On My Honor, I Will Do My Best

tryI put a lot of effort into living–and living right. I live like somebody’s going to be handing out ribbons at the finish line.

This week, I was pretty convinced that if that did turn out to be the case, I would be handed a “Participant” ribbon.  You know, the one in the weird color that’s definitely not blue. The one that they order in large quantities to give to everyone who didn’t win, place or show.

I wasn’t excelling at anything, just participating. My kids were eating a lot of sandwiches. My running shoes couldn’t be located. Tasks at work kept piling up, no matter how hard I worked. I still hadn’t written a book proposal, much less a book. The wreck of a house was just getting wreckier. The Usual.

But one thing was really eating at me–Light the Night. It’s the big fundraising walk held by the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society. I raise money every year in Richard’s memory. It’s a way of fulfilling a promise to him, so I’ve tried to give it my all every year. For TEN YEARS.

The first year I walked, I set myself a goal of raising $1000. My friends and family donated $3000. So the next year, I set a goal of $3000 and raised $7000. The next year, a $7000 goal turned into $11,000 raised. The year after that?  We managed to donate $15,000 in Richard’s memory. People are so generous! So this has been a big deal for me for a long time.

When Richard knew that he was dying, and knew that he had been poisoned by toxins in his workplace, he made me promise that I would sue on his behalf after he was gone. He pointed his finger right at my heart and said, “If you win, you keep a third, give my sister a third, and give a third to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.” I promised. Scout’s honor.

I tried. No lawyer saw a way to pin it down. There’s no suing pockets that deep. So I let the wrongful death go. I started raising money through Light the Night. I had made a promise.

It takes a lot of work to raise those kinds of dollars. I’ve organized bake sales, silent auctions, coin drives. One year I sold sponsorships on my t-shirt like NASCAR. Twenty five dollars to get on the shirt. Fifty to get on the front. Two hundred and fifty to be in the boob area! One year I did a crunches for money–my sister donated enough to make me do 1000 crunches.

Even with all that work, the momentum slowed. The total came in at $13,000 when it had been $15,000 the year before. The next year, it went to $11,000. Still amazing, but…less than it had been. Last year, I couldn’t do a big auction at work that had been a money-maker for years. My total fundraising came in at about $7000.

Seven thousand dollars and I felt like I had let Richard down.  Crazy Alert.

This year, I was having trouble even getting started. July was so busy, I thought I would begin in August. Then the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge swept the world of charitable giving. So here it was, September 1st and I hadn’t raised a dime. The walk is on October 10th. Gulp.

I wasn’t even participating!

The negative voices started dogging me. “Don’t even bother. You can’t do much at this point.” The evil demon, Inertia, pulled me down.  “This could be the year that you stop.” I was beating myself up because my best didn’t seem good enough any more. And I had promised Richard that I would give something to LLS.

Well, well, well. It seems that ONCE AGAIN, I have failed to take my own advice. Just last week, when I spoke to the senior class at Wesleyan during Fall Convocation, I gave them some simple advice:  Do Your Best. Don’t worry about anyone else’s best–do your best.

We’ve all heard it a zillion times–do your best. But here’s the kicker that I shared with them.  Do your best, but remember that your best CHANGES. From day to day, year to year, maybe even hour to hour.

When I made that promise to raise money for LLS, my life was very different. It was just me and three weiner dogs who didn’t like to go on walks anyway. I had plenty of time to spend on tracking down sponsors, holding events, collecting donations, building a sense of community for the cause. I spoke on behalf of LLS. I taught newer teams how to raise money. I kept planning bigger and better events.

Now, 10 years into it, I’ve got 3 kids, a full-time job, Wesleyan alumnae stuff, a writing gig, and grown-lady bills to pay. I still love the excitement of making a difference, but I make a difference in a lot of ways these days (even if it’s by helping with spelling homework or crafting juicy and delicious blog posts). I’m not shirking my commitment to LLS, but I am giving myself some grace. My best changes from year to year. My best is spread out over so many beautifully creative adventures. boy_scout_with_oath

I’m doing my best in memory of my Eagle Scout. My goal this year it to raise $5000 in a joyful, easy-hearted manner.

