Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Dollar's Worth of Hope

It was unusual for us to stop. Sally and I were riding our bikes to Huckleberry's, luxuriating in the second straight day of beautiful, spring-like weather. As we rode down 27th Avenue, our attention was drawn to some young girls operating a lemonade stand. We stopped, and almost immediately noticed that this lemonade stand was special. Yes, they were selling organic, gluten-free energy bars and organic lemonade, but it wasn't the products that made their effort so special. "MONEY YOU PAY GOES TO: Lands Council Charity" proclaimed the sign in front of their table. Apparently the girls really wanted to do something for the Lands Council, and had decided that a lemonade stand was what they could do.

These are lean times for non-profit organizations of all types. The economic meltdown has chased away donors. At the same time, other sources of non-profit organizational support, such as grants and income from endowments and investments, have declined precipitously. As daunting as these challenges have been, there is an even greater threat to the future of non-profits. Our society has forgotten the powerful words from FDR's first inaugural in 1933:
the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
We find ourselves constantly in the shadow of fear... fear of financial loss, fear of other religions, fear of illegal aliens, fear of change, nameless fear. In reaction we turn inward, focusing on ourselves and our individual concerns, rather than the significant, long-term issues non-profit organizations work so hard to address. In that same inaugural address, FDR also stated:

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto, but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men (sic).
In the midst of these dark days, a ray of sunshine broke through. Four rays actually. Four young girls who care about the future of the planet made a decision to raise money, not for a trip to the mall or a ride on Spokane's renowned Looff Carousel, but for a local charity, the Lands Council.

I didn't have to ask how much my lemonade would cost, for the girls volunteered the figure. "You can pay whatever you want." How much is a sign of hope worth? It turns out that it was priceless.

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