Thursday, December 20, 2007

Charity

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children by John Wood, founder of Room to Read

I loved reading this book. It made the trip home from New York a breeze. This inspiring story is a first person account of Mr. Wood's journey from high-level high-intensity Microsoft executive to high-level high-intensity non-profit start-up. It's an easy read that doesn't hide how difficult it can be to shed the security of a high-paying job, even when he finally realizes it's the only way he can be happy.

I was amazed at his dedication to Room to Read, which continues today. I love working for non-profits and am proud to believe I'm contributing to a better life for the kids we can reach here in the States, but I could never put in the time and energy he does, especially for no pay. (He admits his lifestyle has sabotaged all his relationships. He also accepts a paycheck now.) But it was still great to read about the life of someone who really is making a difference. His charity is also rated very highly for fiscal responsibility. You can read more about it here at Charity Navigator or here on their own website.

I watched a video recently that reminded me of the same sentiments expressed in the book. "In service really comes freedom. The more I was concerned about myself and how much money I could make or what things I could...amass, the unhappier I became." You can learn more about his charity Charity: Water on their website. (I think they might want to work on the name a little. Mr. Wood's charity was named by a bunch of friends enjoying numerous bottles of wine. Now that's the way to brainstorm.)

What struck me the most about these, the book and the video, is that the founder of each realized chasing the American dream of a secure job with as big a paycheck as possible wasn't fulfilling some need within themselves no one mentioned while they were going to school and starting careers - the need to serve, the need to make a difference in the lives of others. I'm not saying we shouldn't have jobs and make money. After all, the Bible calls us to work for our food. I'm saying we should learn to recognize the opportunities to serve in our lives. Sometimes that will mean taking a big risk, ditching a high-paying job to help children in Tibet or Africa, hopefully pointing them in a direction that will eventually benefit their entire families, communities and countries. Sometimes, it will mean walking the floor with a crying sick toddler at 11 pm.

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