Keeping a Soft Heart in Hard Times

 In Books, Community, Culture, Faith, Foundations, Fred's Blog, Fred's Blog, Millennials, Money, People, Philanthropy, Uncategorized

I love the martial arts choreography in movies like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I asked a black belt friend how he hardened his hands for real (not staged) competition. It seemed easy enough. Set up a five-gallon bucket of white rice and punch your hands in it 10-12 times in a row five times a day. When that no longer hurts use a five-gallon bucket of dry beans for several weeks and then graduate to five gallons of sand.

While it takes time to become hardened it is a simple process. My martial arts friend cautioned me, “Be careful. The process is irreversible once the calluses are there…and you could really hurt someone with them.”

Likewise, I’ve discovered a way to build calluses on the heart – especially this time of year. Plunge your heart five times a day into websites, television and email coming from nonprofits and ministries. (While “Giving Tuesday” may be an extraordinary example of the power of social media with more than 114 billion Twitter impressions and almost one million Facebook mentions on a single day, it still has the effect of a sudden swarm of gnats.) When the numbing is sufficient start on your direct mail stack, cards and personal letters. When most of the feeling is gone, move up to repeated punching into personal visits, phone calls and notes from friends. For the final hardening, dwell on all the disappointments, misused gifts, unrealistic expectations and relentless pictures of children and women.  Read articles on charity fraud, waste and corruption.  By then you should have to register your heart as a lethal weapon and warn people before meeting them.

Is that really what God wants? I believe what He desires instead is for us to resist becoming hardhearted. What I have discovered and heard from others is this: resistance training builds heart muscle not calluses. Constant outside pressure builds calluses. Constant exposure to irritation builds calluses while patient practice of giving skills builds strength. Muscles are alive and growing. Calluses are dead and hard. There is no way to avoid the predictable barrage of incoming requests for help – especially in this economy and season. Focus on the few things that matter most to you and refuse to let your heart mind and soul become hardened. The process is irreversible for hands…but not for hearts.

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  • Avatar
    Carl LaBarbera
    Reply

    Thank you for the good word of encouragement.

  • Fred Smith
    Fred Smith
    Reply

    Thank you, Carl.

  • Avatar
    John
    Reply

    As a fundraiser for two different organizations over the last 13 years, I can tell you that it does become hard to know when to ask and when to back off. For example, we just mailed our annual fund letter, but we did NOT promote Giving Tuesday. We participated in San Antonio’s big day of philanthropy, The Big Give SA, last May, but we focused our efforts on donors who had not given to us in two years or more, asking our current donors only to help spread the word about a special challenge grant we had for former/new donors. We try to limit the number of times we “ask.”

    But finding that line between blessing your donors for their participation in your work and wearing out your donors can be hard. I know we sometimes miss that mark. But, as a donor in my own personal life, I try to let my own preferences as a donor inform how our organization approaches our donors. I also think one of the keys is doing your best, as a nonprofit, to be part of the blessing that God has for the donor when they share of themselves with a cause–make them feel as much a part of blessing our clients as possible.

    I agree with your final thoughts about finding just a few things that matter most to you. When I talk in public about our nonprofit I always encourage people to find what God calls them to. Maybe it’s our nonprofit (medical clinic). Maybe it’s hunger. Maybe it’s children. Maybe it’s animals. But whatever it is, it is important to find something.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      John, as always you make great responses! Yes, it is a tension between having a “genuine” relationship with donors and knowing at the end of the day people are looking to you to bring in the funding. Frankly, I would say you do this about as well as anyone I know. I have seen more “I am thankful for you” cards this year than ever before and it feels like some organization or consultant has told people they need to jump on the Thanksgiving theme and not waste it. I know that makes good sense but it’s so obvious that it is calculated. I pray the same consultant does not discover Easter and encourage people to “raise” their giving.

      • Avatar
        John
        Reply

        I literally LOL’d at your Easter “fear.”

  • Avatar
    Roy
    Reply

    Well said. Tough to apply sometimes but there is wisdom in your words.

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