Thursday, November 24, 2011

Glass Half Full of Heartache

The very foundation of philanthropic work is a stark contrast of internal emotion out of necessity. Therefore the ability to act on right intentions requires a previously unforeseen balance and resolve that at times seems impossible.

Ok-the "over-worded" introduction has been tossed on the page with as little thought as peeling the blanket off your legs for a bathroom trip in the dead of winter only to return to the couch momentarily, drawing the blanket back up, and returning to your Sex In The City marathon and popcorn.

This is what I am driving at.
For me, wanting to help humans access the very basic of human rights such as health, food, dryness, comfort, etc. came from being exposed to the very need for these items by people all over the globe. "Heartache". On a rudimentary level, you have to weep when exposed to how much we have by birthright in our American nation that is deprived from so many more. "Heartache". You have to feel the appropriate "weight of words" when visual conformation is given to what you have only read about in the past. "Heartache". You have to see muddy feet with no shoes in 35 degree weather.
This heartache becomes the driving force to not just perpetuate the tales, but stop talking about it and start to do something.
Here is the conundrum.
You cannot begin to do something by travelling into these places with a furrowed brow, tears in your eyes, and a dented spirit and expect to have a positive effect.
More often than not you will be politely excused as anybody should that holds the moniker "party-pooper".
They don't need you pity, they don't need your empathy, they have their own.

What you need is a cocktail of desire with an optimism mixer. A true belief that things will get better one act at a time. An understanding that it may not have the dramatic affect you desire but that you are merely putting a very important brick in the foundation of rebuilding, perhaps even a cornerstone.
If you board a plane armed with vigor and arrive in an area that can benefit from your selflessness, you are not going to be eradicating medical issues and hunger, but in your visit you may be positively effecting one person enough to change their lives, and I can tell you this-you won't affect anybody positively with pity, but you can affect thousands through a smile and open hand.

"Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat forever"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kenyans Give!

I suppose that I fell into a category by many who have their hearts geared to the right intention, but armed only with my preconceived notions.
Conversely to many international travelers on a good will mission, I have been blessed with the gift of time. Time to become ingrained in the social fabric that is Africa, time to observe silently the realities of a place so far from home, and time to draw some conclusions that would never be privy to me if I were staying here merely a week or two (not to mention impossible to digest from the comfort of America).

The aforementioned preconceived category that I came armed with, and spent the first month enveloped in was the constant analyzing of how we as a people can bring a bit of our America here to Africa in the effort of global assistance. This was the wrong angle.

While it is most certainly true that we as Americans have many more luxuries at our disposal, and take for granted said luxuries, I have come to realize that it is all relative. Allow me to interject that this is by no means a call down of arms, and that merely by having so many luxuries at home we should all feel compelled as humans to do what we can to help our fellow men and women that need the help anywhere on the planet. Africa still needs help from those that can give it, but choose wisely how you decide to give it.
If you are thinking for one moment that any individual can come here in the effort of being an ambassador and be viewed as having a big American flag as a cape, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. Studies even show that people that want to send money are often thwarted from doing so by locals because of the devalue to their own currency that it brings as well as the red tape it gets caught up in. Very seldom does financial donations find their way to their intended recipient. However; what they lack in money and luxury they more than make up for in fundamentals.

I refer to their possessions as fundamentals, because they are the very lessons that we are taught as children in the USA, but so frequently forget as we acquire assets. It has become my understanding that when possessions are hard to come by, the fundamentals remain. What am I blathering about?

Kenyans give tirelessly. Too each other, to foreigners, to organizations, to everybody but themselves. I have seen a person that has had 20 shillings in their pocket be asked by a person in need for 40. Being short of their request, they gave the 20 in money and their time to make up the difference. This person was no exception. The rule of thumb seems to be "if I have it and my brother needs it, I give it!" no questions, no strings.
This has been a hard transformation for me. I was sitting in the park one day and a gentlemen sat down (rather closely) to me and introduced himself. My first impression was "what does this guy want" and "am in danger". How American of me! After more than an hour of talking I came to find that this man only wanted to meet an outsider and offer any services that I may be in need of from his local knowledge. No angle, No danger...just a brotherly hand.

Before I go any further, allow me to recognize that of course there are those grifters out there that do have an angle and are desperate for some "American" wealth, but it has been my experience that as long as you allow caution to be with you but not allow it to dictate the outcome of a potentially soul fed experience, you can remain safe and open to reprogramming.

My long winded point is this....where the population may lack in money and simple luxuries, they make up for in a deeply rooted foundation of humanity.

In a place where traffic is as bad as anywhere in the world (save for India I'm told) and where there is no such thing as traffic lanes, there is no road rage. NEVER!
In America I get pissed if the guy behind me on the freeway comes within 2 car lengths of my bumper, and I lay on the horn if I even perceive the guy next me might be thinking of merging. Not here. They use their horn to acknowledge the other driver in a "come on over, have a good day" type of way.
I have yet to hear anybody swear here, and I have never seen anybody grimace in disgust at another human beings actions. I have been force fed at a place where they struggle to feed their own residents, people have taken valuable hours out of their day to come hold my hand in an effort to make sure I travel safely from place to place, and I have been introduced on stage to 1000 strangers of the Pentecostal church by their Bishop.

Does Africa need our help? YES, in many ways. But if you are ever given the gift to come and help in some way, let them repay you with the re-lessons that our parents and teachers taught us in our single digit years. You will be getting much more than you can ever give!