realized that it’s not Jim who got the most out of the experience.
It was us.
All of us knew Jim as someone always dressed with a smile and filled with joy. He was content.
What we didn’t know was that he had that attitude even prior to us knowing about his predicament! The man was smiling even when he had no bed to sleep on, no money in his bank account, and entirely uncertain about the future of his family.
Interacting with people in many under-developed countries and contexts has led me to believe that some of the happiest people are those who have little to no possessions. They seem to find their joy not in accoutrements of luxury nor in positions of honor but in the experiences shared with those they love.
Jim’s eyes would light up when he talked about his family. They would light up even more when he talked about his God.
Yes, the money paid for more than his needs. But what Jim was grateful for the most was for the friendship of his colleagues. He knew that money can come and go, but the friendships developed and the experiences shared during this time will last a lifetime and even beyond.
4) Choice is a power
The same ‘desire centers’ which fired up when I heard about the Syrian Refugee crises, the Paris Attacks or the San Bernardino shooting fired up when I learned about Jim’s situation.
We wanted to do something. Emphasis on “wanted.”
However, I soon realized that wanting to do something and choosing to do something are entirely different things.
The desire to act and deciding to act are two things.
In our case, we decided to act. Jim’s life changed when we chose to ask him a single question:
“what do you need?”
After he responded, each one chose to do their part which resulted in Jim paying off his credit card debt, paying off his financial deficit for his schooling, and getting furniture in his apartment.
If we merely stopped at the desiring, we wouldn’t have been able to do any of that.
The power of choice is easily undervalued, underestimated, and, in many cases, under-utilized.
For Jim, a single choice took him from a desperate situation to a promising one.
For us, that same choice took us from apathy to empathy.
*not his real name.