Sunday, May 24, 2009

You CAN make a difference

I want to introduce you to Leon McLaughlin. Leon works at a shoe shine stand in a large office building in Seattle. Several years ago, while traveling in Mexico, Leon met a woman who told him a story that changed his life. The woman had hosted an American tourist in her home. The tourist, when using her bathroom, noticed that the bathtub was filled with water, so he pulled out the plug to drain it, thinking he was doing the woman a favor. When he told the woman what he had done, she began to cry. He had just drained the only clean water she would have for a month.

Leon returned to Seattle, determined to learn as much as he could about the crisis caused by a lack of clean water in the developing world. He took his interest further by taking online classes in the repair and maintenance of water distribution systems and becoming an agent for First Water, a Georgia-based manufacturer of a filtration machine that can produce 740 gallons of clean water per hour.

Following a spate of flooding in Bolivia, Leon approached World Vision to see if the organization could use one of his machines to assist the thousands displaced by flood waters there. World Vision said it could, but they would need Leon to donate the machine and pay for its transportation and ongoing technical support and maintenance. Leon was not put off. He remembered that he was shining the shoes of some of the top lawyers, business executives, and bankers in the city. So he taped pictures of the flooded Bolivian community on the walls of his shoe shine stand to stimulate conversations, and then he began to talk to his clients about his dream, to help bring clean water to communities that didn't have it.

It worked. Through his shoe shine contacts, Lean was able to fund his first machine for Bolivia. World Vision Bolivia staff were so impressed with it that they soon ordered five more. An additional ten machines have since been ordered to supply schools and hospitals in Bolivia, and Leon is now setting his sights on other countries that struggle for lack of water.

Leon works three different jobs to support his "habit" of helping others. His goal in life is not to make money, but to help people. It's very refreshing in the corporate world. Leon did not allow himself to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of a problem. Instead, he brought the loaves he had and offered them to help others. For more information about Leon and other great stories of people making a difference for Christ, read the book, The Hole in our Gospel: What does God expect of us? The answer that changed my life and might just change the world by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, U.S.