When I was in high school I was a Boy Scout. My Eagle project underwent several changes and was reworked countless times as I tried to compromise between social needs and personal expectations. I went from a building a wheelchair ramp to building a much larger wheelchair ramp to scrapping the whole idea and jumping on an opportunity to edit video footage of missionary interviews for a family friend. He was a pastor working with an organization called Frontier Ventures.
I picked this project because it suited my interests, not because it was easy. It was. Usually a Scout would have to submit a stack of paperwork detailing the expenses exhausted on supplies and tools. For me, there were none. No nails, no concrete, only a flash drive, a dozen CDs. The team I commanded was easy to work with and the hours of footage melted into a handful of short six minute videos.
Despite my hard work, those videos never saw the light of day. Management shifted on the pastor’s end and though I got the project signed off and achieved the rank of Eagle, my efforts culminated into nothing.
And I didn’t mind. I was completing one task to reach the next one. I nodded and smiled and went through the motions, knowing that I’d get Eagle whether or not the videos were ever published. Looking back on it all and realizing how far I’ve come, I regret to say that it’s my biggest flaw: not minding. I do the work to satisfy the position, so I can climb higher to do the work and satisfy another position. Everything I’ve ever done was a means to an end, and I fear that the pattern will continue well into my adulthood. I fear that I took the IYLA internship just to get experience and satisfy the credit hours I need for my major. I fear that there’s nothing wrong with that. I fear that I lost my sight in the journey for I was fixated on the destination. That in turn led to my lack of faith in organizations like GPY, Frontier Ventures, and the Peace Corps.
There’s a joke about the Peace Corps that goes something like this: A man is trapped at the bottom of a well. A politician walks by and notices the man in the well. Feeling sorry for the man, the politician throws a fistful of cash into the void and continues on his way. Then a priest walks by, sees the man, and feels sorry too. He chucks a Bible down there and moves along. Then a Peace Corps member walks by and sees the man in the well. The Peace Corps member promptly tightens the straps of his backpack, and jumps in the well to join him.
I used to scoff at organizations like the Peace Corps and the various NGOs that sought to make a difference. In reality I found the world’s problems too daunting to even consider. IYLA changed that. While I was too keenly aware of the problems and the lack of solutions, I know that trying and failing is better than doing nothing. I’ve experienced as many empty lamentations as I have real change. I talked with politicians, activists, advocates, doctors, day dreamers, soldiers, and defectors, all with different views of the world and different solutions on how to fix everything.
Because it’s true that the world is messed up. Trying to tackle these issues is next to impossible. Like moving a mountain, or eating an elephant.
So how do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.