Well here’s gonna be a darned blog,
A bit of insight into the process of delegation and the frustrations of working with youth and partially-motivated volunteers – maybe.
I’m gonna start with an excerpt from Marcus Aurelius’s journals written among the Quadi on the River Gran.
“First thing every morning tell yourself: Today I am going to meet a busy-body, an ingrate, a bully, a liar, a schemer, and a boor. Ignorance of good and evil has made them what they are. But I know that the good is by nature beautiful and the bad ugly, and I know that these wrong-doers are by nature my brothers (and sisters), not by blood or breeding, but by being similarly endowed with reason and sharing in the divine. None of them can harm me, for none can force me to do wrong against my will, and I cannot be angry with a brother or resent him, for we were born into this world to work together like the feet, hands, eyelids, and upper and lower rows of teeth. To work against one another is contrary to nature, and what could be more like working against someone than resenting or abandoning him.”
Wow – that’s a hefty bit of philosophy and thought isn’t it? Good food for your mind but better advice when you are in a position of plenty and power and you are working on all sides to increase the quality of life of all those you ultimately serve. Even those who seek to take advantage of you, lie, abuse your gifts, forsake them, or greedily keep them without learning how to effectively implement them.
We are volunteers, first and foremost – if you forget that you choose to be here and that you make that sacrifice willingly and without reservation, you had better slap some sense into yourself or pack up and head home. Embrace the suffering and frustration – because at the end of the day, you’re the only one who makes the choices that guide and rule your life – no one else is at fault or able to do that for you.
We all encounter tough, trying, and painfully frustrating moments – moments where people always commit in words but can’t follow through – those moments when you’re lied to openly, where you are taken advantage of, and where you encounter a schemer. But, at the end of the day – the way forward is to be a role-model and an example – to understand and know that you are in control – you are stronger – and even if you feel betrayed or used – frustrated or so angry you could slash a path through the amazon with a dull machete – you’ve made that person’s life better by staying strong – offering them access to information and resources, and choosing to remain in control and not compromise yourself – showing the way…not forcing them or leading them down it, but giving them the choice and helping them understand a better way to live.
Now, that’s great motivation I know, and a great mantra to repeat when your just outright pissed. But sometimes the hardest moment is when you encounter those who aren’t interested in helping themselves – the blissfully ignorant – satisfied in suffering and uninterested in change. Yikes! Do people like this really exist? No. They can’t. I don’t believe they do at least. I believe it’s a failure in my outreach, a personal failure to reach that student – peer- and help them understand how to make their life better.
Sometimes it’s appealing to the maternal instinct, sometimes that paternal drive, local tradition, culture, dancing and fun. Hell even magic, if it serves the right purpose, can be a more effective short term answer… Effective in the short term and disastrous in the long term. If you’re going to do something – do it right. If you are going to teach and help people, you had better make sure you’re taking into account the beautiful nature of humanity. Our brothers and sisters don’t know better but they want to see a better world. We all have that most infectious and all consuming disease – HOPE.
So, here I am sitting writing up another series of trainings in local language (well technically I’m taking a break to write this…Jeez y’all are so particular), happily putting in hours of work on teaching aids that may end up secreted away in a traditional leader’s hut, cut up for paper, crumpled for tissue in a pit latrine (well, the ones I saw yesterday were documents written in English so they were useless to the community – but still – I had a stern conversation with the headman about it).
The trainings I am preparing are another experiment in adult education. This will be the 3rd complete copy I’ve made. The first has been parcelled out for each NHC to make a copy and return the originals to me (happening but very very slowly). The second is secreted away in an NGO’s office after I’d been promised it’d be copied and returned, and this new copy, will replace that first original.
Having the original in local language – and then having those responsible for teaching and disseminating the information copying and writing their group’s copy, is a modified form of delegation. I’m teaching in absentia in effect – or at least trying – and providing the ground work and foundations for the next step – teaching my community health teachers to teach – ignoring setbacks – turning the other cheek, focusing on the beautiful nature of humanity, and inching forward in providing my community members a better quality of life through knowledge.
I’ll leave you with another beautiful quote from M. Aurelius –
“What am I but a little flesh, a little breath and the thinking part that rules the whole? Forget your books!! They aren’t any part of you. And as someone who is dying, you should disregard the flesh as well; it is nothing but blood and bones and a network of muscle tissues, nerves, and arteries. Breath! What is that? A puff of wind that is never the same, being sucked in one moment and blown out the next. That leaves the thinking part, the part meant to rule. Now that you are old, it is time you stopped allowing it to be enslaved, jerked about by every selfish whim, grumbling at it’s present lot one moment and bemoaning the future the next.