Friday, June 5, 2009

Making Your Mark

It is impossible to think of any powerful human word, without making relative its antithesis. If you love life, you hate death. Show compassion and you can defeat indifference. I have been so myopically focused on success, that I haven’t considered failure. I should though, for how else could I measure any of my successes? Barack (we’re on a first name basis in my blog) said -

“Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it's not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won't. it's whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”

Last night I was hit with failure like a lightning bolt.

Driving home with Ally in the truck, rain was pouring down, the sky electrified and thunder rolling, in a tempest that belonged in America’s heartland, but not northern California. A quarter mile from my house we passed a stray dog running head on in the bicycle lane towards traffic. Concerned, Ally pleaded that we turn around to stop it before something terrible happened. So I looped back and stopped just in front of it to cut the poor, scared dog off. Instead of stop it, it Reggie Bush juke moved past me and kept jogging. I decided to sprint after it. I wish I hadn’t. Three seconds into my pursuit the excited, golden brown Chow mix looked over its left shoulder, saw me mid pursuit, and veered right.

I saw the car skid, hoping it would slow enough, hoping the dog was quick enough, hoping.

It didn’t have a chance. The car slammed into it at at least 20 mph.

As much as I tell myself “it was inevitable, the dog was running into oncoming traffic…” I still remember locking eyes, and then, only then, did he veer right.

The horrific split second image must have been replayed in my mind at least 50x today. Failure is a sickening feeling. It can be debilitating. It can convince you that the potential pain is too great, so don’t risk anything, ever. Fear of failure can neuter the most impassioned. And all that other stuff B said.

I’m going to pursue the latter of B’s choices. I’m going to learn, not just from last night and all of my past failures, (deciding that the delicious tri-tip and mayo sandwich that had sat in the 120 degree heat of my truck for 6 hours was “cool” to eat) but from the inevitable ones that I will face tomorrow, and on into the future.

Ideally I will learn from the failures of others mostly, rather than take that burden on solo, buuuut it’s not an ideal world, so we’ll see. The first failure that I want to overcome flies in the face of conventional thought. It’s not my failure to bear alone; this one is spread pretty far and wide. How charities, and charitable giving fails the poor. Admit it, when you donate money, you have no idea where your dollars are actually being spent. In a generic “only 10 cents for every dollar goes to overhead” kind of way, maaaaybe, but in a real, specific, and traceable way? No way. This is a failure on the part of the charity, and you and me. Instead of taking a hard look at the prodigiously harrowing poverty that grips much of the world, and wondering: How, with these unprecedented levels of wealth that exist today, is poverty not eradicated?

Maybe that question has been posed in your mind. Until recently it’s been too convoluted an enigma for one mind to fathom. Like most problems in life, it is not as complicated as we make it out to be. I have been pouring over book after book on the same topic: Microfinance. I can summarize in one sentence what every book says. "The poor do not need charity, they need access to capital; they can break out of poverty themselves."

I plan to make my failures, my successes, and ultimately my mark, utilizing microfinance to break the cycle of poverty once and for all. Feel free to join me.

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