Teaching And Learning Abundance

Image by permission of KM Cheng, Hong Kong

Image by permission of KM Cheng, Hong Kong

I just got the good news Friday: I’ve been selected to be one of the Scoutmasters for the Simon Kenton Council contingent to the 2010 National Boy Scout Jamboree.  I am so excited!  For twenty-five years I’ve been associated with the Boy Scouts as both a youth and an adult leader, but this will be the first time that I’ve ever participated in anything beyond the local council level.

And I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead a group of young men and their adult leaders on such a meaningful experience.  Over the next two years we’ll work hard to develop into a unit that can represent our council with honor.  Several of the scouts in our troop, including my youngest son Derek, have signed up for the Jamboree.  It’s going to be a memorable adventure.

There is one small challenge however, the current estimated cost of attending the Jamboree for our central-Ohio contingent is $1,400 per attendee, leaders included.  Derek and I will have to raise well over $3,000 during the next two years to cover the costs of uniforms, equipment, transportation, and the Jamboree fee itself.

This is a huge roadblock to Derek.

When I first described the Jamboree to Derek, he was excited and enthusiastic about attending.  He’s been making great progress in scouting, and he’s on track to earn his Eagle rank in the next two years.  The local scout camp has gotten a little stale after four years.  He’s ready for some big, new experiences.

But recently, Derek has been telling me that he doesn’t want to go.  “I sounds boring,” he said.


Derek wasn’t being straight with me and I knew it.  “What if money were no object?  What if you already had all of the jamboree fee in your scout account, would you want to go then?”  He shrugged in a noncommittal way, but he knew he was busted.

And I knew that I was busted too.  Derek doesn’t get his scarcity mentality from anybody strange.  He learned it from me.  I’ve written previously about my struggles with money.  I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with money for years.  It has been my false idol and my achilles heel. 

My scarcity mentality began during one of the proudest periods in my life.  During my junior year of college, I participated in a study abroad program.  From February through August of 1982 I was in Europe, attending college in Erlangen, West Germany and travelling by train, bus, and ferry all over western Europe. 

I may not have learned much about ceramic engineering during my study abroad, but the experience and growth I gained more than compensated for that miss.  Nothing builds your self-confidence quite like figuring out the correct train to board at 2:30 in the morning when you don’t even speak the language.

Everything was going great until early May, when I realized I was running low on funds and still had almost three months left in my trip .  In my mind I had two choices: I could either travel or I could eat.  I figured I could eat the rest of my life, how often would I get to travel to so many different countries?  So I took to eating one meal a day.  I considered a large bowl of oatmeal to be a thrifty dinner.  I stretched my food money just as far as I possibly could, but in the end I still needed some financial help from my parents.

Looking back now, I realize that I was able to do everything that I had set as a goal.  I travelled to twenty different countries and experienced real life in Germany, not just the packaged tourist high lights. 

But at the time, my stomach ruled my thoughts.  I can remember strolling through beautiful Italian streets and cathedrals, unable to enjoy them because my mind was fantasizing about what I’d eat for dinner that evening.  I remember running out of money in England with a week to go before flying home, my one remaining asset an unlimited Interail pass, which I used to travel all the way to Switzerland so I could crash at the house of a distant cousin.

The struggles of that time have stayed with me over the years.  I now see how they’ve colored my thinking through most of my adult life.  When I travelled to Europe, I wanted to support myself.  My parents and my relatives in Europe were happy to help me, but I looked on their help as a personal failure and defeat. 

Over the years, I’ve unconsciously fed the false belief that I can’t make enough money to support myself.  Getting married and having children only added to my anxieties.  I postponed pursuing projects I felt passionate about in the name of being a practical and responsible provider.  I’ve earned a good living over the years, but in my mind I never measured up.

Give Us Each Day Our Daily Bread

This scarcity mentality recently came to a personal crisis point forcing me, thankfully, into a place where I can no longer ignore it.  The very short version of my epiphany goes like this:

  • Times are tough for the company I work for and I haven’t seen a pay raise in several years.  Meanwhile, the costs of maintaining my family have increased significantly as my children hav moved into high school and college.
  • I’ve been looking for a way to pursue my passions in my career and make additional income for my family.  I learned of a creative staffing agency in nearby Columbus where I could work as a freelance writer.  All I needed to do was write a resume and submit it on-line. 
  • In my mind I could visualize unlimited success.  I would share my gifts for writing and communication with clients, building a reputation and a thriving business while earning extra income for my family.  I knew in the very core of my being that this was the right move for me.
  • Then I made my mistake.  Before I wrote the resume, I took the time to balance our family checkbook and pay the bills.  Suddenly, the certainty I felt towards my new writing career turned to anxiety and fear as I fretted about needing extra money for our family.
  • For two weeks, I struggled to write that resume.  The words were completely blocked, and every other personal priority I had slipped as I struggled with that resume.  Frequently I retreated to the TV to watch the Summer Olympics, avoiding my life’s struggles by watching others live out their lives’ dreams.  I was miserable.  I was also miserable to live with.

It was at my lowest point, feeling completely defeated, that I stumbled upon a great blog by Mark David Gerson that spoke directly to the heart of my troubles.  I was causing the blockage in my writing, in our finances, and in my life by clinging to my fears, doubts, and anxieties.

My ungrateful, controlling, faithless attitude was drawing scarcity into my life.

So I gave it up.  I’m not trying to control it or suppress it.  I’m not fighting it.  This time, for the first time, I’ve given it over to our higher power.

The log jam broke.  The words started to flow.  The resume was completed and I’m officially listed with the agency as of this week.  I’m officially on my way, and I have faith that my new writing business will be successful.  I don’t know how the future will unfold, but I’m excited to see just how God will provide.

Does this sound like a bunch of wishful thinking or new age mumbo-jumbo?  Perhaps, but before judging consider this: in the past two weeks, since giving up my scarcity mentality, I’ve been given three exciting assignments at my full time job.  Last month I felt completely worthless and under-utilized, now I’m bursting with enthusiasm and purpose.

Teaching Best What I Most Need To Learn

So what did I tell Derek when he finally confessed that he didn’t think he could raise the money to attend the Jamboree?  “Have faith in yourself.  You can earn that money.  You’ll have to work hard, but it will be worth it.”

“That’s easy for you to say Dad,” he said.  “You work full time and can make that money easy.  I’m only 14.  How am I supposed to earn $1,400?”

We looked at each other for a long second, my mind a blank.  Then I heard myself say, “I believe you can do it.  If you can’t believe in yourself, then believe in me.  I wouldn’t lie to you.”

What an opportunity!  To break the legacy of scarcity that I’ve allowed to grow in my family, and to show Derek how to live his life in an abundant way.

Live to great success, not to avoid failure.  — Denis Waitley

So, does anyone have a good fund raising ideas?


One Response

  1. What a great, inspiring post. I’m so glad I was able to contribute to your experience!

    – Mark David

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