Nine years ago, my friend, Dr. Keith Taylor, a person I'd met through my university in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, did something incredibly inspiring. He planted the seed for a project, and despite any naysayers in his way, he grew it into the award-winning charity it is today.
That idea was this: That he would donate 10% of his earnings each month, roughly $300, to people who needed it more than he did. People who might lose their lights if they didn't come up with a little money somehow. People who worked hard to provide, but were a little short on buying things like eye glasses or sturdy beds for their children. People who needed a hand before they slipped into a vicious cycle of poverty, but had no one to turn to.
And he was going to try to get others to do the same.
I don't remember where we were when he was brave enough to share his plan with me. Perhaps over a meal or a drink, but I remember precisely what I thought when he told me, and that thought was that he was nuts.
I mean, I thought it was incredibly kind. And generous. And that the idea was solid and good. And I had no doubt that he would indeed give 10% of his pay to others in need, but it was the notion that anyone else would do the same that gave me serious pause.
Call it cynicism somehow tangled up with naivety, but I never thought the idea would fly.
"You might give away money to those who are struggling, but no one else is going to," I told him. And I would be lying if I said he didn't look disappointed in my response. But never was there a moment when I thought he wouldn't try.
And try he did. And nine years later, Modest Needs is funding thousands of applications every year with the help of a board of directors, a full-time staff of five people from an office in New York City. Modest Needs has been featured in Forbes, CNN, the Today Show and multiple other media outlets. The impact that your donations and efforts have had in the past nine years is astounding, fulfilling and, for many, life-saving.
I have never been more happy to have been wrong.
Fast forward almost a decade, and the person who told him his wild idea would never take flight, sits behind a desk writing this blog post as the VP of Marketing and Outreach for the organization she was sure would never exist. We've come full circle, and I've swallowed my words, and joined the team of dedicated individuals and community of amazing donors who have not only made that idea possible, but seen it grow and thrive.
Dr. Taylor and I aren't family, but in a way I consider this organization a family affair. There is history there. I watched what seemed impossible branch out into something awesome, and now I get to be a part of it. Thanks to his perserverance and your dedication as donors, a mere thought became a well-respected institution dedicated to helping people who are on the verge of a financial crisis.
Despite my initial reservations about Modest Needs all those nine years ago, in a way I helped give the fledgling charity a push. I wasn't sure how far Modest Needs would go, but I posted a small link to a widely-read website called Metafilter, and from there the rest is history. It wasn't long before reporters and producers were contacting Dr. Taylor for interview availability, and thanks to that exposure, an invaluable network of donors emerged.
I tell you all of this because I think the roots of Modest Needs Foundation are fascinating ones. The skeptics are now on staff. The Little Idea That Could really, really did. In a big way.
It's encouraging, this notion that you can dream up a way to do good, and even though others may try to swat down your hopes, a little fortitude plus the overall goodness of human beings will indeed prevail.
[Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt]