When I was younger I thought that governments were comprised of people whose self determination was made up of a desire to so what is good in the world. At least I thought the “good” governments were. There was a time when that was actually true. While the ideologies of the founding fathers may have been different, they all struggled to achieve a common good and in some sense they have succeeded. Today though, to find the common good we have to look away from governments. We have to look at people who have been called. People who are compelled to find ways to move obstacles great and small in trying to improve the world. Sometimes it would seem like they’re just not there, but if you look more closely you can find them.
Greg Mortenson is one of those people. Many years ago, before most of us really knew where Pakistan and Afghanistan were, after the ravages of the war with Russia but before and courageously during the reign of the Taliban, “Dr. Greg” (a nurse by training) has been waging a war of peace through girls and women’s education in some of civilization’s farthest reaches. With the help of local tribal and religious leaders, Mortenson’s schools for girls have given nations cause for hope in civilization’s darkest times. With his team of local helpers, whose workloads border on the miraculous, Mortenson’s “Central Asia Institute” a non-religious NGO, has built schools all over Pakistan and Afghanistan. Bolstered by the financial support individuals and organizations and from his two books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, CAI continues this battle today. He is one man. For the cost of one tank he can build 100 schools. His patience and sacrifice have earned him the trust and respect of these people and he is changing the world.
There are great examples of this in our own backyard. Jim Davis Hicks is a good one. Struck by the realization that people were dying around the world for lack of clean drinking water, Jim started Thirst Relief, a charity that funds and facilitates the development of fresh water supplies through various means in places without the resources to help themselves. This fresh water is more than life support. In fact, once the village has access to fresh water a myriad of resources are freed to help it advance its sustainability. The rate of disease retracts, educational opportunities are created when the men and women no longer have to trek long distances carrying water and villages can start to think about rudimentary economies. Jim Davis Hicks and the photographers he has motivated to go along with him are an inspiration and they are changing the world.
Justine Ungaro and Justin Lyon are just two of many photographers I know of who decided they could help in Haiti in a way that few others could. Through their talent and their respective lens they could capture the challenges Haiti faces and bring them home so we could have a clearer view. Here are links to their videos; Justin's & Justine's. For taking the risk, and the time and for using their resources in this powerful way, Justin and Justine are heroes and they’re changing the world.
Sometimes it seems that all is bad around us. Sometimes it seems that there is no one who is doing anything for the right reasons. Sometimes in a cracker box of pessimism it is easy to lose sight of what would be easy to see if we just remember where to look. In the places served by the people mentioned here, and in so many others at home, New Orleans being a good example, there are people soldiering on today for no reason other than that they have figured out that they can make a difference. We tend to forget the Lower 9th Ward and the ravages of Port O Prince. The news does little to share with us the good stories that are happening every day in the farthest reaches of Pakistan and Afghanistan and someone whose whole world is about clean water doesn’t seem interesting enough to matter all that much, but these people don’t forget. Their passion carries them and they’ll do it alone if they have to but I think we can help and all we really need is a reminder. Here it is. Get involved. It’s up to us.