One of the more interesting books I came across lately is written by Daniel Ryan Day: 10 Days Without. In this book, Day chronicles his experiment in experiencing the suffering of those who are less fortunate. Each day he gave up a personal item, such as a coat, a meal, technology. The items were carefully chosen, items that are luxuries for people in the developing world, items first-world people easily take for granted. I had the chance to interview Day for my weekly Leadership Journal blog. Here was one of the questions:
If you could speak to pastors and church leaders about what you learned in this process, what would you say?
The biggest lesson learned during this process was how to define the terms of making a difference. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot of pressure to make a significant difference in “the world”—to make a huge impact that affects a huge number of people. This pressure became very clear during 10 days without a coat.
The reason I went without a coat, was because I found out that my local community needed 5,000 coats for single moms and their kids. We live in Colorado, and it gets really cold during the winter. It gets so cold that homeless people often pass away from the frigid temperatures. At the time, single moms and their kids was the fastest growing population of homeless people in our community, yet the rescue mission projected that they only needed 5,000 coats.
I decided to go 10 days without a coat to see if I could make a significant dent on the need (part of me naively thought that I may collect all 5,000). From a P.R. perspective, the challenge went amazing! I ended up on two local news programs, a Sunday school class in a different state participated, and a lady I didn’t know brought a bag of kids’ coats to my office. Yet at the end of the 10 days, I had only collected 100 coats! I felt like such a failure. I came up 4,900 coats shy of the mark!
Yet the Lord encouraged me with the following thought process: “Daniel, if you were able to go to the rescue mission, find one of the ladies who received a coat for her son or daughter, and ask her, ‘What did it mean to you to have a coat for your 5-year-old little girl for the winter?’ How do you think she will respond? Do you think she might say, ‘It meant the world to me?’” There’s that “the world” phrase again. The message I think the Lord was communicating to me was this: instead of trying to change the world, make it your daily goal to change someone’s world.
All of us can get so caught up in trying to change the world, make a huge impact, and reach the biggest number of people possible, that we forget the call God placed on our lives. He didn’t call us to save the world, he sent his son to do that. Instead, he has put us in a place to give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, help to the sick, and friendship to the stranger and those in prison.