Thursday, January 21, 2010

From Rain Drops to Raging Rivers

I had lunch a couple of days ago with my teammate Paul, who has been going non-stop with Team in Training since August 2007 when I first met him. I mean, seriously non-stop for 2.5 years – every season we have had since then, Paul has been there as a fundraiser, coach, mentor, or some combination of these roles. He is also a scientist in the biological sciences, and thus knows quite a bit about the biological and medical research processes. We were discussing how daunting it is to work for a cure. Each “type” of cancer, for example lymphoma or breast cancer, is in reality several dozen (or more) diseases, each with its own biology that is often determined at the sub-cellular or molecular level. Then Paul said something which really caught my attention and actually depressed me for an instant.

What he said was something to the effect that $50,000 is a drop in the bucket in a research project, and how a half million bucks might keep one scientist in one research project going for a year or two. I thought about all four of my seasons with Team in Training, how hard I have worked to raise just over $40,000. I thought about how if I reach this season’s goal of $8,500, then I will pass the $50,000 mark for my five seasons. All that work to get a drop in the bucket, or maybe 50,000 raindrops in a river.

But then I had this image, actually two images, that have stayed with me since, and these are much more postive images. The first image is was of being at the TNT Inspiration Dinners at each race and they announce how much money was raised collectively by all of the participants at that event. I can’t remember details, but it is usually well over a million dollars. It can be several million bucks at large events. I pause at the announcement, and I think of all the people that donated to my race, most of them in $25 and $50 and $100 increments. And I realize that combining each of my donors with the other 100 or so donors that contributed to my race have added up to $9,000 or $10,000 or $11,000. And then I look around the room, and I think of this same thing happening over and over again with every participant in the room. That $25 dollar donation made by Jane Doe, when repeated over and over with much generosity and much hard work, is now a million or two dollars going towards an ultimate cure.

The other image I have is that of a raindrop, a single raindrop, plopping into a river. Or maybe it is 25 raindrops or 50 or 100 raindrops at a time. In any case, each of those drops by itself is insignificant. But when combined with enough other raindrops, a raging river that can move boulders will result. In that context, if every dollar donated to me is like a raindrop, then I am like a little stream, and when that stream is combined with everyone else on Team Virginia, then we have a tributary. And in Seattle, by combining each chapter tributary with all of the others, a river forms and flows along. Do this often enough each year with the various events we all do all over the country, and ultimately, maybe we will sweep cancer out to sea on a huge flood. That river started with a single raindrop, and grew from there!

So that is how I am going to think of it. I am not collecting drops in the bucket. Instead I am – with the extreme generosity of my donors – helping to build a raging river, one drop and one dollar at a time. A river that will one day sweep cancer away.


Karen said...

Art, I really liked your image of raindrops and rivers. I hope you don't mind, but I thought the message was so important that shared this on my Facebook page. I'm going to keep collecting those raindrops!

Racn4acure said...

Thanks Karen. I don't mind at all. It is easy to get discouraged at times comparing the size of the job (curing cancer) with the dollars coming in to each of us as individuals. But collectively, it all adds up, just like those raindrops. I am glad that you enjoyed what I wrote.

Rob Larsen said...

I like to think that, within the relatively small amount of dollars that I individually raise, there may be that special dollar that is the tipping point between life and death for someone out there.