Mar 202014
From the first page of Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

From the first page of Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

I feel a little stirring lately. I’m feeling CURIOUS about something – and curiosity is the universe’s invitation.

I think I’m ready to dip my toe into the waters of international poverty activism. I’m nervous about it, though. Since I don’t know what the hell I‘m doing.  I’ll definitely say all the wrong things. And because every time I try to be an activist of any kind I always prove to be more of a distractivist. It’s always: OH MY GOD THE PAIN THE DEVASTATION I AM GOING TO DO ALL THE THINGS TO SAVE THE WORLD FOREVER AND EVER AND OH LOOK, A BIRD! I’M THIRSTY. I should go to Target. NEW PILLOWCASES!  Sigh.

Still. Even so. This seems like the Next Right Thing, so I’m going to start asking questions and paying attention: slowly and careful and with great humility and all of my ridiculousness and ignorance and distraction and privilege. And then I’m just going to occasionally read and share stories about what I learn with you. I’m a storyteller, so I’ll just start activating that way.

To be very clear –  I know you and I know you’re ALREADY DOING ENOUGH – too much, likely. So I won’t add anything to your plate. Every once in a while we’ll just read a special story together and  maybe let our hearts and minds open wider and soften deeper. That’s all.  We’re just going to try to let it in. And then maybe miracles will happen or maybe the sharing and reading and opening and softening are miracles enough.

Or maybe it’ll work like this: Maybe we’ll read a story about a guy building schools all over the world or an organization working to get kids clean drinking water and that’ll get us thinking. Maybe instead of succumbing to guilt or despair we’ll choose gratitude instead. And maybe that gratitude will offer us a new perspective on our day. Maybe we’ll take it easier on ourselves because we’ll realize:  Our Kids Are Fine. There are kids who really, really aren’t- but since our kids have food and water and school and at least one person who loves them- they’ll probably be okay. So maybe we’ll relax a little. And that relaxing gratitude will allow us to offer an extra smile to a tired mama or a lonely grandpa or a struggling cashier at the mall later. And maybe that’s enough. So that’s the way we’ll do it- we’ll subtract worries before we add them. This is our kind of activism. It is slow but real. It is small but true.

Here are two heart-opening things for you today. Toe in the water.

Pencils of Promise


I just finished Adam Braun’s book, The Promise of a Pencil. This guy. He builds schools all over the world for otherwise invisible children, you guys. And he writes about his passions and his BIG LOVE for the world so beautifully. He writes about small decisions his parents made raising him that led him down the road of reckless Love he walks everyday. Also he’s gorgeous but that is not valid at all here, Glennon, because he is engaged and you are MARRIED and THIS IS ABOUT THE CHILDREN. For theloveofallthatisholyFocusUpDISTRACTIVIST! Anyway -I believe in Adam and I ordered his book because it’s GOOD, and because he is Good and  because every penny Pencils of Promise makes goes back into the schools Adam builds. He’s a builder of goodness, this guy.

World Water Day


You know how I feel about water. Water and books. Just give me water in any form and books of any kind and a jar of peanut butter (crunchy, please) and come back in a year to check on me.

Turns out that kids are dying right now all over the globe because they don’t have clean water to drink. We all know it but we don’t say it much because well, it’s all just so excruciatingly impossible to think about. Let’s try something different. Let’s try saying it and see what happens. Let’s resist the instinct to hide from the brutal and remember that ALL THE BEAUTY IN THE WORLD HAPPENS WHEN FOLKS RUN TOWARDS THE BRUTAL INSTEAD OF AWAY.

As a small way of running towards the brutal, I’ve accepted an invitation. A relief and development organization called Church World Service has invited me to come and learn about World Water Day by being part of a live, online discussion they are having about water on Saturday.  A  Google+ “Hangout.” Church World Service is an organization made up of some amazing people doing extraordinary work, so I’ve decided I can do this.  I can Hangout. I can hangout and ask questions of these inspiring people doing the on-the-ground work across the globe to get families clean water to drink. I can be ignorant and distracted and privileged and still activate a little.

And you can join me. The Hangout is scheduled for 7 pm EDT on Saturday, March 22, but you can check it out now and RSVP to let us know that you want to be a part of it, too.  Let’s mark World Water Day by listening and asking questions and learning a little bit about this emergency and what we can do to help. I’ll tell you right now we can’t fix it. But that’s not our job, is it? Our job is to keep our hearts open and soft so that we’ll be ready when the ONE LITTLE THING we CAN DO makes itself known.

Join me for WATER DAY.

