World Humanitarian Day is this Friday. The theme – People Helping People – has us thinking about what we can do to help ease the torment in the Horn of Africa. The devastation seems overwhelming, almost insurmountable. What good can two guys in Seattle do? It's discouraging. And then we remember the power of a simple action and what happened a couple months back.
It was May, things were crazy and the epic blog post we had wanted to publish wasn't going to happen. We were mega-behind and frustrated that we felt so out of sync with, well, everything. Before leaving most tasks unfinished and racing out the door on our way to Portland, we decided to throw up a quick post. It was an update on Ailess, the girl we sponsor in Zambia. No big deal – so we thought.
We were not prepared for – and (obviously) not in a great space to deal with – what happened next. In Portland, I opened up my laptop to find an avalanche of e-mail waiting. Long story short. Our mini-post on Ailess took off. Somehow, it got a lot of love over on Reddit and ended up with about a thousand "up" votes. So, in an almost cruel twist, we were instantly even further in the weeds.
For the next several days, we were the grand central station of all things child sponsorship. A lot of people wrote, requesting more information and others wrote to tell us about their decision to sponsor a kid. It was heart-warming and perspective-shaping. Our mile long list of tasks was suddenly not important, but these interactions were. We needed this wake up call.
Here's one of our favorite messages:
This is amazing. I am touched. Seriously, I want to sponsor a child too. Thank you for posting this.
EDIT: I did it! …. sponsoring a child in india. Thank you so much for posting this. Hopefully out of the shitpile that my life is, I can do something good for another life! I'm going to badger all of my friends into sponsoring a child too. We waste so much money on the dumbest crap. Maybe someday I'll get to visit him and his family.
This whole series of events was a much needed reminder of something that we try to be mindful of. Every action (and interaction) counts. This "truth" is something we're working on better honoring every day. After all, you can't be sure of the impact that your words and actions – however small – might have and you certainly never know what's going to "click" with someone.
It takes a lot of work to navigate life with this mindset. Gravity can tend to pull you towards quick, dispassionate interactions and the negativity that can hang like a dark cloud over society. That's why we quit watching the news. When a recent visitor wanted to talk about some sensationalized, frivolous "news" story, we had nothing to say because we had no clue what was going on.
So we try – with mixed results – to minimize complaining and to maximize positivity and action. A couple years back, we started and stopped the Complaint Free challenge so many times that it became a running joke. "How many times have I re-started today?" I would say with every reattempt to make it to 21 days.
We're not afraid to be disruptive and opinionated, but we strive to do so coming from a place of compassion for others and passion for what we believe in. Plus, we aim to never forget how lucky we are to have this life and countless opportunities in a world that's filled with a lot of pain and unthinkable suffering. We try to remember this every time we think back to the day we left Ailess's community. All of those hopeful kids waving goodbye.
There's no room for valueless rants and unproductive negativity. Life is too valuable, too short.
Last month, in Glacier National Park, we had a day that was both awesome and awful. We saw some of the most heart-stopping beauty we had ever seen, and we witnessed the rescue of a hiker in front of us who (as it turned out) fell to his death.
After hearing he had not survived, we wanted to run away – to let out our confused emotions by zipping down the mountain as quickly as we could. Instead, we remembered the One Minute Project post from our pal, Lorna. In it, she asked readers to take a minute to be really thoughtful – to take the time to say something you might not normally say.
So, inspired by that, we waited around a while longer and took the time to sincerely thank, in particular, the three *regular* people who had gone along to help the rescue team. It felt so good to look at the guy from Texas right in the eyes and to say "Dude, that was so brave of you…"
As we prepare to venture up to Alaska in a few days, we do so with the mindset that life is short – we want to move quickly to devour as much as we can while we can. Similarly, we carry with us the belief that mindful movement – living deliberately and being aware of every action – is of paramount importance and should guide our path no matter how briskly we traverse it.
Each of us can only be responsible for the energy that we, individually, put out into the world.
Wondering how you might be able to ease the distress in the Horn of Africa? Check out CARE International. We know from first hand experience that they are an incredible organization, working to defend the dignity of the world's voiceless.