Yes We Can! (Sound Familiar?)
Yesterday I felt like putting my head down on my desk and banging my forehead on its surface!
Every project hits a point where the human catalyst for the project becomes discouraged, wonders what in the world he or she is doing spending so much time, energy, and personal finances on what is more and more seeming to be a Big Impossible Idea, and thinks, "You know, I just need to give it up!"
Yesterday was that moment. After traveling with grandkids for three weeks, we returned home with what I diagnosed as a "car virus" (everyone came down with a headache and general achiness—the body's rebellion after being crushed in a vehicle for hundreds of miles of travel—"No! You won't take me along with you any more! No, you won't! Stop! Stop!") Now, after travel and with a headache, facing the piles of things left undone looms dauntingly. Once task gets checked off the list and ten more appear. I call this "The More I Do, the More There Is to Do" syndrome.
Well, yesterday was one of those "what on Earth am I doing mornings." It felt as though I've worked for months—seven months to be precise—on the Global Bag Ladies Project, and there are still mountains to climb to get it launched. How has this landed on my assignment pile? I wondered. Never mind that at the beginning of this year I had prayed, "Oh Lord, let me, just once in my life, be at the right place at the right time with the right idea." David and I are generally miles ahead in our thinking—not always a comfortable situation after decades of quick-stepping. The Global Bag Ladies Project feels like right place (check); right time (check); right idea (check).
Remember this, oh you world-changers, you dauntless many who actually think that with God's help and a community of committed and creative compatriots, you can make a little difference in this disturbed and terrifying world: There is always a low point where you wail No, I can't! I just can't! Don't be surprised when the low blows hit you below the belt. The Enemy loves to crush Big (Seemingly Impossible) Ideas.
Fortunately, at that very moment, I was writing an e-mail report to one of my Kenyan colleagues, now home for a few months in Illinois. "What has been accomplished in Kenya?" I asked. Then I reported as to what's been accomplished Stateside:
CLICK! I sent off my e-mail, thinking, Hm-m-m-m-m. We've actually accomplished a great deal in seven months. Incoming e-mail from Linda Renner, who is getting a prototype for the African-made bags together. "I have 56 bags made in Kenya and someone I want you to talk with about the project. Can you come by this afternoon?"
One quick phone call to a friend who once had her own shop with a total of 13 years of retailing behind her. "Could you possibly plug into Global Bag Ladies Project meeting this afternoon and look at these sample bags?" "Whoa," my friend laughed. "The Lord must be holding you. I just had my afternoon appointment cancel."
Fortunately, that very afternoon the Writer's Wannabe Group was gathering at 1:30 with their writing projects in hand. Gretchen Erhardt, the woman who had assumed the task of writing copy for the Global Bag Ladies Project Web site came in with an amazing body of work, delightful ideas, as well as a musical parody on eco-shopping set to the tune of "Jingle Bells." She had deliberately followed an "obviously organized couple" who were eco-grocery shopping at Meijer and watched as they hooked their ten Meijer bags onto the plastic bag carousels at the checkout counter so the bagger could pack up their groceries. (I promise you will chuckle outright if you follow the link and sing the parody.)
My office at work and the back of my car are filled with sample bags. I have bags from ALDI, cloth shopping bags I've purchased for 35 cents at garage sales, sustainable IKEA bags (IKEA no longer provides plastic bags). Gretchen Erhardt, the Wannabe Writer, brought us the Meijer Store shopping bag as another sample. By far, this Meijer grocery-store bag, selling for $1.00, was the most sophisticated sustainable grocery store bag design we have examined as of yet. Real thought had gone into it.
I was beginning to get excited.
My retailing friend, Cathie, and I hurried from the Writer's Wannabe Meeting and met with Linda Renner. She "blames" me for getting this all started; I "blame" her! About 12 beautiful sample bags made from African fabric were spread on her couch. "These beads are made of paper (a bead cascade was clipped to the side of some). Aren't they amazing! Oh, by the way, I have about 150 orders for bags." We decided Linda would use those sales to underwrite some of the start-up funds in Kenya.
Well, needless to say, the rest of the afternoon went the same way. Linda Renner has women waiting (about a million, she said, not so facetiously) in Kenya to become bag-makers. We just need the microcredit organization to work through (and microloan donations). And—it just so happens that I had several long conversations two weeks ago with the head of a micro-lending institution (not about bags), but I do have his phone number. An existing African fabric organization has eagerly agreed to become our continental-side umbrella and is capable of rolling out as many as 2,000 bags in their sewing rooms to fulfill large orders. They have done all the laborious legal paperwork on import/export and if required, the Global Bag Ladies Project will simply slip under their aegis once we begin shipping in quantities.
Somewhere, AOL reported, on this recent European jaunt, as Barack Obama was entering a hotel, or a government building, a lone voice in the crowd shouted out, "Yes, we can!" Someone overseas got the Obama campaign message.
I think I "got" God's message yesterday. Ordinary individuals, empowered by the Holy Spirit, working in conjunction with a community of creative and committed compatriots, can change the world in sometimes small, but always powerful ways. Yes, we can.
What a difference a day makes!
As of today, we have sold 42 of the Global Bag Ladies Project Bags. That means we must sell 558 more bags to meet our goal of 600 bags sold to raise $12,000 to underwrite our start-up costs. This will be the last Soulish Food dedicated to this topic. The next issues will return to a series on the concept of spiritual hunger. So please read carefully.
This is what I need you to do. I need you to order a canvas bag imprinted with "I'M A GLOBAL BAG LADY... AND PROUD OF IT!" for yourself. But I also need you to take orders for 10 bags from your family, from your neighbors, from your Sunday School class, from your book group. Give a bag to a daughter, to a daughter- or sister-in-law today, to your wife, or to teachers for school gifts. Think birthday gifts, shower gifts, hostess gifts. Order your Christmas gifts early! If 60 people sell 10 bags each, that will reach our goal of 600 bags sold (or if 10 people sell 60 bags each—think groups). The bags cost us $10 apiece, $5 for shipping and handling. Anything above $15, beyond our raw costs, becomes seed money to underwrite the stateside GBLP marketing that must occur if we are to make the African-made bags available in quantities. Monies Linda raises on the sale of African-made bags will go directly to hiring women in Kenya.
Yesterday, I kept saying, "If we get this up and running . . ." And, Cathie Clark, my retailing friend, kept interrupting me with ". . .when—when we get this up and running."
Just think—what will it mean when one million bag-makers sell to millions of bag-buyers? Some women only need $125 a month to buy food for their families, pay rent, purchase clothing, and send their children to school. I would like to be part of something that makes a difference for good in the world. How about you?
Yes, we can. Start by buying ten bags at $100 (add $50 if we must ship to you), sell them for whatever people can pay above those costs, then turn the margins into the GBLP with a check made out to Hungry Souls/GBLP; Box 30; Wheaton, IL 60187. Yes, we can!
Bag Ladies Project shopping bags
"I think I "got" God's message yesterday. Ordinary individuals, empowered by the Holy Spirit, working in conjunction with a community of creative and committed compatriots, can change the world in sometimes small, but always powerful ways. Yes, we can."
Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Banking, and The Business
Solution for Ending Poverty
2008 Pilgrimage to France
God Through the
Eyes of the Artist and the Artist In the Eye of God