Saturday, August 4, 2007

a fundraiser's confession, on the day of his birth

Alas, alas... another year has passed, and August 4 is here again. With the passage of this day, I enter another year of life.

I have never liked August 4th, not since I was a child. Now, as I stand but a year removed from the beginning of my fourth decade in this life, I feel compelled to say something noteworthy .... something profound, something that will compel tears and the lighting of large fires. I feel a strange need to blow a trumpet (a feeling exaggerated by the fact that I have never done so).

After all, recalling my thoughts on this same day ten years ago, when I stood on the threshold of my third decade, I thought that I would be dead by now.

(28 was the end of youth, it seemed, and all things after were for those who burned less brightly)

Yet here I stand, 29, and still drawing breath.

So much for my bold plans. (Thank goodness.)

I have no proud statements or wise proclamations. Merely this, my true confession: I did not want to be here. I had not plans to be here. I did not even know this "here" existed.

Yet here I stand, 29, and still drawing breath (though with more difficulty than before).

Here I stand, 29, and happy. This last part is, to me, a grand surprise... owed far more to my lovely wife and magnificent daughter than to my own efforts.

Indeed, here I stand, in a home of my own. 29, with a job in a field that was foreign to me when I was a young pup of 19 forecasting my life and seeing an end within a decade.

I can hear the adolescent self-importance of my voice now...

"Fundraising? Your JOB is 'fundraising'? Are you KIDDING ME??!?!?"

Ahhhh, yes, not a poet but a professional beggar. I spend my days thinking about money: how to get it, how to explain the way it is used, how to figure out where it will be coming from tomorrow. All day long, I am thinking about money.

Or am I?

Is it really the money that drives me, that haunts my waking moments? Or my desire to crack the code that binds resources from achieving their potential? Am I chasing the elusive dollar, or running after a world that is only a breath away from whispering, "I am"?

This is my confession: I am the Director of Development for a charitable organization that desperately needs more funding, and I hate asking for money.

My job, you see, is not really about money. It's not about resources of any kind. It is certainly not about charity. To call it "investments" is to cloud the issue.

It's about relationships.

It's about getting to know my neighbors: Those with money, and those without.

It's about being a part of my community, about connecting people to opportunities to realize their own potential (again, this is for those with and without wealth).

It's about spending my time finding ways to love people and to help them love each other.

If I have to ask for money, I have failed in my higher calling.

I love my work. It involves money, yes. But I do not love money. I love what drives a person to give up their money, and I love what that money can become when put in the right place.

I love my neighbors. I love my community.

I love where I am, all the more because it was not where I wanted to be, but where I was needed.

This is the green light across from my dock, Gatsby. It is the light that keeps me awake, staring into the great and gaping maw of the night. This is the light that drives me, beating on...

Just another boat borne back ceaselessly into the past? Or am I flowing onward, upriver, somberly into the heart of an immense darkness?

We shall see where it leads me, this will-o'-the-wisp.

I am grateful for your company along the way.