And wouldn’t you know, as soon as I got the fundraising website up last night, the donations started coming in–$1430 in the first 24 hours!

So do your best, but remember that your best changes.

13 thoughts on “On My Honor, I Will Do My Best

    1. Chris Antenen

      Listen here, young lady, and I’m typing this with one finger on my laptop and so sleerpy I can’t keep my eyes open, you sit yourself down and write IN CURSIVE everything, every single little and big thing you did today, then everything you can remember that you did in the past week. I’ve got money on this, so do it right, And then put this in your pipe and smoke it. Who do you think is up there, with Gs permission, tweaking Carlos in the ear and egging him on? If you don’t make as much this year, or surpass last year, which is what you really want, then . . . well, just then. . . It’s all one life. . .

  1. Susie

    My husband & I did the “Playing for a Cure” fundraiser for Juvenile Diabetes for 5 years. We made the decision to stop at that point, I was back in school, our late parents were in declining health & we just didn’t have the time or energy. Fundraising can be exhausting & all-consuming! You have done an incredible job, but ramping down your efforts, or even taking a break, does not diminish what you have already accomplished!

  2. Heather

    I needed to hear this message this morning. I feel like I live in a state of perpetual anxiety because I want to knock everything I do out of the park. Right now, I’m fundraising for August’s Down Syndrome team for Buddy Walk. It seems particularly hard to raise money right now after the ALS phenomenon. I’ve been stressing out about it, but I think I just need to give myself a break….those that want to give, will!

    1. WordPress.com Support

      Exactly! Give yourself some grace. From where I sit, it looks like you DO knock everything out of the park!

  3. Tracy Hunter

    I am older than you are (but not wiser) and not nearly as creative nor even particularly dedicated to living well and most days I’m okay with that.

    Right now I need some help. One of my co-workers has a 6 year old daughter who has been diagnosed with Leukemia; she currently being treated at St Jude’s. There have been all sorts of complications (problems with the feeding tube, with the Methotrexate, with the side effects of the pain medication) but he is focused on NOTHING but Ava’s care (as he should be). He is single, with sole custody of both kids. His 11 year old daughter has started school this year camped out at his sister’s house. We have kept him on payroll and helped a little bit with co-pays, gas money, and dog care, but a large portion of his income is on commission. I have JUST found out that his house is about to be in foreclosure and feel COMPELLED to try and help him.

    I’ve got $2,000 and I’m challenging everyone I know (a pretty small pool) to match me dollar for dollar. I only need $4,000 more…any suggestions on FAST fundraising ideas, or advice on any help available (the local chapter of LLS will help with medical bills, but not house payments) would be GREATLY appreciated.

    1. WordPress.com Support

      Ideas off the top of my head: call the social work dept in your LOCAL hospital (not St Jude) and see if they an give you a list of community resources. Call the Consumer Credit Counseling service and see if they know of any special programs for loan adjustments, etc. Talk to the LLS again to see if they have a list of foundations that consider direct pt grants. Contact church youth groups to see if they can do a car wash.

      Then collect the money the $10 at a time way. Coin drive, bake sale, car wash. You’d be amazed at how generous people will be when they know the problem and know that $20 can help.

      THE most important part of fundraising is education. When people know about the problem and know how they can help, the ask comes a lot more easily.

      I hope you can do this. Every penny you raise is making a difference.

  4. Tracy

    Thanks for the advice. First call today will be to the local hospital. I pulled in $540.00 yesterday from the folks in my office. I will get this done!!!

    BTW, just a chance to say nasty things (because that always is so helpful)….Bank of America was NO HELP, even when the situation was explained. I’ll not be getting my next mortgage there!

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