That’s all for today. Thanks for getting your toes wet with me.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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  49 Responses to “Just One Toe”

  1. Glennon – after reading this post, I wanted to let you know of a fantastic organization called Shining Hope for Communities in Kenya. The founder started with a soccer ball and getting kids together; today his organization educates girls in Kibera, a slum of Nairobi, and links educating these girls with water, sanitation, and community education and training. Even better, the scho bases their education in positive psychology and strengths and empowers their girls to see and value how strong and special they are. I was fortunate enough to help design a strength-based curriculum for the Kibera School for Girls and am continually impressed with the work they do. I hope you have a chance to learn more about them – the focus on educating the women to create a better community seems to connect with your ideas and the organization certainly is a prime example of our brutiful world.

  2. Hi Glennon, I read this post a few days ago and thought about it, and last night, I had a meeting with students at JMU who just got back from Nicaragua on an Alternative Spring Break trip to build a house for a family. We’re already planning next year’s trip, and one of the guys who wants to go next year told us about this guy, Brad Corrigan, who has a non-profit called Love, Light and Melody. He was talking about the tragedy and the beautiful all in one (children living in a trash dump), and it just kinda reminded me of brutiful, and I thought I’d share with you. This video is the mission statement.

  3. Yes, yes yes! So glad to hear this, G! As a traveler and writer I relate to being afraid of not being able to do enough. Which is why I think so many people prefer to ignore our brothers and sisters and children around the world who are in really, really bad shape. But stories are important, they raise awareness which, as we know, marks the beginning of change. We only need to take the first step to enact great, profound change and the ripple effect is beyond what we will ever comprehend. Bless you on this journey!

  4. There’s an organization that started in my hometown called Water Missions International. They’re a great organization and highly rated. But yes, your thoughts on slow activism are just my speed. :)

  5. You are on to something that is so vital, because too many of us lose curiosity, we lose unwavering optimism. These characteristics that children have, they are powerful for us as adults because so many people hear us.

    I hear you and I am pounding my chest getting ready to offer up a mighty roar as well. Masterfully done, thank you!

  6. Glennon,

    I’ve been following you for a long time and have so enjoyed your ponderings, wonderings, musings, and actions. I also happen to work in international development and was even raised in South America where my parents worked in an orphanage. So, if you want to ask questions, I am here. If you want to pick someone’s brain to find out more about this type of work, let me know, as I am here. If you ever want to visit a project or program that is changing the lives of children, I will be happy to help you prepare.

    I am thrilled for you as you start this adventure of international development work. I applaud you…so many are afraid, yet her you are, forging ahead. You won’t be disappointed.


  7. Glennon On Point (the amazing non profit the proceeds from Love Wins Chattanooga) will go too ! We just had Wes Stafford, the former president and heart behind Compassion International, as the banquet speaker. Talk about someone who can do hard things. His book is amazing and he has fought to change poverty for over a million and a half kids! He would inspire you on this journey to find your place in your passion! He is a warrior!

  8. Glennon, have you heard of the organization Dig Deep, Give Well? They dig wells to bring clean water to villages in Africa. You should hook up with them. They do great work.

  9. I missed “Water is Joy”…is there any way to listen to it now that it is over?

  10. WEll nothing ventured nothing gained. You have a platform to educate so why not use it!! I find it interesting that this post only got 34 responses. The very HEAVY, HEATED, EMOTIVE language about children starving for knowledge etc etc. in response to the ‘gifted” post led me to believe that they might to get out a little and see that suffering is relative. Just a thought though. I am sure whatever you tackle will be done with an open heart and besides your sister will surely be an amazing resource for you with all work you have mentioned she does overseas. X

  11. You have it, Glennon Melton.

    I am with you. I have been dipping my toes this year in exactly the same way and it’s clumsy and awkward, I’m all “Who need a winter coat?! You need a winter coat?!” “Ummm, no. I’m wearing a winter coat.” but instead of giving up, I move forward, “Who needs some books?! YOU GUYS NEED SOME BOOKS?!”

    And it’s amazing.

    I cried a little reading this post of yours. Geez.

    Hugs on you, Melton!

