Sunday, September 15, 2013

Secret Millionaires and Average Joes

Saturdays are my down days.  I really try not to work, to just be, enjoy the moment, whatever moment I'm living.  I do not check email (that much), and generally respond to no emails on Saturdays.  This Lutheran by birth has embraced the 7th Day Adventist Sabbath and is better for it.

Yesterday I rode, I walked the dog...three times.  Zulu is genuinely fond of Saturdays when I am home.  I did yoga and went out to dinner with Travis and Kevin.  And....I watched several episodes of the Secret Millionaire.  When I was home in the US a friend mentioned one of the upcoming shows featured a millionaire he knew and encouraged me to download the episode when it aired.  Luckily, I downloaded most of this current season before I left the US.  Download time in Rwanda for a 42 minute show.....5+ hours, if I'm lucky and if the electricity stays on and if I don't go over my monthly internet max.  I had almost forgot I had downloaded eight or nine episodes until I had my down time yesterday and remembered they were on my computer.

The premise of the Secret Millionaire is a millionaire volunteers to live incognito within a community to search out opportunities to volunteer.  He or she explains the accompanying camera crew by telling the organizations they are doing a documentary on volunteering.  The millionaire gives up all their luxuries and conveniences, home, car, cash, phone, credit cards and travels to an unknown destination where they are given, oftentimes, very sketchy living accommodations and a car which would rival the car you bought at 18 when you had $500 in the bank.  They are generally given money equal to the food stamp allowance for a week.  For two people it is $71.30.....for the week.

In some of the episodes the millionaires put on a brave facade, however, you have the feeling, if they could bolt their first night in the "hood" they would.

The next morning they hit the streets looking for organizations where they might be able to volunteer.  It is interesting to see the millionaire gravitate to an organization which has a personal draw to it, sometimes, unbeknownst to them, the attraction.  In one episode, two millionaires, the founding members of Anytime Fitness, volunteer at Oklahoma City Warriors, a wrestling organization which not only teaches the sport of wrestling but provides mentorship, education and keeps over 300 at risk youth off the streets.  

At the end of each program, the millionaire visits the organizations they had volunteered for and reveals his or her true identity and gives the organization a check of varying amounts.  The amount is strictly up to the millionaire.  In the case of the OKC Warriors, the millionaire had learned they needed $39,000 to fund a year.  The two Anytime Fitness founders gave the two men running the organization $39,000 plus a franchise and start up costs for an Anytime Fitness gym.

Waterworks....every episode complete waterworks.

If there was only one television show you could watch for the rest of your life, it should be this show.

We have been one of those recipients.  Not of a show millionaire, but of a very generous person in the life of Team Rwanda and Team Africa Rising.

This past January/February, coach and I visited Ethiopia to see if we could help the cyclists and supply equipment, coaching and mechanic training and improve relations with the UCI.  We visited the Ethiopian Cycling Federation, met an outstanding, passionate advocate for cycling in the Federation, and then traveled 900kms north to Me'kele, home of Ethiopian cycling talent.

The afternoon of our second day in Me'kele we visited all three major clubs in the city.  At the last club, as coach and I had just got back into our SUV, one of the riders, one of the cyclists we knew from the Tour of Rwanda, grabbed Jock's hand and looked us both in the eye and said, "Do not stop this program. You must come back.  Please do not stop this program."  This young man was hanging on for dear us, to a couple of average and ordinary people just trying to give African cyclists a future in the sport and beyond the sport.

We had a little over $20,000 in the bank....what were we thinking?  I will never let any of these young men and women we work with see doubt in my face.  However, there are times when I pray really really hard to keep us going.  I would stop taking a salary to make it happen for these young men and women.  We are the average joes on the ground.

In every episode I witnessed hero after hero give everything they had to protect children, to help seniors, the disabled, the poor and the down and out.  The common thread among these heroes was their own lack of financial resources.  Diane Latiker, an amazing woman, founder of Kids Off the Block on the South Side of Chicago is one of these people.  

At the end of the episode, when Steve Kaplan gives her a check for $100,000 she is speechless.  I love what she says...."The Power of One".

I remember the morning we received word via email from our very generous donor.  I remember Coach and I reading it over and over in disbelief.  We cried, just like we were on TV.  We could expand into Ethiopia and Eritrea, we could help more riders.  The Power of One very generous person.  We might be the ones on the ground in the trenches doing the work, but without our "secret millionaire" down to the individual donating $10, we couldn't change the world we inhabit, our world in Africa.

Another thought this show has left in my mind...there are so many really good people in the world.  It is so easy to get cynical, negative and lacking in hope, faith and belief.  Every where you look there is a hero like the men and women fighting the fight against or with whatever is their passion.  These people give me hope in America.  

As you drive past the bad parts of town in the next few days, stop, stop and look around and ask yourself, what the Power of you can do.  And for God's sake, stop watching the Real Housewives!

1 comment:

  1. Love it.

    "Undercover Boss" too- the next time you're back, check it out. I sob every single time. Snotty, slobbery, weepy tears. Same concept. It really shows how hard the people work and for so little. I think every single CEO should do it. Most of them are fairly arrogant to start and then realize the shoulders they stand upon. It's moving.

    The millionaire show is good because some of the donors aren't especially loaded. A millionaire seems like a lot, but the episodes I saw, the people weren't obscenely rich-- they were comfortable and they were all aware of how fortunate they were. The money they give isn't exactly loose change- it's substantial to them and the organization. I also love that they live in the environment.

    Great show-- and I agree- there are far more good people in this world than bad. The good folks just have to keep on plugging along. Good always defeats bad. Maybe not on the first try, but in the end. It's why I get up in the morning.