It was early 2005 when I received an email from Scott Harrison. He was about to turn 30, and though I didn’t know him, he was clearly at a crossroads in his life.
Very early in his career, Scott became successful in the New York City nightlife circuit—complete with all the money and trappings that scene entails—but at the time of his email, he’d decided to leave it all behind for what would become a two-year-long stint as a photographer with Christian humanitarian organization Mercy Ships.
Scott was about halfway through his first year on the ship, and was deeply changed by the experiences he’d had and the people he’d met. He knew he couldn’t go back to the life he’d decided to leave. He saw need and opportunity in parts of the world that shook him. He wanted to write about it in RELEVANT. (And now we’ve written about him … Check out the full charity: water story in our January issue.)
While Scott wasn’t a known writer or national figure, his was a story that explored a tension many of us feel: the tension between settling for a comfortable life, or taking a massive risk and following your heart. Or maybe the difference of living a me-centered life versus one that’s intentionally outward.
Scott’s story appeared in the pages of our May/June 2005 issue. But little did anyone know, the most remarkable part of his story was yet to be told—in the coming years, he would found an organization that has literally impacted and saved millions of lives around the globe.
Scott Harrison was not an international development strategist. He was a marketer; he knew how to create buzz and connect people. And that is precisely why charity: water has worked—they do things differently. They are an expression of Scott’s unique personality and background. (It’s a fascinating journey we really get into in our cover story on page 56.)
It’s easy to look at an organization like charity: water and be impressed. From their successful track record constructing water wells around the globe that bring clean water to millions, to their incredibly cool SoHo offices, to their great design and the fact that celebrities (and even the president) name-drop them regularly, they are doing great work and seem to have it all figured out.
But it didn’t start that way. What people fail to realize is just a few years ago, Scott was sitting exactly where so many are right now: He was a guy whose life was going one direction, and he felt a strong pull to go another.
So he made a choice to shake things up, and God used that choice: Scott’s eyes were opened to need he didn’t know existed. Such need compelled him to take another risk. In the process, he found a new calling.
He had no idea what he was doing. His idea to give 100 percent of money raised directly to the field wasn’t easy, and to be honest, it shouldn’t have been sustainable. But it was revolutionary, and millions of lives have been and will continue to be changed because Scott simply tried to do something he believed in.
Scott’s story, while remarkable, is really no different than the opportunity in front of all of us. So many times, we’re quick to point out injustices in the world. We know what needs to happen, yet we rarely act because the need seems too overwhelming. We think we can’t do enough to make a difference. Or maybe we’re not qualified. Or we’ve made too many mistakes.
No matter what your job is, or your sphere of influence, you have God-given resources, talents, ideas and gifts that can make a difference. The question is, what’s stopping you from taking a step?
Print subscribers to RELEVANT received the newest copy of Reject Apathy for free with their new issue. In it, we go in-depth about this kind of life and Christ-centered world change. We look at challenging issues and opportunities both globally and locally. As you flip through its pages, your eyes might be opened to something that grabs you, something you hadn’t heard before—something that compels you to take a step.
What is it you can do? Everyone can take action, and everyone can make a difference.
The time is over for merely talking about it. Stories like Scott Harrison’s prove that normal, unqualified people who simply put one foot in front of the other can change things.
God hasn’t called us to be spectators while others do the heavy lifting. We need to be about the things Jesus talked about, and give our lives to them. It won’t be convenient, nor easy, but it will be worth it.
Quit waiting for others to take the lead. In your personal life, in what you devote your time and resources to, in your calling, the time for status quo is over. It’s time to be the change you want to see.