How Important Is a Promise?

By Meg Scott 

Have you ever stopped to think about the importance of a promise? We all know the seriousness of breaking a pinky-promise, but have you ever actually thought about how your promises affect other people? I hadn’t before I attended a talk hosted by Alex Sheen, titled “Because I Said I Would” this week at Miami University. This title isn’t just for the speech he made but is the title of the movement he started.

Five years ago, Alex’s dad was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer and passed away. Alex described his father as a very average man; he was average looking, had a mediocre job, and led an average life. But there was one thing in particular that his father was great at- keeping his word. Alex gave a eulogy at his father’s funeral title, “Because I Said I Would” to honor this aspect of his dad. After that, he would go on to send out 10 “promise cards” to anyone in the world who wanted them, for free. A promise card looks like this:

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The idea is that when you get a promise card, you write down a promise you’ve made, it could be something very small or something very personal. You then can give this card to the person you’re making the promise to (it could be a friend, yourself, a loved one, etc.) and they put it away until you’ve fulfilled that promise; You get it back once you have.

When you get it back, it is supposed to be kept as a reminder that you are a person who keeps your word, someone, we all should aim to be.

These little cards have touched so many people in so many places across the world, which is insane to think about because like Alex mentioned in his talk, the cards are in English, yet they have these messages have gone global, written in all different languages.

The message is that no matter who you love, what race you are, what religion you believe in, what language you speak, we all understand the importance of promises. And with that said, we all understand what a promise can be. It can be something as simple as a fact or something as big as an act of kindness to a stranger.

I think we sometimes forget how important keeping a promise is because we forget how powerful one person can be. Alex seemed like he had also forgotten until he received a note one day at work. Before Alex really got running with this movement, he worked at a prosperous software company where he made a lot of money, and for a while, that was enough for him. Today, having lots of money always seems like enough, but it never is.

One day, Alex got a letter in the mail from a young, depressed, overweight girl who told him that his cards and his organization saved her life, and she promised not to give up because of him. Alex said he shamelessly sat at his desk in tears that day. The next day, he left his life of luxury in hopes of helping more strangers.

Now it’s probably normal that most of you reading this are saying to yourself, “The world is so messed up right now, why would I leave my comfortable life to help strangers? People don’t need me, they need a miracle.”

But that’s where we are all wrong, because like Alex said, “We don’t need miracles, we just need people to do what they said they’d do in the first place. ”

Alex has had so many adventures because of this organization. From sending 100 kids to Disney world to walking across the state of Ohio in 10 days, this movement has moved him.

A truly inspiring story, yet at the end of the speech, Alex acknowledged that a lot of students attending his talk that night wouldn’t change because of it, some would maybe even go home and make fun of it. But with that, he asked us if we remember one thing from his talk, it was to be a quote by George Bell:

“You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up.”

Education and money may mean a lot to people, and sure, they are important to an extent, but if we aren’t raising a society of people who keep their word, how far are we really going to get?