    Lisa Solar

  12. Hi Everyone. I’m sure there will be gajillions of suggestions of worthy causes to check out… but I just recently discovered this one and it blew me away…… Scott Neeson of the Cambodian Children’s fund. He was a huge Hollywood guy, and in a nut shell, after visiting Cambodia and seeing all the children living and working in the toxic garbage dump day after day, he sold everything, moved to Cambodia and is basically doing amazing things. He woke up. He rose up. He made the change he needed to make, feeling emptier and emptier the more he had, made him realize, that helping others in poverty was more fulfilling and enriching than a million dollars and a yacht and a Porsche. Here’s a link to a video about him:

  13. thank YOU, as always, for opening my eyes


  14. Glennon- thank you as always for your bravery. I’m a hydrogeologist and I’m intimately aware of the safe water issues facing our world and the frankly gluttonous overuse of drinking water for ridiculous things like golf courses in deserts. Along with others cautions about local governments and others stealing from the coffers of organizations trying to help people with access to these basic life necessities, there is also a serious issue with governments, gangs, or other groups taking over water sources after aide groups have left and cutting the people in need off again. All things to consider.

    But I’m writing about another issue. I, too, have been feeling this pull towards advocacy but I haven’t been able to take the step outside my door yet. I live a comfortable life with two healthy, safe boys and a supportive, safe husband but I’ve gotten a peek into the world of child abuse recently due to some extended family issues. It has brought up all sorts of issues from my own past, concerns about what I should be doing, guilt about what I find myself unable to do, and frustration with a system that fails to protect so many children. We hear so many statistics that I fear they run off our ears without ever entering but for some reason this struck me: there are 6 million children in the US affected by reported child abuse each year; there are over 3 million children in the US that have been sexually abused, 90% of those by someone they know or are related to. Then a stat came through my email for an MS fundraiser saying 2.5 million people worldwide and 400,000 in the US are affected by MS. Take a look at those numbers. How often do you hear about MS? How often do you hear about fundraisers or awareness campaigns? (I’m not saying MS isn’t horrible, don’t get me wrong. I’ve watched one of the nicest women I know have her world shrunk year by year by the disease. One of those people who makes the world better just by being in it and she has this horrible burden.) Compare that to outreach for child abuse victims? Who is standing up for them? Compared to MS victims there are approximately 15 times more children in the US that are being neglected or hit or violated but we don’t hear about them. It is so uncomfortable to talk about. I know. I’m having a hard time taking the next step. I want to be brave, too, Glennon. I want to stand up for these children, not because it is my cause but because they need someone. I want my kids to understand that sometimes we support causes just because it is the right thing to do, not because we have any skin in the game.

    Please, please, please, don’t read any of that as denigrating the amazing work you want to support. You have it absolutely right when you say that we need to support the invisible children. I’m writing to say, thank you for helping me be a little braver about supporting the invisible children here.

  15. I love this idea and path you are embarking on. I also think you have a great opportunity to be a role model and offer perspective for ways to do this that really help, not misguided helping, but really helping. Let me explain…if you dig a little deeper in global aid and volunteering you will quickly see that some very well intentioned efforts are actually counter productive. For instance, all the donated clothing after the earthquake negatively affected Haiti’s textile industry. Consistently revolving volunteers in orphanages leave children with people they bond with leaving them every few weeks and prevent one primary caregiver from being hired. Volunteers looking for a feel good vacation may want to examine if their presence is hindering employment of someone local. People need to be taught to fish, so they can sustain themselves and not depend on other countries. I have seen and spoken with Haitians at a trading market with Dominicans and they are extremely hard workers who do not want a handout. They want to be able to take care of themselves. Perhaps going abroad and teaching teachers English, so they can then teach their students English is more useful than teaching English solely to students. Building awareness of needs, but also an awareness of what is TRULY helpful is vital.

    I also hope you further the idea “charity is not about crossing over a line, but erasing the line.” I often hear moms saying they want to take their children to a soup kitchen etc., so their children can see how good they have it. Maybe instead we can teach our children to serve, but also to search or strength and resilience in those we serve and look for lessons we can gain from them as well and to look for our human similarities and not just our differences.

  16. So my two oldest boys both did water challenges at their public schools to build a well for kiddos. My 14 yo, 2 years ago and my 12 yo this year. They could only drink water for 9 weeks. It was HUGE for them bc when offered a diff option they had to explain WHY. I loved it. I love it. My friend, Nicki, also built a well for her birthday last year — because LOVE DOES … Kind of like LOVE WINS. And I’m getting distracted so ill end with HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU.

  17. Glennon, I love your toes!

    But not in a kinky way. 😉

  18. Ready to jump in with you, G.
    Toes to ankles, ankles to hips, hips to belly button… then DIVE!
    From one water (and book) baby to another.
    With Love <3

  19. G, you should really check out Water Missions International. They are doing amazing work to provide sustainable systems for clean water all over the world.

  20. Happy Birthday Glennon!!!

  21. Happy Birthday Glennon.

    Oh, Tiny Beautiful Things slayed me. LOVE that book.

