The past twelve days since the Today show did a segment on our
foundation movement has been an interesting lesson in cause and effect. In reality, everything my wife Samantha and I have done since Rees’ passing continues to remind us of the elegant simplicity, yet profound power, of action and reaction. The effects of the Today show piece simply represent a microcosm of the much larger picture I stare at every day. Considering I have so much experience with the process, I still find it perplexing that I am constantly surprised by just how powerful it can be…
After the piece on the Today show aired over one thousand people ordered a total of 45,350 of our “Pay it Forward” cards. As of this writing, the total number of cards that we have distributed worldwide is now at a little over Three Hundred Fifty THOUSAND cards. It is truly difficult for me to wrap my head around that number. If even only 10% of those cards have been used, it’s still a tremendous number of people that have passed on kindness in Rees’ name. With those numbers I should be content in the knowledge that we have met our original goal of remembering our little boy in a positive way. I should be able to look at these incredible numbers and be content with the job we have done. It would be reasonable to assume that if I decided to walk away tomorrow I could do so with no regrets. I should be able to do these things, but I simply cannot. The reason why is simple: I constantly feel like I am not doing enough.
No matter how many cards go out, I always feel like we could send out more. Regardless of the number of students I share our story with, I always feel like I can do a better job of getting our story across. The foundation has distributed almost 10,000 copies of the children’s book I wrote, yet I feel like that number would have been even higher at this point if I had done a better job of tightening up the narrative. If I let my mind wander, I can pick a thousand little things that bother me; all while conveniently ignoring our accomplishments. I should know better than to do it, yet my mind constantly betrays me at almost every step.
It’s incredibly frustrating that my mind’s first inclination is to focus on my failures. Up until very recently, I constantly questioned why I incessantly focused on my deficiencies, rather than my successes. It wasn’t until this past week that I realized the reason I was doing this is because it is simply human nature to do so. Doubt exists so that it can serve as the motivational anchor for future success. It’s simply cause and effect – The answer was always there, right under my nose yet I never realized it until an alien pointed it out to me… (No, I haven’t lost my mind!)
As you may or may not be aware, I am a huge fan of Superman. I could write a novel about the significance of Superman and what he stands for in my life, but I’ll spare you that here. Being the fan that I am I of course was at the first showing of the newest Superman movie. I was not a big fan of the previous movie, “Man of Steel” mostly because I felt that movie got Superman all wrong. I went into this movie fearing the same thing, and as I watched the film I found that same disappointment creeping in. Gone was the Superman who was the unflinching bastion of goodness and hope and in his place was a good, but dour man who tries to be that but can’t stop letting doubt get in his way. As I continued to watch the film I was all but ready to echo the sentiments of all the critics who panned the movie, and in particular Superman himself. My mental pitchfork was almost at the ready to storm the screen when one scene changed it all.
The scene that put all the pieces of the puzzle together for me involved a dream that Superman had of his adoptive human father telling him a story about how he and Clark’s grandfather saved their farm from a flood when Pa Kent was just a boy. Pa told Clark how he worked himself to near exhaustion, piling up rocks and sand to divert the flood waters away from their farm. His work paid off, and the farm was saved but at the unforeseen cost of the flood waters being diverted to the neighboring Lang farm. Unbeknownst to Pa Kent, as he was eating the “hero cake” his mother had baked for him, the flood waters were destroying the livelihood of their neighbors.
It was in that scene that I realized that, in reality, there would never be any “winning” for a real life Superman. Every action has a reaction and it is impossible to make everything right. I couldn’t tell you if the Superman on screen learned that lesson, but I certainly did. I guess in my hopeful mind I thought that 350,000 of our pay it forward cards would stop the flood of hate that I feel like I see everywhere now. The reality is that in some ways, the doubting Thomas in me is absolutely correct: What we have done so far isn’t enough. It’s not enough because Samantha and I simply cannot do it all. It is impossible for two grieving parents to make the world a kinder place by themselves. Even Superman couldn’t do it all – not by himself…
The good news is we aren’t alone. Think of those numbers… 350,000 “Pay it Forward” cards, 10,000 books, 25,000 students (just this year), 67,126 facebook fans. Those numbers seem like a lot, but in reality they are represent only a tiny fraction of the 7 billion of us that share the Earth. I could sit here and lament the fact that so far we have only achieved a few drops in the bucket. The problem with that thinking was I only saw myself trying to fill that bucket, one drop at a time. I failed to realize that each of you touched by our movement represents more drops in the bucket. It’s not just me, or Samantha filling up the bucket – it’s all us collectively doing it, one drop of kindness at a time. Each time we pour out the kindness we have inside those drops come together. One drop of water in one bucket is nothing, but imagine what 452,126 drops all poured together would look like?
It takes 90,840 drops of water to fill a one gallon bucket. If someone asked you to fill a bucket of water one drop at a time, by yourself (assuming a rate of 1 drop per second) it would take you 25.2 hours to fill that bucket. The notion of trying to fill a bucket in this way would stop any sane person from even starting the process to begin with – especially when they can go to any faucet and fill the bucket in seconds. I bet you have never given a moment’s pause to filling a bucket of water in your life. The reason: You never had to consider all the drops that were needed to fill that bucket. In other words, we take filling the bucket for granted because of the simplicity the act engenders.
Every time we stop to consider our “failures” we are focusing on the drops. It is then that our problems seem to become much worse then they really are. Instead of focusing on each of the drops, we need to look at the buckets we fill. If I look our numbers that way, then we have filled five buckets already… Wow. 5 buckets full. Sure, it’s just five buckets right now, but what holds true for the drops, is also true for those buckets. This whole movement started with just a few drops, and now we have five buckets full. Imagine what will come when those five buckets come together? A flood of kindness is coming – and it all started one little
piece drop at a time…