(This story is part of an ongoing series by Second Harvest CEO Frank Richards.)
Years ago, I had the privilege of serving with a Jimmy Carter Habitat for Humanity work project. That week we worked what felt like 24 hours a day feeding thousands of people. It was exhausting, but as in lots of stressful life situations, something happened that would forever change my life.
It was there I met Esther. Esther was 84, and she could run circles around us all. As we worked, she would regale me with stories about living through Word War II and how she met her husband. She enjoyed the time she spent volunteering and never seemed to tire.
One afternoon we were cleaning up after lunch, and Esther began to share with me some of the happy moments in her life. Her husband had passed away, and she was in that stage of life where most folks begin to remember all their wonderful life adventures.
After she finished a story, I asked her to tell me one piece of advice she would give a young person. She became quiet and still, carefully contemplating her answer. With a new spark in her eyes she replied, “Always be willing to take a risk on behalf of someone who can’t- in doing this you will learn to love, trust, and have faith.”
I thought about this statement for weeks. How could I apply this to my own life and career? The more I thought, the more I realized how her words would guide me in growing the services of the food bank.
That fall I began to write a new personal mission statement that included taking risks on behalf of those who can’t and today. We at Second Harvest now take risks, and we do it on behalf of those who can’t.
The new Thomasville Distribution Center is a perfect example. It will change Southwest Georgia in ways that we can only dream. Placing a huge food hub in an area of the state that is stricken with poverty and need will bring about a fundamental change in how we collect and distribute food and emergency supplies.
We had to take a real leap of faith – faith that our communities would stand behind us, faith that we can make the difference we think we can. It was and is scary. It adds stress to our environment, but taking on a failing food bank, opening a new branch, or building a multimillion dollar distribution center, is the right thing to do. As Esther told me all those years ago, helping those who don’t have any options themselves is how we grow our faith and extend that faith to those who need us. Faith is the action that shows someone cares and will risk everything in their power to make a difference.