Do What You Do Well to Do Good
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
“Do what you do well to do good” sounds like one of those pithy aphorisms your grandpa solemnly intones before he hands you a shovel and tells you to clean up the dog poop in his yard. But, I think it’s a pretty powerful idea.
I never thought of my writing, which some might suggest is the literary equivalent of canine droppings in the grass, as a means of doing good until about six years ago. That’s when we lost Sarah. My friend Sarah passed away from cancer on July 25, 2014. She was 38. She was a surgeon, and she was passionate about what she did—so much so that rather than vacation at the beach with a Mai Tai (well, okay, she might occasionally have done that too), Sarah undertook several trips with Surgicorps International, a wonderful organization that provides free medical care to disadvantaged individuals in developing countries. She joined a cadre of other doctors who volunteered their time and talent to travel, at their own expense, to places like Bhutan, Ethiopia, and Honduras to perform procedures that improved the quality of people’s lives. Sarah had a gift, and she used that gift to do good. As Sarah herself would have attested quite gleefully, I’m by no means as skilled with the keyboard as she was with the scalpel. I can’t use words to fix a cleft palate or a shattered hand. But, I can spin a pretty good yarn.
After Sarah passed, I started donating a portion of proceeds from every story I’ve published to organizations that make the world better. I will donate 25% of my royalties from The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True to Impact Justice, a national innovation and research center advancing new ideas and solutions for justice reform. Ensuring equal access, whether to justice, education, or healthcare, isn’t a political issue. It’s a fundamental issue of fairness, decency, and humanity. It’s the only way we will survive, and thrive, as a global society.
Sales of my absurd little comic fantasy are unlikely to result in a substantial windfall for Impact Justice. But, what if we all commit to doing something we love, something we’re good at, to make the world a better place? Everyone does something well—maybe it’s not something as immediately impactful as being able to heal the sick and injured, but we can all find a way to use our gifts to benefit others. Individually, our efforts may register as little more than tiny pinpricks of light in what feels like an increasingly dark world. Multiply those efforts by a few thousand people, though…or a few million…or a few billion…
Now we’re a vast constellation stretching across the sky, one whose brilliance might inspire and guide those who are struggling through even the bleakest nights.
Sarah would have rolled her eyes at that melodramatic metaphor, but she responded that way to pretty much everything I ever said, so whatever. The point is simply this: whether it’s contributing time, energy, kindness, or brainpower, we can all do something to make the world just a little bit better.
In my case, that’s writing about riddle-spouting rocks and flatulent minotaurs. Thank goodness the rest of you are here to help me light up the sky.