“If you want a house, you have to work hard for it. And, oh Lord, am I working hard.”
— Anita, future Habitat homeowner
As crazy as it seems, we are on the downhill run to Christmas, with 134 days remaining until the big day. It is in this half of the year when we begin to recognize our respective good fortune, and that tends to put us in a charitable state of mind. As a result, this is the first in a series of newsletters where I'll profile a non-profit organization that you might consider supporting. You know I like to be different, so I'm not going to bore you with their financials. Instead, I want you to know about the people that founded them, the people that run them now, and what they hope to accomplish.
To start, we are going to look at Habitat for Humanity International. Its story is very cool....
Benjamin Franklin is one of my favorite "founding fathers." Most people know him as a famous inventor, diplomat, and key contributor to the writing of America's Declaration of Independence. What fewer people know or think about is that Mr. Franklin wasn't always the fascinating man that history now paints him to be. More to he point, he knew it. Because of that fact, at the age of twenty, young Mr. Franklin identified thirteen traits that he felt made one a virtuous man and he then created a system to develop those traits within himself. We are glad he did, because without him, who knows where we'd be today.
Imagine it’s you and 101 others crammed into 1,632 square feet of living space. For 66 days in the North Atlantic Ocean. No air. No heat. Oh God…no bathrooms.
Welcome to the Mayflower. It's the year 1620.
""I told them how much money we had, how much money we could expect, and how I planned to spend it. I put on a brave show, but inside I was terrified."
Paul Downs wrote those words to describe what it was like the day after laying-off 13 of his 23 employees. He was in agony worrying about the people he'd just let go, the people that still counted on him for their jobs, and his own family. If you've never owned a business, it's difficult to appreciate just how much of your identify is wrapped up in the business you're trying to build. In Paul's case, if he couldn't turn things around, that was it. Twenty-two years of his life wasted. He'd be a failure.
"As for the rest of us left behind, I hope this is the beginning of a time of healing and learning to be a family again. There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart. We cannot come together in the end to see to it that her grandchildren and great grandchildren can say their goodbyes. So I say here for all of us, GOOD BYE, MOM."
This was the last paragraph of the obituary of Dolores Aguillar, published in the Vallejo Times Herald on August 17th - 18th, 2008.
Many of you may have read something like this on Facebook recently. It was floating around in a story about a woman in Florida that had died early last year. That obituary itself was plagiarized from the one above...which is true. It shocked me because I had never read anything quite like like it (except for the story I'll share in a minute). Unlike others that we might read today, the traditional platitudes to kindness or love do not exist in this obituary. This daughter writes that her mother "made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life." Painful, isn't it? She's sharing too much. Yet when I ask myself why, I easily understand that Mrs. Aguillar was a poor human being and her daughter merely provides an honest description of her mother's life. What makes this unusual is its truthfulness. As we know, the truth of one's life is not often found in an obituary.
Out of kindness.
I sometimes wonder if that is good for us. At one's death, does our avoidance in recognizing some of the mistakes made in the lives of those now dead make it too easy for the living to be less than we can be? Less than we should be?
Think about it. If we knew that more of the truths of our lives would be written and spoken at our deaths, would the living work to be better? To be more?
Yes, I believe we would.
I know of only one man in history who was given a chance to read his own obituary before he died. What he did as a result of that experience changed the world. Here is his story....
Entrepreneur, financial guy, husband and father of two great kids.