Once I read that Edgar Allan Poe started his stories from the end to the beginning. He would come up with the end before tying up the knots of what would become invisible and unpredictable story line. No eraser, no pencil, only a pen to write that first last sentence. He may not know how he got there, but he knew where he was going… Maybe it’s the same with me.
I know I want to change the world and do good – if I could write my own happy ending there is no other way this is how it would be. I have no idea of the path that will take me there, but maybe I don’t need to know. Just like Poe, maybe all I need to get started with is how I want that last sentence to look like.
The Atlas Corps experience is in itself a twelve month long story. A book with wrinkled, thin, sometimes a bit sticky, sometimes a bit dirty, once bright-white-now-a-bit-yellow-colored pages with a couple of folded corners, filled with scribbles of chapters. Chapter 1: The Discovery. Chapter 2: The Adjustment. Chapter 3… who knows what chapter three will be like…
My intention with this blog post however, is not to reflect about the path, the beginning or the end of my Atlas Corps experience. One, because I have no idea how it will end. And two, because unlike Mr. Poe, I am no genius who magically gives birth to characters and adventures that later become part of a world reknowned novel or poem.
Today, I only want to share with you my thoughts so we can reflect about this need to do good we all have. A need that I see every day on the streets of New York, but that I also have witnessed hidden on the corners of my dear Panama.
Sometimes we think people in developed countries feel guilty for the “poor,” “developing” country’s fate, and that’s why they feel this need to be good and to give to those countries.
Sometimes we think people in developing countries feel this need to prove themselves and to show the world how good they are because they have fought for it and deserve it more than a wealthy person or someone from a developed country does.
Other times, is just a matter of who is on your team. You support them no matter what, regardless if they are “wrong” or “right”.
Depending on which side of the road we are standing, we turn our head around jumping from statement to statement as if it was all part of a tennis tournament. “Buy one give one,” “You are no longer one of us,” “Do you have some spare change Miss?,” “You now think you are better than us, don’t you?” Urgh.
We judge, we criticize, we point fingers as if we all are not equal. We need to stop doing this and give ourselves and each other a break. Let’s just accept we try our best to be good, because we want to be happy and we feel being good is going to bring us happiness. Isn’t it as simple as that?
If there is something I value about having the opportunity of being an Atlas Corps Fellow, is that it allows us to put things on perspective, for us and for the ones who surround us. As nonprofit leaders, we tend to protect the community needs, value cultural sensitivity and keep our eyes open for any opportunity to benefit our communities and countries. We tend to create this strong network of supporters who will fight with us for what we think is right – whether if it’s Donald Trump disrespecting the Latino community, or the earthquake in Nepal needing our help – we all stand strong and together, and we do this because we care.
We do this because we are change-makers: it’s in our DNA. In an era where the “being good” feeling can be canned and sold, we need to do more than just care and fight.
We need to remember we are in this privileged position of standing right at the net of the court. We are no longer in one side or the other: we are in the middle. It’s our responsibility to make sure the tennis ball bounces in both sides of the court in a way where understanding and respect play the referees.
Fellows or no fellows, we all play an important role in this tennis match. It is our decision to choose where we stand.
Moreover, I feel the need to reinforce the importance of being real: as good is only good when it’s real. We tend to create a fairy tale like profile of our lives, and share only what’s shiny and colorful. We criticize when someone posts a negative or sad comment on Facebook for example but why? Why do we do this? And who are we to do this? Since when we have to be positive and perfect with everything we say? Since when does doing good mean being perfect?
Let’s value the beauty within the imperfection of our life story and accept that sometimes, just like in the tennis match, the ball bounces in different directions. Sometimes the ball lands off the court, but also sometimes it scores. If we are in this position of being in the middle, we need to understand that the only reason why the net doesn’t fall down is because the cord holding it is tight and made to provide balance. When criticism attacks, we need to make sure it bounces back with, not “the right or wrong answer”, but with a response reflecting a wider understanding from the points of view of the two sides of the court.
To be good we need to be honest. And honesty and truth only appear when we allow the full spectrum to be seen. Just like Edgar Allan Poe was true to himself about how he wanted to end his stories no matter how the beginning or plot would look like, we need to be true to ourselves and our actions when we decide to scribble the chapters of our lives.
Thank you to the anonymous person who left this dollar bill inside the box of mangoes that I bought. Your kindness inspired this post.