It is impossible to know when epiphanies happen, especially when trying to be detected from a third party. Likely, it was not even such an event. I truly think it was encapsulated within, a seed in a vault not given an opportunity to become something beautiful, a gift to the ecosystem, sacrificing itself for the nutrient of everything it could come in contact with. But for me, the flowering moment happened when we attended a Peace Corps sponsored event in Lusaka learning about Grass Roots Soccer (GRS), an interactive outreach program to teach youths about HIV/AIDS.
As the sun rises, we sweep the yard. Dust lifts into the sky attempting to hold up a full moon's departure.
It oozes from every breath. Why, then, does it fade- inspiration?
I remember the feeling because it is incredibly evocative. Like the joy people feel when receiving a gift of kindness. It is, unfortunately, a seemingly diminishing exchange between two people; the receiver overwhelmed with gratitude, eyes lit up from excitement, laughs full of meaning- maybe mixed with emotions of love; the giver looking onward in anticipation, an idea delivered, a human emanating acceptance.
"Overcome anger by non-anger. Conquer evil by goodness. Counter the stingy with a gift, and the liar with truth." But, foremost, conquer all suffering by releasing from the self.
When does it begin? When will it stop? Is it not up to me to decide? Or is it designed for some other manipulative purpose?
In the village, my presence signifies opportunity. It is the missing piece, the plight's panacea. It is true, it is proven. My village name is Bupe, Gift.
Growth depends on well calibrated maps. When I ask questions it is inquisitiveness at the wheel. Driving for the sake of learning, the gas pedal of curiosity determines the velocity of discovery, while timely braking allows for safe navigation over speed bumps. The destination is a fulgent horizon, where inspiration meets action.
As sufferers living in anger, greed, and delusion, the tools to overcome exist. In this life, no matter our background, we can live peacefully. Through examining our self, the source of it all, we can learn to be patient, we can live happily, and as a community understanding this, we will live in harmony.
Africa is known for exotic animals, big game, and scary creatures. As a blend of work and play, I spent a day at Kalimba Reptile Park to see how fish are harvested, learn about other fish pond things, and have my pants scared off by crocodiles and snakes that call Zambia home. I'm boarding the next flight out of here!
"You gain courage, strength, and confidence every time you confront your fears; you must do the things you think you cannot."
Kakubo village, located in Chongwe district outside Lusaka, Zambia, is a quaint place by U.S. Standards. Nestled close to the Great East Highway, actually bisected by it, the village echoes of trucks carrying un-identifiable covered loads, cars screeching to safe speeds in order to prevent being flung into the air by speed bumps stretching several kilometers- these deter ants more deflated from asphalt heated by the mid-day sun then crushed back into the Earth by the ceaseless traffic which plods over them. Such heat can only be avoided by covering in whatever shade is accessible or a rain shower that feeds the endless maize crops
I was recently invited to give a talk to a social entrepreneurship class at Northern Illinois University. The goal was to speak about my journey beginning with college up until now, just a few days before departing for Zambia. As budding social entrepreneurs, I hoped the students would relate to my story. That we do not always know where we are heading, but by finding and following our passion, we will have an impact during this life.
This video was recorded after the fact, but is similar to the talk given at NIU.
Social media, as a form of self expression, might be a means to share the World with others- to showcase what our families are achieving, as a way to highlight personal goals, or to build support for a social mission- but this longing for followers skews our mindset from initial selfless intent into selfish self-promotion.
"As soon as I walked into that dusty, remote town and the smiling children started coming up to me, I just knew my Facebook profile photo would change forever," remarked a pre-med volunteer.
As a neophyte in the world of social entrepreneurship, volunteerism, and in general, giving, I have been looking at ways in which donating time, money or resources affects those it is truly intended to serve and help. Just because you are giving, in whatever form it may be, does not mean the outcome will substantially elicit positive change. Often times, the responses from generous gifts may provide a superficial change. For example, travelers are frequently looking for ways to 'give back' while on the road. Commitments to orphanages for a short period of time, although provide a monumental experience for the volunteer, do not positively inspire the children that the program is designed to help. In the short term, those in institutional care may be happy to have company, but the commitment of a long term mentor is what will positively change their life. If you have always had the love and support of your parents, try to imagine what it would be like with them. Would strangers coming into your life for a short amount of time positively or negatively impact you?
During one summer afternoon in 2014 I sat outside overlooking thirty five acres of pristine animal farmland- a few pastures that house three horses and countless sheep and goats, an expansive open field where a lawn tractor is its closest intimate partner, and dozens of acres overgrown with buckthorn and downed trees, which, over time, clearing them has become my greatest domestic escape. The effort to maintain the farm’s namesake, Serenity Farm, can often be anything but. It is a daily reminder that in order to enjoy the things we love, sacrifice often looms immediately preceding.
As our world becomes increasingly interconnected through technology, seemingly, humanity is being driven apart by this giant wedge we hoped would bring all beings together. Positively leveraging this brainchild has become a task requiring as much ingenuity as it took to create the digital world. Walking through crowded afternoon streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia where people of all ages gather in order to exercise in groups, play soccer on makeshift miniature concrete fields, or gossip with your friends, one can see saffron robed young men as technologically up to date as their civilian counterparts. Why is the sight of monks talking on cell phones while relaxing at the local mall or seeing the bluish tint of their tablet radiating off their face in a darkened room awestriking to us?
In 2008, I traveled to Ecuador to fulfill a desire to see the world. That experience was the spark for a new journey the following year to over twenty countries; an experience of ebbs and flows, which ultimately was the kindling for what would become my passion. In 2010, the fire was raging, and I spent more time exploring the world. In 2012, after more sacrifices and money earnestly saved, I saw smoke signals coming from a land inhabited by infamous nomads. I followed those plumes to their source. Eventually, though, all roads lead to home.
This is the only life we will ever know. All those individuals who work extremely hard to challenge themselves daily, to push to the cusp of failure only to be surprised by the outcome should be celebrated for their bravery. Great sacrifices are made every day in order to provide for our families, to become better humans, to create a more diverse world, or to achieve our goals. If you are the type who morphed from a sheep into someone seeking exhilarating experiences or simply a path that provides genuine happiness, my ten gallon hat is tipped to you. For those who are too apprehensive about breaking free, you can do anything you believe you can do. Start small, take steps, fail intelligently, prosper enormously.