I have had a lot of really interesting conversations with people lately about the business of soccer. Like anything in life, greed plays such a big role in destroying so many things that have the possibilities of being so powerful and positive in our world. The soccer world is no different. If people started to be generous, instead of always looking at how to get a bigger bottom line, and doing whatever nasty things they need to do to get there, we’d all be richer for it. It’s one of those paradoxes in life that our instincts as human beings is to take and take in order to have more, but in actuality if we gave more, if we shared and collaborated with others, we’d all have more than we’d ever know what to do with.
On that topic this week, I remembered a story that illustrated this so clearly to me, and reminded me that its something I need to do more of, and something I want to inspire others to give a try to.
I honestly have to say that what follows is one of the best things I have ever done in my life.
I gave $1000 to a stranger in 2006.
I was back home in Vancouver training with soccer, and a good friend who I will call G had just started naturopathic medical school. She would tell me stories about this amazing fellow student of hers, K that was a single mom of two teenagers, that had left an abusive relationship and at the age of 40 was embarking on her dream to be a naturopathic doctor. After the first few days of school, G had noticed had large dark circles around K’s eyes, and even though G didn’t know her that well she struck up a friendship with her, finding out a little more about her circumstances. It turned out that K was working a job overnight to keep food on the table for her kids and to be able to keep herself in school. She’d work an all night shift after her kids had gone to bed and then would go home, get them ready for school and then head out to school in the morning. G and another classmate had started making lunch for K as a way to make her day a little easier.
As G was telling me her story, a voice in my head said to me, “give this woman $1000”. At this point in my life, it represented about 20% of my net worth, a significant amount for an impoverished soccer player, but nevertheless it was a strong voice that I couldn’t ignore. On one hand, another voice in my head answered back, “Ciara you are crazy”, but being someone who has always embraced the not normal, the voice piped up louder, loving the idea because it was so outside the box.
So I did write that cheque, and I spent the best $1000 of my life. G went to school the next day with it, and gave it to K, telling her one of her friends had been touched by her story. A few days later, I received probably the most incredible letter I have ever received from anyone, containing words that still tear me up at the thought of. K told me how close she was to quitting school, and how this was the push that she needed to keep going. She said that my action let her know that there were good people in the world, people that would support her, even if she felt like she was fighting her family and everyone else telling her that she shouldn’t follow this dream of hers.
And in my mind that was where the story ended.
But as I said, when we are generous, not expecting anything in return, the universe does some very special things to bless us with more.
For me it happened a year later to the exact same weekend.
I had hit a rough patch financially and started questioning to myself whether continuing to try and play was the right thing to do. My Mom randomly called me one night and told me that one of my family members had mailed me a card and to swing by the house to pick it up. I opened the envelope, and in it was a card from this family member, completely out of the blue, telling me how proud he was of me for following my dreams.
And with the card was a cheque.
I was blown away, not only because of this random act of generosity, but because I realized it was for exactly double of what I had given away exactly the year before. It still gives me chills just to think about.
I think its a good lesson for all of us, myself included, that as we try and build things in our world, whether its our savings, our prominence in our jobs, whatever it is, the best and most effective, enjoyable way to get things is to give and not to be greedy. I know personally its hard when we are in a culture that promotes selfishness and status by having more.
But I can honestly say, nothing beats getting out of your comfort zone and blessing other people with what we’ve been fortunate enough to be given, and the fastest way to get to the top of whatever hypothetical mountain we are trying to climb.
It’s a good reminder I think we all need now and then.