It’s easy to get distracted. Ever notice how the technology we use that was supposed to bring us together only seems to divide us?
It’s important to get back to basics. Especially those on this forum (ie, professionals) there’s a lot we can do by deciding to. By connecting with others and deciding to act, we can do some good. To be “anxiously engaged in a good cause”, as one thinker put it.
I’ll share my story:
In 2018, I was in the Philippines as part of my Marine Corps Reserves Civil Affairs duties. While there, I bought a plate of rice from a family in the jungle. I noticed they had an open pit well right in front of the front door of their house. Just an open pit with a concrete lip, down into brown water far below. They also had several children younger than 5 running about.
Having 4 little humans myself, I thought the open well was a poor design. I inquired and found that there used to be a pump, but it had been destroyed in a typhoon a few years earlier. They used some wood slats to cover it and afford some protection.
I asked why they didn’t put in a new pump and they gave me the, “Yeah, and why don’t we just fly a Rolls Royce to the moon while we’re at it, too?” look that homeowners give when some idiot proposes an impossibly expensive project.
Having done several remodels, I thought the components for a good hand pump assembly couldn’t be too much. I went down to the local hardware shop and priced out what would be needed for a good, steel hand pump. $60 for the full project.
$60? Easy decision. I bought the equipment and cement and took it back to the family. Being industrious, they had that thing in and cemented within 3 hours.
The next day I sat and talked with the family. I found out that they lived on not much money for a family of 9. I asked the oldest daughter, Abigail, 17 what her plans were and with deep, quiet emotion she talked about her plans to go be a cruise-line hostess as per some ads she had seen, which promised to “show you the world”. As a Marine involved in stopping such things, I recognized it as a probable human trafficking trick. Like any decent military member, I quoted Admiral Ackbar and told her it was a trap. But her emotion struck me.
At this point I was involved. I’ve learned that while bad men get laser-focused on their quarry, too often good people just hope that bad things will not occur if their own personal behavior is good. So I decided to get laser-focused on her plan. If I were involved, egregious actors would have less of a chance to trick and manipulate. I think we call that mentorship.
We sat and mapped out potential plans for college, trade schools, and so on. Turns out for her to have substantially increased odds at a good life was around $300 USD a year (which I confirmed through research).
For her, not possible. For me and mine, eminently doable.
Fast forward a year. We have her brother, Jerick, in an electrician program ($80), her with a study kits for high school final and college entry exams ($20), which occur in March, and the family with 2 new pigs to raise and sell for around $220 each ($40 each). We were also able to eliminate some predatory debt brought because of hospital bills from a car accident, for which the family had to take out a loan. Compound interest when working against you is hard to beat.
About once a week, Jerick, his sisters, and I communicate over Facebook. We talk about simple business plans, using compound interest in your favor, cost/benefit analysis, how to inventory, running a profit and loss statement, establishing a market, and avoiding scams. Stuff that for me (and probably you if you are reading this) is our daily bread. For my new friends, a useful master course in playing the game a different way.
In March, my family and I will go out there, together, so I can show them the Philippines, help my kids get a grasp of how much they have, and at the same time allow them to see the happiness and love in the eyes of the people there. We’ll also see what else we can do, not just for this family, but for the community.
The life we have in the West is the 1%, compared to the world at large. Instead of doing something with it, too many are distracted by false quarrels. Or waiting for someone else to act.
I am not a believer that asking a third party to do good with our money is very useful. I am a believer that we should all allow ourselves to click with other people, and when we do, wear our lives out in a good cause. Relay what you have learned.
Evil people have a laser focus on doing harm. Commit your laser focus on doing good.
If not you, then who?