Working in social enterprise can be a heady business. When I spend time networking with other social enterprises or fellow UnLtd. Award winners, I’m surrounded by people who have stepped out of the traditional “9-5 employee” role and devoted themselves to social good. They’ve spotted a need in some part of the community, and used their passion and ingenuity to set about filling it. And they’ll keep going just like the Energizer Bunny, because their success won’t all be measured by profit–it will be in the names and faces of people whose lives are improved as a result.
Re-Creations also has the the added bonus of associating with the Arts and Crafts communities who exhibit endless amounts of creative genius and inspiration every day. Like Regan Kerr and her Upcycled Prom Dress, or Garth Britzman with his amazing car park roof. Or even my sister & sister-in-law, who made an amazing art car with bottle-caps!
And then you’ve got the “Change the World Gang” at The You Can Hub, who are celebrating their first birthday today.(A very happy birthday, guys!) Together, they bring the best in creativity, empowerment,, “buzz” and square-framed specs to bear on the challenges they encounter. I can’t confirm it, but it is rumored that these ladies wear their pants on the outside, in true superhero style.
Surrounded by such passionate, inspirational people, it’s easy to see the world through rose-tinted glasses. It’s tempting to assume that everybody’s honest, that people who work hard will succeed, and that the good guys will always win. And it sure is nice to forget that accidents happen, that bureaucracy can be impenetrable, and that sometimes people screw you over.
But then sometimes reality can bring you back to earth with a bump. For me, that’s what happened last week. A combination of red tape, sad news and some utter human badness left me feeling like this:
As i drove my battered ego home on Friday, I found myself listening to Janet Devlin’s cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You”. That first line, “when you try your best but you don’t succeed,” echoed in my ears for ages afterward. Because despite what Hollywood might like us to believe, doing the right thing doesn’t mean we’ll come out on top. Outside of primary school, nobody takes home a ribbon just because they took part. Inevitably, shit will happen, and working hard or being a kind person is no guarantee against being kicked in the teeth. In fact, some people view “kindhearted” as code for “easy target” and will be happy to lie, cheat, and steal from you if it gets them what they want. (Like I said, it was a rough week.)
So why carry on? Why invest your blood, sweat, and tears (and innumerable cups of coffee) in improving other people’s lives–especially if it may not pay off in your life? How can you make yourself keep going with no clear path ahead, or get back up when life has knocked your feet from under you? And what happens to the nice guy who finishes last?
These were the questions I mulled over this weekend, between playing Peppa Pig Dominos and never-ending episodes of Sponge Bob Square Pants. For a little while, I thought about chucking in the towel, and what life would be like if I went back to the regular 9-5 job and focused on earning money like most people do. But then two things happened.
The first was an unexpected parcel in the post:
Unlike most of Re-Creations post, this one didn’t contain rubbish for upcycling. Remember Sheri from AwesomeSauce&Asshattery, and owner of the attractive Mensch T’s logo on our sidebar? She used her super-secret-ninja-powers of awesomeness to make a surprise gift for each of the Re-Creations group members. One that I know is going to make their day. (I’m not going to tell what it is until after the guys have all seen them!) She’s never met the guys. Actually, she lives approximately 561 miles away, in Berlin. But she woke up one morning and thought “Dude* What shall I do today? I know, I’ll do something Awesome for these guys in England. After all, I am the Awesomesauce” (*may not have been her exact words)
And the other thing that happened? My husband disappeared for ages, late in the evening. Eventually he walked through the door, cradling a dripping wet, flea-ridden and rather smelly old cat. It wasn’t our cat, and the husband has never really been much of a cat person. But when he heard that a neighbor had suddenly passed away, leaving a pair of elderly cats stranded outside in torrential rain, he couldn’t rest until he knew they were warm and fed. In all, he spent over an hour outside in the storm, coaxing the cats into trusting him and coming indoors. He had nothing to gain from it, apart from the expense of feeding and flea-treating a couple of cats who would moult on his furniture and quite possibly leave hairballs on his pillow by way of thanks.
So in the midst of my crisis of faith, these two events showed me a couple of things:
- Good stuff can happen, even in the middle of a big, fat, stormy suckfest.
- Awesome people just can’t help being awesome. Across different species and great distances, and with nothing to gain, awesome people are just compelled to do awesome stuff.
So when everything hits the fan, instead of asking “why do I bother?”, the real question I need to ask myself is: “Are you awesome?” Because if you’re awesome, you keep chipping away at the problem, even if there’s no end in sight. You can’t help it, because the awesomeness is just part of who you are. Think about your heroes for a minute. Do you admire them because of their easy success? Or is it because they busted their butts in dismal circumstances, and fought for what they believed in against all odds? There’s a reason we’ll remember Martin Luther King Jr forever, while we’ve already forgotten last week’s lottery winner. Without the struggle, there can be no heroes.
And meanwhile (whether you know them or not) all around the world there are other inspired people chipping away at problems and committing random acts of awesomeness. When you add all those people and all their efforts together, the result is that
If sad things or wicked people catch us unaware, we may lose a battle. But that doesn’t make our good deeds any less good. And awesome people will still be working, fighting the good fight because that’s who we are. So next time I feel like giving up, I’m going to be thinking about Sheri & her Awesomesauce. And then I’m going to start channeling Barney Stinson: