Is Sacrifice Good or Bad?
-Rev Melissa Fain-
What are you willing to lose to accomplish your goal? That’s the question that continues to ring in my ears as I contemplate the ideals of purpose.
There is a goal, you’ve been called to fulfill it, so now what? What sacrifices are good, and which ones are bad?
I’ll give two scenarios to talk about bad and good sacrifice.
Cindy had plans to organize volunteers to rebuild an old park. Along the way she discovered she had to get approval from government officials, contact multiple non-profit groups for assistance, and call local businesses to seek donations. As this was something she was doing in her spare time, she often did the grunt work late at night after the kids were in bed, or during her break while at work. Because she needed the time, she used her afternoon coffee break as a meeting time to sell a refurbished playground to the community. When funds had been gathered, she realized they were about $3,000 less than the projected cost. She was able to collect an extra $2,000 by hosting a fundraiser at the park. To collect the extra $1,000, Cindy sold her jet ski.
While the refurbishment was happening, the local contractor offered to do the work pro-bono as long as they put a sign on the equipment, advertising their company. Cindy agreed. After the project was complete, the community had a beautiful park to enjoy.
Bob had plans to organize volunteers to add a sidewalk off the roads right outside town. Along the way he discovered he had to get approval from government officials, contact multiple non-profit groups for assistance, and call local businesses to seek donations. The government thought building a sidewalk would be a great idea for lower income residents who didn’t own cars. When the bill was crafted, a lawmaker added a piece to the bill to increase the cigarette tax. This would disproportionately tax the poor, the very people the sidewalk was being built for. When it came time to ask for volunteers, four churches stepped up to help. However, one church had just paid to landscape their lawn. Their lawn was on the path of the future sidewalk. They offered to donate a large sum of money, if the sidewalk in front of their church be built on the other side of the road. This meant, most of the sidewalk would be on one side of the road, and the tiny portion in front of the church would be on the other. Bob went to the government, to see if a crosswalk could be add where the sidewalk switched sides. They told him it could not. The project continued with the added funds, and the sidewalk transitioning sides for one block. No crosswalk.
Once the project began, Bob discovered there wasn’t enough funds to finish. Seeking help from local businesses, he learned they didn’t want the lower income traffic in town. It was fine if the government wanted to build a sidewalk, but they wouldn’t build it on their dime. Finally Bob found a contractor who would finish the project, but he would cut corners to do it. Just wanting the project done, he connected the contractor with the government official.
Soon after the sidewalk was finished it began to crack. Within a year there were areas that were difficult to traverse. Residents that lived closer to the town used it to the best of their ability, but most residents lived on the other side of the church. They didn’t use it at all, because the road was too dangerous to cross, and the church put out signs telling people to stay off their lawn.
While both scenarios are very different the point of both can be seen. Cindy sacrificed her time and money to make the project come to fruition. Bob sacrificed pieces of the project to make the project happen. In the end, Cindy’s personal sacrifice led to a worthwhile project being completed. In the same way, Bob sacrificing pieces of project led to the project itself being unusable.
This is the litmus test for sacrifice: If it damages the vision/project it is bad. It sounds easy, but it’s not. There are times the vision can be sacrificed in menial ways. Like Cindy agreeing to put a plaque for the company that helped build the playground. That was not the vision she had for the park, but it didn’t take anything away from the vision.
Meanwhile, for Bob, moving the sidewalk to the other side of the road, not only altered the vision, but broke it. Anyone who lived on the other side of the church wouldn’t find a use for the sidewalk. Also, choosing someone who would cut corners, got the job done quicker, but in a few years, no one would be able to walk to town because the shoddy craftsmanship would make the new sidewalk impossible to walk on anyway.
This isn’t to say that personal sacrifice is all sunshine and lollypops. People sacrificing everything for the sake of the mission doesn’t always have to be that way. Another meditation for another day.
It is to say, that sacrificing pieces of the mission to get it done faster, or to get something done is never the right thing. When we are called to a mission, it’s to carry that purpose, vision, plan, mission statement across the finish line in one piece. Maybe that takes months. Maybe that takes 40 years. No matter how long it takes, it doesn’t work if we sacrifice it before we get to that finish line.