Orcutt Urges Students to Find and Follow Passions

jim orcutt

When he was 9 years old, Jim Orcutt learned that receiving is harder than giving. Growing up, Orcutt and his six siblings received food and assistance from the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. One day, a man named Mr. O’Brien from St. Vincent de Paul brought his son, Billy, with him to deliver food to Orcutt’s house.

Billy was in Orcutt’s class in school, and although O’Brien was trying to teach his son the right thing, Billy made faces behind his father’s back and, at school, would call out to Orcutt saying, “if you need more food, call us up.”

My Brother’s Keeper, founded in 1988 by Orcutt and his wife, delivers food and furniture to families in need, no questions asked. The charity has since grown from an initiative in the couple’s basement to a non-profit with over 3,000 volunteers, 11 workers, making 8,500 deliveries every year. On Thursday afternoon, Orcutt spoke to students about finding and following passion in the latest of the “Lunch with an Entrepreneur” series hosted by the Shea Center.

“To the extent that it’s true that it is more blessed to give than it is to receive, it is equally true that it is more difficult to receive than it is to give,” he said.

After his experiences with Billy when Orcutt was 9, Orcutt would not underestimate the difficulty of receiving.

“Nobody gets through life without pain,” Orcutt said. “You can take that pain and look somebody in the eye and utter the most powerful words in the world, ‘I know how you feel, I’ve been there.’ That’s what My Brother’s Keeper is all about.”

Volunteers and staff from My Brother’s Keeper pick up furniture from donors (they do not allow dropoffs), inspect the furniture, either decline or accept the donation, and deliver it to local families who need it. When families indicate that they need furniture, My Brother’s Keeper doesn’t ask for a justification or proof of need.

With this policy in place, some people take advantage of the organization, Orcutt said. When he sees signs that his services are being taken advantage of, however, he rejoices and regards it as “good news.”

He told a fictitious story of a Joe Blow who took advantage of My Brother’s Keeper’s services and was left in awe when no one asked him any questions when delivering a kitchen table to his door.

“If the price of bringing Joe Blow the love and hope of Jesus Christ is a used kitchen set we don’t even pay for—pretty cheap price,” he said.

Orcutt pointed to how Jesus saved the sinners, and said that the “Joe Blows” of the world are the ones who need the love and hope of Jesus more than anyone. As such, Orcutt is more than happy when his services are taken advantage of.

“I make less money than I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “We’re comfortable. Sometimes we squeeze through the month. But when I wake up in the morning, at 76 years old, my eyes open at 5:30, and you know what I say? ‘Gotta get going! Gotta get in there!’”

His biggest fear for students is for them to wake up at age 42 and dread going to work. His career advice is for students to simply find what will get them up in the morning, and follow it.

“The heart of entrepreneurship, and life, is finding and following passion,” Orcutt said. “If you love what you’re doing, you’re going to be good at it.”

When asked how to find passion, Orcutt said to pray on it. Orcutt urges students to first ask God to guide them.

“It doesn’t matter what it is, follow it,” he said. “If you ask God to use you, he’ll use that particular passion for his work.”

My Brother’s Keeper has an explicit policy that does not allow the accumulation of money. This means that all funds in excess of their annual operation expenses have to be spent promptly on the people that ask for their services.

Orcutt feels that by not accumulating money, it leaves the charity dependent on God, not dependent on their bank accounts.

“I’m in charge of delivery, God is in charge of supply,” he said. “In the last 29 years, we have not run out of anything. If the money doesn’t come in, I will assume the God no longer wants this done.”

Featured Image by Shaan Bijwadia / Heights Staff

About Heidi Dong 67 Articles
Heidi is the Head Investigative Editor. She is from Madison, WI, but does not live on a farm, has never gone cow tipping, and does not have any strong opinions about cheese.