I have my browser set so that it opens up to cnn.com. Today I opened it up to see the photo of a seven-year old girl who had been swept away and killed in the Arkansas floods. Earlier this month I listened to a woman tell me of extreme childhood abuse and the scars that left in her life. I also spent a lot of time talking to the regional director of Habitat for Humanity, an organization that I have been involved with for many years and heard more first hand stories of death, homelessness and starvation. There is was again… that feeling of guilt that I spend any amount of time self-involved in my own worries and disappointments. I’ve had a tough year. Some things have happened that were enormously disappointing to me and that changed the course of my life as I saw it. I got down about those things, really down. When I see and hear these stories either first hand like I saw on a recent Habitat trip, or directly from victims of serious abuse or I read about them in the news I feel once again in need of humbled appreciation for what I have instead of what I don’t.

Then my friend in Thailand, Anna, who spends her life giving to the less fortunate in so many ways it would take too long to enumerate – (Suffice it to say she feeds the starving, educates the uneducated and helps house the homeless) sent me this reminder of the Ad Council’s campaign about giving:

Since the 1940s, the Ad Council has been the leading producer of public service announcements. Of the thousands of commercials they have produced, their work for the “Don’t Almost Give” campaign has been particularly powerful.

One ad shows a man with crutches struggling to go up a flight of concrete stairs. The narrator says, “This is a man who almost learned to walk at a rehab center that almost got built by people who almost gave money.” After a brief pause, the announcer continues: “Almost gave. How good is almost giving? About as good as almost walking.”

Another ad shows a homeless man curled up in a ball on a pile of rags. One ratty bed sheet shields him from the cold. The narrator says, “This is Jack Thomas. Today someone almost brought Jack something to eat. Someone almost brought him to a shelter. And someone else almost brought him a warm blanket.” After a brief pause, the narrator continues: “And Jack Thomas? Well, he almost made it through the night.”

Each ad ends with a simple, direct message: “Don’t almost give. Give.”

We all have our daily grind. When we lay our head on our pillows at night we are all usually absorbed in our own worries, legitimate worries, but our own. How are my finances, how are my kids, am I going to make that deadline at work, will I ever be good enough, etc. etc.

With all that is happening in the world today—the economic crises, international turmoil, natural disasters, personal challenges, mental health issues, addictions, and plain old personal disappointments, there is so much to occupy our time and thoughts. It is easy at times to not see the bigger picture – that our worries are miniscule by comparison to what is swirling in the world around us. Too often we don’t think about the larger problems until, despite our best efforts to avoid them, they come into our direct path. Many times we insulate ourselves from them in order to (not) deal with them.

So why these two subjects together? When I get down about what’s going on in my life I frequently find it worthwhile to go visit some real problems. I do this through Habitat or locally by going and reading books to patients at Children’s Hospital. This article about the Ad Council was a nice reminder to me that despite all of my personal concerns, there are others with much greater needs, and that it doesn’t take much to make a big difference in another’s life – and it has another powerful side-effect; it puts my problems into perspective.

Mahatma Gandhi put it this way –

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now and not defer it. For I shall not pass this way again.”