By Ming Yang
Did you know that your mindset influences everything you do? Let me explain this by telling you a story of the Campbell Pantry I started.
Three years ago. I was lonely, discouraged, and just not motivated. After a long struggle, I went to Mr. Garry for help. Mr. Garry is a spiritual man. After listening attentively to my complaints, he looked into my eyes and said," Ming, you are truly blessed. When you feel lonely, God is telling you something. You know what, I often feel lonely too." I asked, "how can that be? You have done so much for so many people, and you have so many friends!" Mr. Garry replied, "Indeed, I have many friends. When you feel good, you tend to forget those who are suffering. When you feel lonely, you may realize that God is telling you that some people are suffering and helpless. Go, find them, and help." This conversation changed my life. I realized that I could change my mind and choose how I think. The thought of helping someone gives me energy and keeps me motivated.
Mr. Garry suggested starting a weekend Pantry, channeling my energy to serve the homeless. I liked the idea, told my wife about it, and she was delighted. We prayed and talked to several people to plan our pantry. We organized parties, invited people to our home, wrote letters, and made phone calls to share our vision. We had a simple message: "Many people are hungry in Silicon-valley; together, we can make a difference in our community through the Campbell Pantry." More than 20 volunteers showed up to help at our opening, and 13 families came for food. It was a great success.
Soon after, our excitement wore off. The task of running the pantry was daunting. We needed to recruit new volunteers and retain existing ones. We also needed to raise money to buy the groceries we gave away. It was disappointing when many of our friends said no to us. What kept me going was my desire to feed the hungry. Instead of giving up, I tried to find like-minded people, learning how to connect with them and keep them motivated.
As I worked through the rejections, I realized that I needed to listen, be flexible, and understand our volunteers' needs and passions. E.g. in addition to feeding the hungry, my friend Mark wanted to hand out new clothes for the homeless. Instead of insisting on my way, I helped him to make his idea a reality. Mark was happy and spent thousands of dollars buying new shirts, pants, and socks for our guests. I also learned the importance of forging the connection between volunteers and our guests. When the volunteers saw that their efforts were making a difference, they wanted to do more. Personal relationships also made our guests feel welcome. Mr. Smith, my homeless friend from Sunnyvale, took a 40 minutes bus ride to the Campbell pantry every month because he was part of the family. My mindset, the desire to help others, turned many disappointments into learning opportunities.