No distractions please.

It wasn’t that long ago, I received a phone call. The lady said, “Is Eldon there?”

“No, I’m sorry. You must have the wrong number.”

I was about to hang up. “Oh,” she said. “Well maybe you can help me anyway?” . . .

Within another minute, I realized that her opening line was simply the latest way that her marketing firm was attempting to get me not to hang up. It wasn’t an error call. It was a deliberate way to paralyze my defenses long enough so that she could get me to listen to her spiel: “I’m calling for the Breast Cancer ____. . . . Can the women rely on you?

My answer: “I’m sorry. My wife and I are heavily pre-committed elsewhere. . . .”

And my heartstrings weren’t even a tad bit pulled by her final gambit of “just $10 dollars.”

Maybe that’s hard-hearted. But I don’t think so. It’s not hard-hearted at all. It’s called focus.

Because Sarita and I have focused as we have, we can receive appeals like this, and I can very graciously, with full, clear conscience say, “Thanks anyway, but we’re pre-committed elsewhere: fully, fully pre-committed elsewhere. . . . Sorry. I can’t even help with $10.” And I can say goodbye, and I don’t feel any guilt.

That happens all the time.

The famous English evangelist John Wesley had a phrase: “the expulsive power of a new affection.” This is a phrase that one of my most significant mentors, Dr. Ralph Winter, latched onto.

“Expulsive” speaks of a capacity to expel, to push out. A new affection expels–pushes out–old ones.

When you’re falling madly in love, you tend to forget whatever it was–or whoever it was–that formerly held your attention.

Back in the mid-80s, Sarita and I acquired an affection. It wasn’t new for us anymore at the time we decided to focus our giving. But at the time we focused, it finally expelled the other stuff out of our lives.

And once we made that commitment, our strategic giving capacity expanded for the four narrowly focused non-profit organizations that served as proxies for our five-part passion: THUMB. We were no longer distracted by other ephemeral causes.

And all of this, together, enabled us to make some remarkable differences that, I’m convinced, we would have never made otherwise.