When I decided to re-post Heather's post, I thought it would be fun to ask some other friends to add to my blog as well. This is my friend Brooke (and her fiance, Troy). Brooke and I were roommates my freshman year of college. I really believe it was fate that we ended up as roommates. We spent way too much time in our dorm room painting our nails and watching Gilmore Girls. She is one of the most genuine people I know. She's also getting married this April and I couldn't be happier for her!
[I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day. --E.B. White]
I read this quote recently, and I immediately identified with this internal struggle (and wondered which good old E.B. was trying to accomplish with Charlotte’s Web). From a young age, I have had an acute sense of injustice and a dogged determination to right life’s great inequities, whether it was unequal distribution of presents at Christmas, or the homeless people I saw on the streets of Baltimore city. I had more luck protesting one of these, than the other.
Somewhat inconveniently, I also am afflicted with an equally powerful love of fun and gaiety. M.C. as my college roommate will remember the day I boldly declared a day of independence from school, and cut all my classes to spend the entire day making valentines in my pajamas, eating lots of ice cream and hanging out with friends. In retrospect, I should have picked a day when we didn’t have an in-class midterm, but I guess it turned out okay.
Can we do both? Does true and comprehensive enjoyment of the world require you to turn a blind eye to its problems? Can you critically analyze the world enough to make meaningful change and still be in genuine awe of it? The idealist in me thinks that we can. Thinking about this has led me to reminisce about a time when I felt, in some small way, I was doing both.
I spent about a month in Ghana, Africa two summers ago. I was with a group of MPA students assigned to consulting projects for 2 nonprofits. I gave these projects by best work—feeling a huge weight of responsibility to share what knowledge I had gained by virtue of a life of privilege and opportunity, to those who had not been equally blessed in that way.
Disconnected from modern conveniences (internet, ipod, TV, toilet paper!!), I felt that I was enjoying the world and its people in their purest form. I was totally overwhelmed by the raw beauty of the untamed Ghanaian countryside, and the happiness of the people there, despite how little they had. Rarely have I felt so inspired and empowered. I saw so many organizations and people accomplishing great things for the benefit of others. I felt awe and respect for the uniqueness of Ghana’s culture, and still recognized human suffering and felt an urgency to do something to alleviate it.
It’s a little hard to remember how I felt then and compare it with what I’m doing now. Currently, I work for an NBA team, ultimately functioning to help make more money for people who already have more than they know what to do with. I don’t know what I will end up doing “when I grow up”. But I hope—as I believe most people do—that it will be meaningful. I hope that it will show me the good in the world, so I can truly enjoy each day. I hope that I will always search for the things, big or small, that I can do to make the world better than it was before I came along.