When making money also makes a difference

Blake was on a tennis scholarship his sophomore year at Southern Methodist University when he suffered a career-ending ankle injury.  This was a dramatic event for a man with a bright future in tennis.  He plunged into his studies in philosophy and business. This major turn of events in his life caused him to notice a problem he’d never before seen.  The students were too busy to do their own laundry, and those who had time lacked convenient access to laundry facilities.  This is the point where Blake’s business savvy started to develop.  He created the EZ Laundry company for on-campus students.  Soon, the company had more than 40 employees and was generating more than $1 million in sales.

For the next dozen years, Blake went from one successful business venture to another.  Things changed for him in 2006.  Blake was on a vacation in Argentina when he met up with a team of volunteers who were trying to help the poorest people in the remote parts of that country.  Blake decided to tag along and see how he could help.  This decision would change his life.  This was the moment that Blake’s philosophy converged with his business background.  The needs that Blake saw were no longer abstract and unimportant.  They became immediate and urgent.  He decided to dedicate himself to doing something about the needs of poor children in Argentina and around the world who lacked a pair of shoes.  Blake said, “It dramatically heightened my awareness. Yes, I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that poor children around the world often went barefoot, but now, for the first time, I saw the real effects of being shoeless: the blisters, the sores, the infections.”[1]

Returning from this trip to Argentina, Blake Mycoskie decided to launch a company called Shoes for Better Tomorrows.  You know this company better as TOMS.  Today there are more than 1,000 TOMS stores worldwide, and more than 60 million shoes have been donated to the world’s poorest people because this one man decided he wanted his money to make a difference in the world.[2]  Here’s a way that you can make a difference with your life also.

See a need

You can start making a difference when you notice a need. Many of the greatest ministries in history have begun when one person noticed another in need for the first time. Countless people have lived near the needy for years before they actually recognized the needs around them. Then, one day, they walked out the doors of their house and they noticed something that was there all along. For Christians, this is the moment when God’s Holy Spirit starts to work in the heart of a servant.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Try this – walk around your neighborhood or city looking for someone in need. Don’t be surprised if you start to notice something that has been in front of your face all along. When you start to notice a need for the first time, ask God if this is a need he wants you to invest your time and energy meeting.

Meet a need

This step is equally simple.  If you want to make an impact, start small by addressing the need that’s right in front of your face. Begin to do for just one person what you wish you could do for everyone who has a need. Perhaps God will open up greater opportunities for you to minister to more people in the future.

This is the idea that the Bible describes in 2 Corinthians 8:14. God provided the resources in the church in Corinth to meet the needs of the church in Jerusalem.  When that Greek church realized there was a need in the Jewish church, they decided to do something to meet those needs.  Perhaps God has given you the time and the ability to meet the needs in front of you today. Who knows; maybe you will be in need tomorrow.  God raises up people and resources today to meet today’s needs.  Tomorrow, God may raise up someone else to meet your needs.

Grow indeed

There is an added benefit in ministering to other people by meeting their needs; you grow in your faith and you grow as a person. This is how the Bible describes it in Ephesians 4:11-13.  God raises up leaders, who are equipped to raise up others, so the whole church grows.

Think about it this way; as you start to meet someone’s need, God starts to move inside your heart. As your heart starts to grow, you start to inspire others around you to meet the needs of more people. As they start to meet the needs of others, they inspire still more people to meet needs. Pretty soon the needs of the whole group are being met, while at the same time, those who are meeting needs continue to grow in faith and as people.

Blake Mycoskie didn’t just grow TOMS into a successful company; TOMS grew Blake into a better human being.  When you see the needs of people around you, and you care enough to meet those needs, it not only helps those around you – it will help you become a better person as well.

[1]  Mycoskie, Blake. “Blake Mycoskie Conceived The Idea For TOMS Shoes While Sitting On A Farm, Pondering Life, In Argentina”. September 21, 2011. Business Insider. Retrieved 7 March 2014.

[2] http://www.toms.com/blakes-bio

Further reading