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When You Are the One Receiving the Thanks

27 May

photo-2Last week I traveled through Nicaragua and El Salvador visiting our programs, chatting with our staff and making preparations for our new Feed The Children brand, which will be nationally launched on June 16th.

Last Thursday in El Salvador, I helped to dedicate a new water project providing water to over 250 families, a school, and churches.

Every time I travel overseas, there’s a speech I hear often from those families we serve. And it always begins with “Thank you.”

“Thank you for giving us hope that our children can stay in school . . . ”

“Thank you for providing our children with nutritious meals we couldn’t provide for them. . . . ”

And, “Thank you for remembering us, Mr. Kevin and coming to visit us today. . . . ”

Whenever I hear these words I feel overwhelmed because I know that it is not on my effort alone (by any stretch of the imagination) that has led to these thank you statements.

But yet I am the one saying, “You’re welcome.” I’m the one who everyone wants in their pictures. I am the one who makes the long voyages to remote villages because it is my job. People want to thank me. And I’m glad to meet them.

It would be easy I think, for this praise and focused attention to go to my head.

(And I know now why so many CEOs in positions like mine get in trouble, thinking that the great successes in the field are some how all about him or her).

But I don’t want it to. I want there to be a better posture in which to receive “Thank you!” I want to humbly honor this responsiblity given to me.

This is what I know after almost 2 years of being in this role: I don’t want to be “the” face of Feed The Children.

photo-1I want to be “a” face because this is a team effort of monumental proportions.

I want to be “a” face because I believe in our team and the importance of their faces too.

I want to be “a” face because I know I am only one of the many who ensure our mission of no child going to bed hungry is the forefront of what we do everyday!

It takes the work of many and countless hours to come along side communities to help them build capacity to take care of themselves. When I show up, it’s the conclusion of a long process of development work.

And so when I’m now out visiting field programs, I encourage our photographers to take pictures more people than just me. I graciously can accept a thank you, but I want to do so with other leaders beside me. I want to cut ribbons with other leaders right there.

At my core, I am merely representative of all the amazing FTC staff globally that put their own comfort on the back burner and sometimes their lives on the line to serve a higher calling to help those who want desperately to change their life conditions.

And if I forget, I have my wife to remind me– my life partner who never lets my head get too big . . . ever.