Best Antidote for Loss
In December 1999, 21 months after my first book, Unstoppable was published, my husband of 20 years and I separated. We had met in college and I fully intended to be married to him for the rest of my life. For those of you who have experienced this type of loss, you know how difficult and painful it can be.
That year, my husband had intended on joining me and my son for the holidays at my parent's house in Florida and now, we would be going alone. The first few days at my parent's house were excruciating. I was in great pain and had momentarily lost my hope for a happy future. After a few days of feeling sorry for myself, I realized that I couldn't control what was happening. The only thing I could control was my response to my circumstances. In that moment, I vowed that next Christmas, I would not be feeling sorry for myself at my parent's house. I would dedicate myself to doing something for someone else.
When I got home, I called my mentor and friend, Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity International (HFH) who I had met when I interviewed him to be in my book. He told me that when you have a great pain in your life, you need a greater purpose and encouraged me that building a house for a family in need might be a great project.
Millard had just returned from a trip to Nepal, one of the poorest nations in the world. Following Millard's advice, I asked myself the question, "How many houses would I need to build to offset this pain in my life? When I got to the number of 100 - that felt bigger than my pain.
I had never been to Nepal, I'd never raised money for a project such as this before, and I had no idea how I would pull it off, but having that purpose invigorated me and most importantly, it kept my mind off of myself and my "problems." Even though there were many times when I felt so depressed I didn't even want to get out of bed, I'd think about these Nepalese families who didn't have a simple decent place to sleep at night. That put my life back in perspective and I continued to move forward.
By December 2000, I had raised $200,000 and took a team of 20 people to Nepal and we built the first three of the 100 houses in that project. One of the homes was for a single woman named Chandra who was supporting seven other family members including her parents, brothers and sisters. They had all been living in a small one bedroom shack. Even though she consistently saved money every week from her job at a cookie factory, it would never have been enough to build a home without the help of HFH.
Even though we didn't speak the same language, Chandra and I connected. When it was time for us to leave, she began to cry and said, "Please don't ever forget me." I thought, "How could I forget you? You were the purpose that kept me going through the most difficult year of my life."
That experience was truly one of the most transformational experiences in my life and was the first time that I personally experienced the power of giving. What was even more interesting is during that year, I made more money than I ever made in my life even though that was not my primary intention.
I believe this story represents the essence of the law of giving and receiving. You don't need to be experiencing pain or loss to feel the immense rewards of helping others. You also don't need to set out to build 100 homes. Start small; start with helping to provide clean water for a child or a school lunch for children who are going without.
The scriptures say, "Give and it shall be given unto you." It doesn't say wait until your life is working and then give or wait until you feel you have something to give before you give. It simply says GIVE. You don't need to know how it will all work out, you only need to have faith that when you are committed, you will be supported. As you connect with a Divine calling that is bigger than yourself, miracles await you.
Chief Humanitarian Officer, Unstoppable Foundation
Here is your chance to do something special for others while rewarding yourself.