How much is too much to give up to pursue a dream? How much time is too much time to sacrifice? How much money is too much to give? I think it all depends on how much it's worth to us. So, it's good to take time to think it all through.
In September, 2012, Sarah and I incorporated The Torch. We had a vision and a plan that was relatively simple. We wanted to feed people. We wanted them to know, that no matter what has happened in their lives, regardless of whose fault it might be - or what choices brought them to where they are - they are still valuable human beings who deserve to be respected and loved, and to have hope in their lives. We wanted our food truck and symbol, The Torch, to represent light during what can be some very dark moments in life.
Our desire and passion to do this was so strong we gave up our free time activities to pursue the dream. We scraped up money wherever we could get it - if one of us had $10 or $20 or $5 to donate to The Torch, we put it in. When we were tired and discouraged, we dug deep within ourselves, prayed a lot, held our heads high, and continued to push through the struggles.
And then we had a food truck. We brought that baby home right before Winter, and didn't have a clue how to make it work. So, we spent night after night, weekend after weekend working in it and on it, practicing and learning and figuring things out. We cried tears that froze to our cheeks, and discovered endurance we didn't realize we possessed. We clung to our dream, our goal, our hope.
The day finally arrived when we were scheduled to take our food truck out to our very first stop in what was to become one of our regular neighborhoods. We were tense, and our patience and knowledge were stretched as we parked the truck and began to prepare the food. Of course, it started to rain. We looked at each other and said, "What if nobody comes?" But we pushed that thought aside and cooked a meal.
And the people began to come. And come. And come. The rain stopped. The sun came out. All at once, the line at the window had dwindled to a few people - and I looked out over the grassy area and basketball court next to the truck - and I saw lots and lots of people. They were eating, and talking and laughing. A young girl came to the window for seconds and said with a huge smile, "I have never seen the people here come out for anything like this!"
The sweat, the tears, the fears, the sacrifices were all worth it at that moment. We realized one cannot say, "This is how much it is worth to help human beings." There is no price that can be attached to affecting lives and bringing hope.
A lifetime has gone by in the past four years. During that time we realized we could impact lives even more if we were able to get involved on a more personal level than we have with the food truck. A large number of people with disabilities live in poverty. They can be made to feel like they have nothing to contribute to society.
We realized we could bring hope. We could offer training, and help connect disenfranchised people into our awesome community. And so we launched Torch 180 where we train people who have disabilities to work in the food service industry. We knew it wouldn't be easy. We knew we would be making sacrifices. We didn't realize it would take as long as it has to get our very own building. We've taken a lot of risks along the way.
So far, without a building of our own, we have trained eight individuals. Six are now working, and two are looking for work. We are working with an additional eight students - and hoping to add another class of up to ten. Meanwhile, we are raising funds to purchase our own space - where we hope to be able to offer our community delicious food and fun and a place where people get together, while continuing to train and impact the lives of human beings we meet.
We have wept. We have struggled. We have sacrificed. But how much is too much? We know there is no price that is too high to pay to bring hope to the people in this world.
We are deeply grateful to everyone who has come alongside us and sacrificed and given.
If you would like to help out - you can click this link: http://www.torch180.org/180-campaign.html
How much? That's entirely up to you. :) Thank you in advance!
When people are young and starting out in life, they tend to dream big, and often believe there is nothing they cannot do. They are able to envision a future world in which they achieve their dreams, and the world is a better place because of it. They are often passionately outspoken about the things in the world that they believe are wrong. They want to change it and make it better for themselves and for everyone else.
I think many people I know have been there, and believed that. I did. But, somewhere along the way, we settled. We started to accept the status quo, and believe we really couldn't make a difference. We began to be satisfied with just quietly living our own lives, making our own money, raising our own families, and not getting too involved with everything else that's going on around us. We withdrew our energy and interest from passionately caring about how the world is treating others, and we settled for making sure we get our piece of the pie, and our family is doing okay.
