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Inspiration, Part I

Some people wonder what would inspire a group of talented real estate executives to build a building as part of the fight against human trafficking. Real estate and the commercial sex industry seem incongruous and unrelated. How did this come about?

People all over the world are passionate about eradicating human trafficking, and it just so happens that some of us are in the real estate industry. Real estate investor Paul Moore says it well…

“If I were alive in 1800s, I'd like to think I would be involved in the abolitionist movement. If I were alive in the 1950s and 60s, I'd want to believe I'd be fighting for civil rights. So I can't just sit back and know that this is happening on our watch and not do anything about it.”

There are 40 million slaves today, more than ever before in human history. Matt Friedman, human trafficking expert and on our Board of Trustees, says that there are $150 billion of profits every year from human trafficking, but only $350 million donated annually to fight this issue. We are helping less than 0.1% of the victims. Matt calls upon private business people to join the fight. And as real estate professionals, these large dollar figures make sense to us.

Matt shared many harrowing case stories of girls who had been trafficked, raped, lied to, and beaten. After one young girl shared her story of years spent locked up in a brothel with multiple men each night, seven nights a week, 365 days a year, and the girl angrily asked him…

“Where were you?”

Where were we when she was locked up? Did we care about her? Millions are locked up, looking out the window, and wondering if we even care.

So what inspires us? People inspire us every day. At the 2016 Sotheby's International Realty global conference, Chief Marketing Officer Wendy Purvey inspired our founder, Ben Briggs to start this project…

Wendy encouraged us to be daring and courageous in our real estate ventures…

“If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough.”

Wendy cast a vision of bold innovation in our professions…

“We fall forward to succeed.”

- Mary Kay Ash

Knowing this project is something that has never been done before, and has definite complications, there is a risk of failure, and a sense that we are falling forward, but yet that risk and bold innovation can bring awesome value creation.

So given the risk, do we just give up before even trying? No. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Do the right thing." It's as simple as that. Time after time, I've been amazed when a leader steps out and does the right thing and scores of talented people join in the movement, bringing together a wealth of experience and human potential for a good cause. Like MLK for civil rights. Like Wilberforce for abolition. Like the many freedom fighters joining forces today against modern slavery. Do the right thing.

Is the task before us impossible? Yes, in a sense, it is completely impossible. But just like a young juvenile David walking up to Goliath as the giant laughs and scoffs at his stones and sling… Surely David's plan is impossible. But with God, all things are possible. After David did the impossible, knocking down Goliath and beheading him with his own sword, the victor declared…

“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

- 1 Samuel 17:47

In other words, it's not by our fancy plans, impressive résumés, or large bank accounts that we accomplish our goals. Rather, God is able. He can use young, inexperienced fighters with very few resources if we trust in him. Once the leader steps out for a good cause, it's amazing what can happen when God builds a team of like-minded fighters to join the cause.

We don't even see the full plan when we step out in faith…

“Faith is taking the first step when you don't see the whole staircase.”

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Faith is strange. It's a concept we are still learning about and practicing. Actually, this lifetime is the only time we get to learn about and practice 'living by faith'. Because when we enter eternity, our full knowledge of the truth, of heaven, and of God will be complete and we will no longer have the opportunity to trust. My friend Tyler said it well…

“This life is the only opportunity we have in all of eternity to live by faith.”

So let's walk up the staircase one step at a time, do the right thing, and see what the Lord can accomplish through us. Perhaps we shall fail, but at least we are falling forward and doing it for a cause far greater than ourselves. To God be the glory.

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