Everyone is capable of doing something to help the causes they believe in.
A few years ago I was working with a non-profit that had a presence at a yearly political conference.
After the conference ended I met up with one of the donors to the event, a much older gentleman who I had met a few times previously and built a good rapport with.
When I say “much older,” I mean like 100.
We met up for lunch and as the meal ended he got ready to catch his flight. The easiest way to get to the airport was via taxi. As he was older, he had some trouble getting around, so I offered to go with him, make sure he got there on time and found his airline. He was thankful and accepted.
The ride took about 20 minutes and we chatted along the way. He shared some things I was already aware of from having known him for a couple years. (I played along and didn’t mention I’d heard these stories from him a half dozen times before.) But he also shared some things I wasn’t aware of.
He shared that while he was married now, it was mostly to avoid being lonely and have someone to talk to. He spoke in awe of his first wife, who he had known since high school had passed decades before. He explained that he was blind in one eye, that his hearing was always suspect, and joked, “the legs could go at any moment, that’s why I try not to spend too much time sitting down. I never know if I’ll be able to stand back up.”
What mattered to him wasn’t what I thought
He asked me what I was up to, jobs I had done, campaigns I had helped, and was mostly interested in hearing about the “busywork” aspect. He wanted to hear details on things I thought were unimportant, things like knocking on doors, delivering literature, making volunteer phone calls and setting up yard signs.
As the taxi pulled up to the curb, I took out my wallet and began to pay the driver. He waved me away and pulled out a large wad of cash, more than enough to cover our ride plus my trip back to the hotel. Like two friends out to dinner arguing over the bill I exclaimed, “Nah, don’t worry about it, I got it,” and I was met with a much stronger wave of his hand and a much harsher comment.
He looked directly at me and 50 years seemed to melt from his eyes. The strangest thing, like something out of a movie, it seemed like his brain has just received a renewed vigor it hadn’t had in a generation. He spoke slowly, clearly, deliberately.
“Steve,” he said, “This is something I can do.”
I didn’t argue any further, I knew exactly what he meant. I let him pay the driver, I helped him out of the car and into the terminal and we said our goodbyes.
It was clear to me
As I sat in the taxi going back to the hotel I reflected back on his statement. He and I had both known what he meant, there was no need for discussion.
At close to 100 years old, this man was going blind, deaf and was keenly aware of his own mortality. He was never going to work on a campaign. He was never going to go knock on people’s doors for a local candidate. He wasn’t going to go to an office and make phone calls. He wasn’t going to get up at three in the morning to run all over town placing yard signs. While I was a young, healthy guy able to do all of these without giving it a second thought, these were all things this man simply wasn’t capable of doing.
But this man had money, and he had the means to support those who didn’t, and he understood that. “This is something I can do,” he explained. Paying the cab fair of a young, able bodied friend who had helped him get home… that was something he could do. Donating to causes or campaigns, that was something he could do.
Whether it be a political campaign, or a new business or a charity you feel exceptionally strong about, every single person can do something. Some can donate money, some can create graphics, some can dial phones and some can lift boxes. Just because you may or may not have the same means, or talents, or skills as someone else, doesn’t mean you’re any better or worse than they are.
This is something my 100 year old friend understood very well. This was something my friend realized that some people never will. Everyone can do something. That was something that he could do.
What are you doing for the causes you believe in?