The Red Cross Movement — It’s Alive

Yesterday, a blog post by Sam Davidson put the smack down with the Red Cross.

I reacted the way I usually do. I gave myself permission to be upset for a minute, then I tried to truly hear what Sam had to say so we could talk.

Sam listened and approached the dialogue with an open mind and heart. Many of Sam’s other blog posts explored topics that are close to the heart of many Red Cross staff. He discussed the difference between making a living and making a life, finding happiness through a purposeful and present life, and a number of other topics that ignite the right kind of fires in people. As I read his other blogs, I couldn’t help but notice how much he resembled some of our best volunteers – the ones who hold the Red Cross accountable to become a better organization and challenge us.

I chose to work at the Red Cross mostly because I like people like this and want to be around them for more hours out of the day. I am inspired by front line volunteers, entrepreneurial board committee members and leadership volunteers who partner with us to turn a very, very big and heavy ship. I observe daily that the Red Cross agrees that the we all need to raise the ante in non-profit, and in order to do this we must organize solutions that keep us moving forward, in spite of the drag that can be created by 130 years of carbuncles. The magnificent, historic ship keeps moving in part because of volunteers who resemble Sam.

The Red Cross movement is behemoth. It takes entrepreneurs, bravehearts and big thinkers to fuel it. It also takes people who want to work within a large, complex, and decentralized ecosystem to make it continue to breath, live and evolve.

I often joke that the Red Cross has been crowdsourcing for 130 years, and I challenge people to consider the implications of that. Take a minute to really consider the implications of achieving more that 90 percent of your work through volunteers and preserving the breadth and reach of international organization that truly has to touch every corner of the world without government ties. Our staff is comprised of millions of people and our customers are everyone.

Sam and my conversation reminded me that the Red Cross system is alive and richly symbiotic. We do change, but it is much more like an evolution, because all of humanity is part of our system and our earth shakes and reeks havoc.

Sam, we’ll make your ideas matter if you keep sharing them and continue to honor the size and scope of our movement. Change happens here… differently. Organically and open-heartedly. Like a weather system, it will build, then unleash furiously and extraordinarily. And when it does, new dawns break and new shoots surface. Sometimes it strikes awe when thousands of people help thousands of people in unimaginable situations that demand something new. Sam, I think you’d like it.

One of our volunteers, Hala, fled extreme dangers in Baghdad and volunteered with the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement in Syria when she was in her mid-teens. Now a Chicago Red Cross volunteer who is helping us extend the reach of our free humanitarian law class by offering it online, Hala describes her volunteer experience with the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society as “what allowed me to move from victim to volunteer.”

Just last night, one of our volunteers was personally devastated by losing his family’s home in a fire that struck at midnight. When I listened to him today, he shared with me that his work with the Red Cross has been healing for him during this first, most difficult day. He didn’t feel helpless.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, we invite you to challenge us and change us. Sam already crossed that line into volunteerism as soon as he talked with us, listened, then talked again. By the way, we liked Sam’s second blog — the one about how we listened. But we have to confess, we liked the first one, too. Sam and millions of other people are what makes the Red Cross better.

Let’s all keep talking and witness the evolution unfold.

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