    My husband is a water and sanitation engineer (currently we live in Laos working for World Vision) and I have SO much respect for the work all the watsan community does all over the world. I’ve worked with CWS folks and I’m good friends with some of the Pencils for Promise folks. Great people to dip your toes in the water with. Also, love how you frame your intentions to deal with the “overwhelm” factor. Beautiful.

    Happy birthday. Hope your week is full of unexpected sparkles of shiny joy and some quiet calm happiness as well.

  22. Happy Birthday! I enjoyed listening to your phone interview this morning for Parenting with Presence – thank you!

  23. Happy Birthday, Glennon…and Happy Spring. Great day for a birthday!
    PS I LOVE crunchy, too :)

  24. Aw, Happy Birthday sweet lady. My daughter’s birthday is the 29th and for her party we are collecting for, not because I’m a nice person but because I don’t need any more STUFF in our house, and my daughter, who is a sensitive soul, said clean water would be a good charity. I teach 8th grade and all too often I feel like I’m doing enough and I just want to hole up and take care of myself and my family and then I say to myself, “you really aren’t a nice person.” I get so overwhelmed with all there is to do that I don’t do much and I get cynical so thank you for reminding me small steps are important, too.

    • A not-nice person would have told her daughter she was stupid or naive to make her birthday party about charity. :)

    • You sure are a nice person – I doubt your daughter got her sweet, sensitive ways from anyone other than Y-O-U! Apples don’t fall far and all that! Looks like you ARE doing for others by just being the steady, supportive trunk to your kind daughter’s branch!

  25. Hi Glennon. I have a Microsoft mentee in Korea who has worked in international aid projects and is specifically interested in providing water where it is needed. I tried to capture the link to your event, but it sorta didn’t work for me. It takes me to a Google something-or-other, but nothing I could link to for my smart little friend. (She is only 16 years old and already warrioring like mad.) Any way we can simplify the link to the event? I will join too. Here’s the deal. I trust anything you are backing. But I hesitate to support most aid initiatives, because you read awful things about corrupt local leaders who swipe all the money. I am SO counting on you to pull together an initiative that we can donate to with confidence that a little kid somewhere will catch a break because of it. If Momastery can do that, I am in like Flynn.

    • Kathy, good point. Can I assume your mentee is in South Korea? I can’t imagine her being able to do anything you’re talking about in the north. The whole corrupt government thing is something else my nephew ran into in his international experiences. Not saying it doesn’t happen in the U.S., but it is incredibly rampant when simply trying to do business or even getting non-profit relief supplies delivered in some of the places that need the most help.

  26. Happy Birthday, G! Love, Love, Love Cheryl Strayed!!! Tiny Beautiful Things is one of my favorite books {along with Wild, of course}. Love this concept of sticking our toes in and keeping our hearts open and soft. Another writer I love, Jeff Goins, has a Snippet book called The In-Between: Shared Experiences and the profits from the sale of this ebook go to which brings clean water to people all over the world. It’s an awesome read – both the ebook and the physical book.

  27. Happy birthday Glennon! Thank you for inspiring us always with your thoughtful posts. I really loved the way you handled all the comments and feedback on your post about gifted children. And I love most of the books you recommend. The Promise of a Pencil is next on my list :)!. Hugz and much love, to you and yours!

  28. I am especially interested in World Water Day. I have heard good things about Church World Service. I have a nephew who was in the Peace Corps in South America for three years and then worked in Africa, and in more than one place, he dealt with people who not only didn’t have indoor plumbing or electricity, they walked miles to get water every day. Every. Day.

    Schools are great, especially in places where you would never find them except for amazing people who find themselves called to make such things happen. I would never say, “that’s not worth doing,” because that’s a whole other battle, fighting poverty with education.

    But WATER…I’m guessing any of us sitting at a computer right now have access to water. Clean water. Inside our houses. We sometimes have ridiculous plumbing bills because we are on a septic system, and the pipes get clogged with tree roots (nothing like waiting up at midnight in December for a plumber to show up because black water has backed up in your bathtub – or worse), but 99.7% of the time, we have clean water at the turn of a knob, or at the push of a button on the washing machine or turning the handle of an outdoor spigot.

    Glennon, you have such a beautiful heart, and I believe in your desire to dip your toes, especially the way you want to learn and tread cautiously, but I can tell you what people may start staying — I’ve seen it before. “Why should we help in other places when people here in the U.S. still need help?” (Yes, I know you have readers from countries all over, but they aren’t the ones who are going to say that.) Maybe you already know this. Maybe that’s why you have proactively pointed out that this is toe-dipping. Maybe by acknowledging that we can’t fix everything, but that we can do little bits of things to head us in the right direction….I hope the people who read this will hear that part. Everyone is capable of keeping an open heart.