It feels like the current election season is part of the settlement we negotiated when we decided to become a society of individuals. If it's good enough for me, it's good enough. If it's good enough for my family, it's good enough. If a few friends are okay with what's going on, it's good enough. If the best possible candidates cannot get on the ballot, it's good enough. As we sit on the sidelines and observe the fray, listen to the campaigning, and try to sort through the VOLUMES of information to find unbiased facts to help us become informed and intelligent participants in this society, it can feel overwhelming. Especially if we don't like what we see, and want real change that benefits us collectively.
Apathy is the price of accepting such a settlement. It is tempting to withdraw into our individuals homes, shut our individual doors, and concentrate only on ourselves. Our votes don't seem to matter, and people get angry with each other when they disagree. It's so much easier to ignore than to participate.
But settling for the status quo, becoming more individualistic, and retreating into apathy are not acceptable choices. They are easy choices - and they got us to this point. And getting all enraged and emotional over an election won't fix the problems we face collectively, as a society.
I think we CAN do something. I think we CAN make change, but it's going to take time. And it's not going to come without a cost - and it won't happen because of politics. It will happen because of people. One of the greatest things about America is that grassroots movements can bring about great change.
We need to figure out how to bring community to our own local communities. We need to make room in our lives for people who are different. We need to try to help people we can help. I'm not talking about buying a Starbucks coffee for the person in line behind you or me. I'm not saying it's wrong to be kind to a stranger, but paying it forward in that way does nothing to build or strengthen our connections to other human beings as human beings. We need to stop and talk to people. Look them in the eye. Figure out a way we can get to know people who are different from us. Try hard to understand why they are what they are, and why they do what they do.
Connecting. We need to start in our immediate neighborhoods, and see how many connections we can make. If we open our hearts to really caring about other people's lives, we can find ways our community can work together to become more of a community. We should swallow our pride, fear, apathy and whatever else stands in the way, take risks, and try something - a community dinner or picnic, maybe. We should go out of our way to invite people we don't know, and include people who are typically excluded from our circle of friends.
People respond to love and acceptance. It's time we opened our eyes and our lives to the people around us - and stopped settling for being a society of one - and become a society of millions, connected by our humanity and linked by community and caring brought about by knowing other human beings. It's a big task, but it beats settling for good enough.
Dreaming: The Bigger Picture
We are always talking about dreaming here at the Torch and 180. Sarah and I are big, huge dreamer and often find ourselves contemplating chasing the impossible. Our faith has grown a lot since 2012, when all this started. Some of the most encouraging messages we ever receive are from people who have been inspired and encouraged to step out and try something that they dreamed of doing, but never had before.
But, what happens when the dream doesn't work out? What happens when it all falls apart, and we know we did everything in our power to move it forward? What happens then? Somebody told me one time he admired the things Sarah and I have been doing. He said that he once had an opportunity to follow a dream, but it didn't work out - and so he had missed his chance. I understand he must have felt very discouraged when things fell apart. Things seems to fall apart at Torch and 180 on a pretty regular basis.
But, the beauty of dreaming is it isn't a one-shot deal, and dreams can take whatever shape we want them to. The Torch dream did not begin as a food truck, and 180 was not a mobile training program. Neither has been easy to achieve - and they wouldn't be where they are if Sarah and I rigidly stuck to what looked like very possible and successful ideas. We try a lot of things, pursue a lot of leads, talk about a TON of opportunities - and probably 90% of it does not ever pan out into anything successful.
When that happens, it isn't easy, let me promise you that. We both hate to fail, and we both have a hard time letting go when things don't work out. But we also don't give up on dreaming. If something doesn't work one way, maybe it will work another way. Or maybe, we have to let it go and search for a whole new idea or plan. We find ourselves doing that all the time.
The thing is, without the ability to dream more dreams and dream different dreams - ideas just remain ideas, and hope grows stagnant. I can't survive in a world where I can't dream and try and fail and try again. Every time I fall down, I get discouraged and often want to quit, but after that passes, I start to wonder what will happen when I get back up again. And again. And again. And the most unexpected things happen at the most unexpected times. They always have. They always will. Nothing can stop dreamers from dreaming. Don't let anything stop YOU.
Get out there and exercise your ability to dream.