Biz 417: Let’s start at the beginning. You talk in the book about kindness as a driving factor behind Convoy of Hope. How did you learn the power of kindness?
Hal Donaldson: When I was 12, my father was hit by a drunk driver, and my mom was in the car as well. My dad was instantly killed, and my mother was seriously injured and couldn’t work. A family took us in and let us live with them for a year while she recovered. All they owned was a single-wide trailer, and we had 10 people living in that. This family really wrapped their arms around us and treated us as their own. We made it through thanks to the power of kindness, and I grew up with a desire to help others.
417: Did you have mentors who made sure you walked away with that desire?
H.D.: Bill Davis, the father of the family who took us in, told me one day, “Don’t allow the tragedy of your youth become a lifelong excuse because where you start in life doesn't have to dictate where you end.” It was that kind of mentoring that really shaped me and helped me get through it.
417: At Convoy of Hope, you work with a lot of families and individuals who are going through serious hardship. How do you help them see that there is hope out there?
H.D.: I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that when people go through hardship, that’s a pivotal moment in their life. If people come along and show them kindness, it can change their perspective and give them hope that tomorrow can be better than today.
417: How do you keep yourself and your team from feeling overwhelmed by the amount of need?
H.D.: We all have a tendency to focus on the enormity of the need, and that can paralyze us. We say to ourselves, if I can’t do everything, I shouldn’t do anything. But doing something is always better than doing nothing.
417: You guys have found a lot of opportunities to give back. How do you prepare your team for the task at hand?
H.D.: We always focus on giving back in a way that honors and respects people and lets them retain their dignity. But really, the key word is selflessness. Can we live our lives in a way where we truly are watching out for the other person? I don’t know that you ever arrive at that. It’s a lifelong journey, and it’s a quest I’ve been on for 40 years.