"Because I Said I Would"
Alex Sheen, of Lakewood, Ohio is the 28-year-old founder of Because I Said I Would, a nonprofit organization dedicated “to bettering humanity through the power of a promise.” When his father, 55, died from lung cancer 2 years ago, Sheen reflected on the quality he admired most in his Dad: His father was a man of his word. He kept his promises. That night Sheen launched his organization on line. He challenged people to make a promise and keep it.
Sheen came up with the idea of distributing cards to his “customers.” The cards are the size of a regular business card—large enough to write on but small enough to carry around. The white cards are blank except for the black words at the bottom which read, “Because I said I would.” Sheen gives 10 free cards to anyone who requests them. The requests became so many, he soon needed several volunteers just to mail out the cards. Now, at his website, he offers the option of printing your own cards.
What do you do with the cards? It’s easy. You write a promise on the card. It can be anything. Something big or something small. It can be a promise you want to make to yourself or to someone else. It can be things like these: “I will clean the garage…I will donate blood…I will eat more healthily…I will volunteer with the homeless…I will take a watercolor course…I will pray every morning…I will read ____ (insert book title).” Then you give the card to someone else. When you have fulfilled your promise, you ask for the card back. “It’s a reward for keeping your promise,” Sheen says. And he adds, “Why shouldn’t we reward ourselves for being true to our word?”
The idea of being true to your word crosses cultural lines. Because I Said I Would has sent cards to people in more than 48 countries. In addition to distributing cards, Sheen’s organization also takes on other philanthropic projects. His company, for example, recently raised money to send 100 children to Disneyland.
Sheen’s company got global attention last fall. You may recall the incident. A young man named Matthew Cordle, 22, confessed on YouTube to causing a drunk-driving fatality in June. On the video he made, Cordle held up one of Sheen’s cards on which he had written: “I will take full responsibility for what I’ve done.” In less than 10 days, the video racked up more than 2 million views. Cordle eventually turned himself in to authorities and is currently awaiting trial. He kept his promise.
Alex Sheen’s story impresses me. (I want to thank my friend Sister Dion Horrigan for telling me about Sheen.) His story demonstrates (once again!) the power of one individual to make the world a better place. He has focused on a single attribute—keeping promises—which translates into qualities such as self-discipline, honesty, courage, patience, personal integrity, and love.
Scripture describes God as a Keeper of Promises. After the Great Flood, God makes a promise to Noah never again to destroy the world by a flood. God then puts a rainbow in the sky and says, “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you” (Gen. 9:12). Later on in salvation history, God promises Moses and the Chosen People to deliver them from slavery in Egypt—a promise God keeps. Jesus too makes promises—about God’s unfailing mercy, about rising from the dead, about being with us always.
We too need to make good promises in our life, the kind that nurture what is best in us, keep us on the path of righteousness, and help us to grow into women and men of freedom and love. Today we might ask ourselves: What promises have I made that have been life giving for me? What promises have other individuals made that nourished me? What helps me to keep my promises?
Let us pray:
Loving God, our Great Promise Keeper, help me to be a person of my word. Help me to make promises that are good and then give me the strength to keep them. When I am tempted to stray from the path of righteousness or to choose those things that lead only to servitude, help me to remember the promises I’ve made to you, to others, and to myself. I ask for this grace through Jesus and the power of his Amazing Spirit. Amen.
NOTE: I have written the Catholic Update for Lent this year published by Franciscan Media. The 8 1/2″ x 11″ 4-page booklet has a brief reflection for every day in Lent based on the Mass readings. It sells for 75 cents each, but discounts are given with bulk orders. For example, 10-99 copies are 49 cents each; 100-199 copies are 39 cents each, etc. You can order by calling 800-488-0488 or by visiting FranciscanMedia.org.
What a great message!
The promises I made on our wedding day have been life changing. At times they are the glue that hold it all together. Praise God.
What a great article. I love the way you laid out this story and connected it to our good God of the covenant. Hope too you are enjoying your time away.
Thank you once again Sr. Melannie!
This is a great story, thank you Sr. Melanie! My husband and I have already made new promises to each other this morning.
God is so good how He gives us each other. I am most grateful for the time He gave us with you on Saturday Sr. Melanie. Our SND retreat was splendid.
What a wonderful idea to keep me focused, Melanie. Thanks so much for sharing.
I look forward to your Monday messages!
Thank you for this loving article. I noted today that this week is “random acts of kindness” week. I will do something kind for as many people as I can….because I said so.
Thank you for again sharing some wonderful insights. All through my life I have treasured this quality in others–whether it be family members, friends, or colleagues and strive to live it myself. If you can trust the other person to actually do what they say they will do, that is a priceless gift on so many levels. And, accordingly, if you can never trust what another person says, their word is amost worthless.
“I do what I say and I say what I do.” Thanks for this, Melannie! So glad I web-surfed toward the SND Chardon province and found this blog! Will share and pass along. Great work! Hope you and all my friends in Chardon are healthy and well!
This article really struck a chord with me because I made a promise several years ago that I have kept! During a gloomy time in my life, I one day found myself talking to God and saying that I would from now on give praise and thanks to God every single day, to do my daily prayers no matter how depressed, sad, disappointed, morose, etc. I felt at the time.
And I have kept that promise!
Thank you for the idea.
At the beginning of every year I make a promise to God to take one motto for every day in that year. This year my motto is ” You Jesus, are my only good”. I try to live it every day. It keeps me focused!
I shared this article with one of my student leaders at Kent State, who would like to spin off this idea for Lent to encourage other students during the Lenten season. Students would be invited to fill out a card that reads: “This Lent, I will (insert action here)… because I said I would.” Thanks for the inspiration, Sr. Melannie!
Thanks to all of you who commented on this post. You all added good insights and some fine examples relating to the simple concept of being true to your word. We appreciate your responses! Sr. Melannie
Sr.Melannie,I so enjoy each of these interesting topics that you offer us.
I had promised God that I would give something back to the community upon my retirement. I was able to volunteer at the hospital for aperiod of time. I cannot do that any longer, but I hope God accepts my care that I am giving my husband now . He has many health problems.Maybe that can be a substitute for community work
I look forward to your contributions in Living Faith Thanks Florence.
Dear Florence, I’m glad you liked this “interesting topic.” I get a little “Off beat” sometimes…How nice that you volunteered at the hospital when you were able. It sure seems to me that God is asking you to “volunteer” closer to home and care for your dear husband. Our circle of love may get smaller due to our health or age, but the love can be just as deep! Thanks you for responding to my blog! Sr. Melannie