Anyone can make a promise.
In many senses, a promise is a statement of intention. Your promise to do the dishes could easily be phrased as “I intend to do the dishes.” A promise isn’t always a promise of action, but sometimes a promise of restraint, as “I promise I will never cheat on you again.” makes clear. Again, it is clear that we intend to refrain from cheating. Sadly, by the time a person has developed enough to read, most people have personal experience that makes it clear not every promise will be fulfilled. Broken promises have brought about the popular saying “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
Another way to say it might be “The road to Hell is paved with promises.”
I have broken many promises in the last 30 years of my life, certainly more than I can remember. I have a list of remembered promises that I am slowly trying to fulfill as time and circumstances allow. My intention is to fulfill all of them, but reality would seem to say that I will not. Some of the promises I made were foolish, impossible. Other promises were reasonable, but I wasn’t making the promise as a declaration of my intentions, but rather as a tool to get what I wanted. I suspect you have done the same.
Promises are deceptively simple to speak, and oftentimes famously difficult to complete. As you look at the world around you, you can see the results of broken promises everywhere. Maybe it was a promise of reward or advancement upon completion of a difficult task. Maybe it was a promise of hope, a promise of a bright future. Thousands were promised well-paying jobs upon completion of their college education. Perhaps it is this promise you would find laying broken on the ground at the feet of the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Just as individuals have the power to make promises, so do governments and organizations. Like us, our governments make promises that are unrealistic or impossible to keep. In the same way, promises are used as tools to manipulate and change the will of the governed. There used to be a time when we would remove people from positions of power when they failed to keep their promises. Unfortunately, I believe that the time of being held accountable for our lies has passed. The world suffers for it, as promises of humanitarian aid, of mutual assistance, or assured sovereign borders go unfulfilled. Promises of investigations into wrong doing are forgotten, or swept aside, as countries make promises to each other to protect their own interests in an investigation. What promises will be broken tomorrow? The next day?
A promise only has power when there is an expectation of fulfillment.
It is far more rare to find someone who expects the fulfillment of a promise than it is to find someone willing to make a promise. I wish that the tables were turned, that a promise was far more rare than the person who is willing to believe in it.
Scott Harrison is a man who makes promises. When Scott left his lucrative job as a night club promoter in New York City, he found himself halfway around the world, serving the poorest of the poor as a photographer for Mercy Ships. 2 years later, Scott founded Charity:Water, an organization dedicated to bringing clean water to those in need. Scott promised an organization that would use 100% of the money it raised to directly affect the provision of sustainable clean water to those who did not have access to it. For those in the world of non-profit organizations, this was a foolish, unrealistic expectation. No one believed that it could be done. Scott stood by his promise, and has made many more since then.
Broken promises lead to broken lives.
Good intentions are not enough.
I don’t just want to write about peace, I want to do something to help bring about change in the world.
Scott wants to provide clean water to everyone who needs it. I intend to help him fulfill his promise.
I want to raise $2500 in the next 24 days. $100 dollars for each day of #25daysofpeace. I can’t do this alone, so I am asking for your help. Will you consider giving just $25 dollars?
If you would like to participate (at whatever level you are able) head over to Charity:Water and check it out.
Thank you for continuing this journey with me!
(Note…there is currently a matching donation for every dollar, so the campaign goal reflects $5000 instead of $2500. Your donation will count for twice as much automatically, without costing you twice as much!)