    Whether it’s out-and-out activism or keeping our hearts open, G, you have put forth good ideas. And if those of you reading this see these ideas and they don’t “grab you,” I think that’s okay, too. We can’t do it all. It’s kind of like the charities to which you choose to give regularly and the 7,432 that send you mailings in December. Because you have a personal stake in wanting a cure for diabetes doesn’t mean you don’t care about people with Alzheimer’s. Giving to a program for military veterans doesn’t mean that you don’t care about getting pets spayed and neutered. There are SO many needs, and Glennon has simply picked out two. PLEASE do not bash her if they are not “your” two.

    I’ve seen the phrase Google hang-outs but have no idea how they work. A little help for the social-media-impaired, please? And btw, what does it feel like to have a whole online communications system named after you: G-mail?

    • Oh, thanks for saying that, Meredith! The Google Hang-out thing stumped me too. :)

      • Kathy, I see it inside my g-mail accounts, but that’s about it. I don’t know if it’s a group (typed) chat or a video thing or what.

        • Yes, it is all of the above. It can be used for individual typed chats, group typed chats, video communications between two or more people, or even broadcasting video.

          Use it a lot. My kid can use his computer at school to send me a question on my phone. We can video call the grandparents far away. Classes are even held on it.

          If you have gmail, the easiest way to access it is to go through google+, I think.

          • Which you will find by clicking the link at the top right on your gmail page – +YourName (mine says +Jenn)

          • Jenn, I already know about Google+ and technically have an account but don’t use it. How does one start/participate in a chat with someone who isn’t in one of your circles, or even in your G-mail contacts?

    • Thanks for your support and interest, Friends! We have been assured by Google+ and CWS that this Hangout will be very easy to join. Simply follow these steps tomorrow, March 22 at 7pm:

      1. Click on the link to the Hangout from the above post, or copy & paste this url in your browser:

      2. Press the “play” button

      3. Watch. Learn. Enjoy!

  29. Glennon,
    Thank you for your insights, today and everyday!

    PS- Happy birthday!

  30. Joining you for sure. I love the work CWS does, love your encouraging words here…just love everything about this!

  31. Thanks for this. My husband and I have had some stirrings about moving to another country, but doing what and where? but we too get distracted by daily life and our four young kids, and because no matter how hard the known is it is easier and less daunting than the unknown.

  32. Please, share about the underbelly of missions. As a missionary to Central America, I have a lot of qualms about this work that we do. (And I actually don’t call myself a missionary—more, a teacher or a development worker.) I’ve done a bit of writing about my questions, but it’s a scary kettle of worms. If you are interested in digging deeper into this (not pretty) side of the picture, I’m in.

  33. “Maybe instead of succumbing to guilt or despair we’ll choose gratitude instead. And maybe that gratitude will offer us a new perspective on our day. Maybe we’ll take it easier on ourselves because we’ll realize: Our Kids Are Fine. There are kids who really, really aren’t- but since our kids have food and water and school and at least one person who loves them- they’ll probably be okay. So maybe we’ll relax a little. And that relaxing gratitude will allow us to offer an extra smile to a tired mama or a lonely grandpa or a struggling cashier at the mall later.”

    Ohhhhh, GIRL. Right…ON. I have felt this myself. Esp in the grocery store. Maybe bc I stroll past all sorts of folks in there. I walk in, wound up about if I’m mothering my kids in the most effective manner, and then I hear a woman with a newborn in arms, screaming expletives at the child’s father on the phone. I see kids who look neglected, possibly abused. I see unfortunate interactions between parents and children. And while it breaks my heart every time, it does – it DOES – remind me that my kids are fine. They really are. Thanks for the reminder :)

  34. What a great thought: “And maybe that gratitude will offer us a new perspective on our day. Maybe we’ll take it easier on ourselves because we’ll realize: Our Kids Are Fine… So maybe we’ll relax a little. And that relaxing gratitude will allow us to offer an extra smile to a tired mama or a lonely grandpa or a struggling cashier at the mall later. And maybe that’s enough. … .we’ll subtract worries before we add them”
    I should say these words to myself everyday and strive to step back, be grateful for what I have and bring that peace to the people in my day.
    (and thanks for the other reminder – I need to get pillowcases too!)

  35. I hope that if the above post is “awaiting moderation” to check out the link that you will allow it to be printed without acting as a link. The title of the article on is “How a 3-D printed arm gave hope to boy maimed in bomb blast.” It’s an incredible story, but it doesn’t seem possible to copy and paste.

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