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Serving a purpose

Plans to make the world a better place are products of dreams and hallucinations.

I believed all the people who told me that one person could make a difference. I sponsored a starving child in the Philippines when I was in high school. I wrote letters to every company that tested its products on animals, and I have volunteered every week of my life since the eighth grade.

The world doesn’t look any better to me.



There is still violence, pain and endangered species. There will always be inequality, poverty, disease and heart-wrenching infomercials that keep you from changing the channel until you sponsor a starving child in the Philippines.

I worked for Advocates Against Battering and Abuse for more than three years, and, unfortunately, I never had to worry about job security. The pager I kept with me at all times reminded me that violence never sleeps. Ever.



Every time I came back from another violence-prevention conference, my head was spinning with ideas. I would squirm in my chair during each keynote speaker, just waiting for the chance to run out the door and get back out there to save the world.

We were given inspiring words to replace “burnt out” and “compassion fatigue.” Our vocabulary grew to absurdity every day with new politically correct terms so we could never again offend anyone. Even the term “at-risk youth” became “at-promise youth.”

But no matter how many words we make up, there still is no way to explain why bad things happen to good people. Even karma is just another fancy word to displace our frustration.

It is exhausting and paralyzing to even think about where to begin to make the world a better place.

Spending three years in the nonprofit industry, I was subterranean in the trenches of the safety net of our town. I was caught in an incredible web of agencies that can assist anyone in need.

They operate with small budgets, unending agendas, tiny staffs and horribly frustrating photocopy machines. But they are there.

If there weren’t people trying to make a difference, then I would worry about the fate of the world.

I can’t tell you how many times I went home from work at Advocates and cried. I cried because of the things I saw and heard, but mostly because I wanted that magic wand that would make everything OK for our clients.

Whether a domestic violence victim stays with his/her batterer or leaves, I think that person is brave. That’s what inspired me. And there always will be an opportunity for each victim to become a “survivor” – which is an essential politically correct term because it validates strength and courage.

At the Yampa Valley Community Foundation’s Celebration of Philanthropy last weekend, Lisa Brown Gilbert was complimenting Pres and Patti Askew, the recipients of the Ed and Jayne Hill Individual Philanthropist of the Year Award. Brown Gilbert later said to me that one person really can and did make a difference. (Sometimes, it can be two people.)

The world actually stopped for a second after she said that. Maybe the saying is true, even if its only purpose is to keep each of us fighting for whatever cause we believe in.

I was voted “Most Likely to Save an Endangered Wombat Species” in my high school. But I’d settle just to be someone (among many others) who is trying to make the world a better place.


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