A Crucial Life Lesson I Learned From 500 Orphans

Most of us want our lives to matter…to make a difference. We want to make an impact on the lives of those we connect with, whether our families, friends or business contacts. And I think that is a worthy pursuit.

If you were to pause, and consider how you are doing what would your conclusion be? Go ahead…stop for a moment and simply ask yourself, “Am I making a difference in the lives of others? Am I using what God has given me for His sake and the sake of other people?”

I’m hearing the music of Jeopardy in my head as I wait.

While you’re considering the question, I’d like to suggest that while most of us do want our lives to count, one thing that can often get in the way is this…We believe that our impact will happen in the future once _______ happens. You can fill in the gap. I suppose there a hundreds of possibilities.


  • I have X amount of money in the bank
  • I get the promotion I waiting on
  • I get out of debt
  • I get healthy
  • I complete this project
  • The kids get to a certain age
  • The kids are grown and out of the house
  • I finish my education

When X happens then I can do Y with my life.

Have you ever thought like that? I know I have, and still do sometimes. Another way of saying it is, you wait until circumstances are perfect (as you perceive they need to be) before taking action.

It’s the idea that you will accomplish something with your life, but only after something in the future happens. But here’s the problem. If our dreams, goals & ambitions are based on what will happen in the future, they will never take place. Why? Because even if we do finish “that thing”  something else will come along to focus on. Then we’re right back to future thinking…and the present doesn’t really change.

It’s kind of like the advice I once received when considering marriage. If you wait until you can afford it or circumstances are ideal, you’ll never say “I do”

But what if there is an alternative?

What if, instead of waiting for ideal conditions to live out our potential, we decide to use what we have now in every opportunity we’re given.

In 2009 I had the privilege to visit Burkina Faso, West Africa. Along with a team of about 14, we spent 15 days living and working at an orphanage, home to about 500 children. We were there to work on a construction project…a security wall. But we also had the opportunity to interact with the kids, sit in their classes, play with them on the playground and watch them thrive.

During my visit, I learned something very important, something the kids already knew.

Near the end of our visit, our team watched the children put on a night of music and dancing. It was incredible to see them and hear them.

This particular night also happened to be my birthday and to be honest, I was missing home, missing my family and wishing I with them.

And without any warning, all of sudden, in the middle of this concert, the children began to sing happy birthday to me. I don’t know if you have heard 500 African singing, up close, but it was the most incredible gift ever. I was caught off guard as I stood in front of this amazing choir. (I’m sorry for the poor iphone 3 quality)



Tears were pouring down my face as I listened to all these beautiful children…children who were orphans, who ate rice at every meal, who were up at 5am every day and at school from 7am-5pm, who had nothing to their name, but a few clothes and books. But they blessed me in a way I will never forget.

Here’s my point. These kids had very little, but they took the opportunity and used their voices to make a difference in my life. They used what they had and made a difference. They didn’t wait until their circumstances were better, they just used what they had and did something…they took action and did something.

That’s the point. If you wait for Y to happen before doing X, you may never do X. Instead of waiting for ideal circumstances, just use what you have in the the opportunities you are given.

You may think that a group of kids singing happy birthday is insignificant. And maybe that’s our problem. We think changing the world is for CEO’s or non-profits or world-renowned entrepreneurs. But maybe changing the world starts by doing what we can today, for the people we come in contact with…today.

I learned a lot from my these children and my visit to Burkina Faso, particularly this…our circumstances do not have to dictate how we live our lives…we don’t have to wait until our lives are “better” before we impact others with it.

“We don’t have to wait until our lives are “better” before we impact others with it.” 

Q. Have you been so focused on the future that you have missed todays opportunities?

Q. What can you do with what you have to improve the life of someone else?

Are you looking to make some changes? Life coaching can help. Contact me to arrange an initial free 30 minute Discovery Call. Let’s talk.


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