If you know me, then you realize I often say that there’s a disaster happening in someone’s life every day, and you might not even know it. As a nation, we’ve recently watched the heartbreaking images as Hurricane Harvey battered Texas relentlessly. People lost their lives, and many lost all of their worldly possessions. The images were heartbreaking.

Did you watch the screen and wonder what you could do?

I’ve told this story often, but it bears repeating because years ago, I wondered what I could do. During that time, I was watching the television screen as the aftermath, and complete devastation of the Indian Ocean was unfolding during the holiday season.

At the time, I was the president of an international footwear manufacturing company. When I saw the image of a shoe wash ashore on a beach clear across the world, the footage captured my attention. Shoes have played a large part in my life, both professionally and personally.

Here’s the deal. It’s easy to be detached. It’s easy to stay at a safe distance and not get involved.

So many people do that, but I couldn’t live myself.

By that, I mean not just the tsunami. When I see someone in need or suspect something is going on, I ask. Just saying to someone who may be experiencing a tough time can be immense and lets that person know that someone cares. Saying, “How are you doing today? Are you doing okay?” is simple.

We worry that people are going to unload their problems on us and we’re carrying our concerns. That’s the main reason so many don’t take a moment to help someone else.

But, aren’t in all of this together?

What can one person do, what can YOU do?

My answer to you is simply this: YOU can do a lot.

When I saw the situation unfolding after the tsunami in the Pacific, I had no idea initially what I could do. But I knew that I couldn’t live myself and simply not doing anything would not be acceptable.

I was in the shoe business, and so I put two and two together. If people had lost everything, that meant they lost their clothes and shoes, among so much else.  I set on a course to get shoes to families and individuals affected.

Candidly, when I told my team we were going to ship shoes to Asia from America, no one questioned me. They just knew it was something we would do, whatever it took. I worked the phones and called on senior executives in the business asking for shoe donations. I expected a couple of thousand shoes. I ended up leading an effort that shopped over a quarter million shoes to the Pacific Ocean countries.

That event changed the trajectory of my life.

I’m not saying that you have to leave your world and become a humanitarian like I did.

That’s not what I’m saying at all.

What I am saying, however, is that if you think that YOU can’t make a difference in the lives of other people, you’re mistaken. Your smile, your heartfelt prayers, your shoulder to lean on if you know someone who is close to you and needs your help can go far.

I have a friend who has a close friend who has been struggling with depression for a very long time. The two friends live in different states, but for more than a year, not a day goes by that my friend doesn’t send a note, picture or message of encouragement each morning before the sun rises on the West Coast.

I’m telling you, it doesn’t take much to help.

As I said at the outset, we recently saw the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. Someday soon those stories and lives will recede into the background of our collective consciousness. However, the people who lived through it and lost everything will need help for weeks, months and even years to come.

YOU can make a difference. There are thousands of religious organizations, nonprofits, schools and civic groups that have started to mobilize in Texas to help bring normalcy back to people who have lost so much. They need your money. They need your financial assistance, and I’ve said in the past, if you can only give $1, that’s just as important as someone who can give more. To learn about non-profits you can support, you can click here.

More broadly, I have a message that bears repeating. If you think one life––your life––can’t possibly make a difference, you’re wrong. YOU can make a difference and YOU matter. We need many more humanitarians out there!


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)

 © 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.