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.
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.