As I am sure is the case for most kids, ever since I could talk, my question has always been, “why?” That question has become more and more difficult to answer as I have grown up. As I grappled with death at a young age, my question was always why. When my mom would take me to serve in the city and I would see devastating poverty and the gap in our public education system, my question was why. When I began to see the injustices in some of our laws and people’s inability to accept people different from them, my question was always why. When my mom ran out of answers, I began my search for my own. For me, the why is always the most important part. If I do not have a concrete reason for doing something, I simply won’t do it. I work at a Boys and Girls Club and when people ask me why I work a job that requires incredible effort without incredible pay, my answer is this… I do it because statistically speaking, about 15 of the 20 kids I spend my days with may end up incarcerated. This can be attributed to multiple factors such as race, family incarceration, and socioeconomic status. They range from age six to age eight. They want to be doctors and teachers and engineers and chefs. They spend their days learning the different continents and how to read a clock. They love playing pool and Mancala, although the rules of Mancala are a bit fuzzy for them. They get in trouble for going up the slide instead of down and running to the lunch room to be the first in line to buy a Gatorade. They deserve the world. They are my why.
Team Humans CEO Zach Cahalan says it is the people he serves and serves beside that keep him engaged in the nonprofit sector. They are his why. They are the people who provide him with, “ongoing faith in humanity's ability to make the world a better place; regardless of where we come from, what we believe, or how we look.” Our Board Chair, Rob Rutland Brown says while he is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve people when they need it most, “the passion is contagious, and it feels rewarding to collectively know we're making a difference in spite of challenging circumstances.” Passion is contagious. Surround yourself with passion and you won’t be able to help yourself!
One of the people who inspires me most is Bryan Stevenson. He is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of my favorite book- Just Mercy. Stevenson talks about how the people he serves have been broken by poverty, trauma, and injustice. As he searched for his why, he realized that he does what he does because he, like most of us, is broken too. In the film True Justice, he says, “It is the broken among us that can teach us the way compassion is supposed to work. It's the broken that can teach us the way mercy is supposed to work. It's the broken among us who can show us the power of redemption and justice.”
Finding your “why” is not limited to those in the nonprofit sector. As you go about your life over the next few months, I encourage you to search for your why. Search for the reason that you continue to do the work that you do. If you cannot find one, I encourage you to find a cause that inspires you and get involved!