I bow to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who just wrote a book with the same title as my blog! Dare I say, "Great minds think alike!" I would love to read it some day. It is supposedly very readable, not too erudite, and talks about how he was identified as the Dalai Lama as a young child.
I have to say that as some aspects of my life unfold, I look around and say, how did I get here, anyhow? When did the path turn in this direction? I must have been daydreaming again! I am treasurer again for next year at church, not sure what that entails (because I have said I won't have time to do all the bookkeeping), and I accepted the position without being officially invited or told! This is a natural fit for me, but it's quite a change of direction from teaching children's Sunday school for many years.
Here is my secret dream, but I don't see how it will ever happen in this lifetime. I want to go to someplace beautiful and temperate in Africa and help teach the children. I don't mean as a missionary, but as a teacher. Maybe Rwanda. It would be a big change in my life, I know. Part of me longs to leave behind this false prosperity of being a rich American and go where people are living right on the edge of poverty and loss all the time, and experience the plain joy of living alongside them in that risky way. Every accomplishment would be so meaningful in such a context. I am surely glamorizing the idea of living "the simple life," I know. But I have at least become disabused of the idea that I could go over and "help" these people. I think I would be the one to benefit most of all.
This vision of a what-if life gelled quite recently, when I was reading several articles in the Heifer Project magazine, and looking online to learn more about Tanzania (where my boss is going on vacation to watch the wild animal migration, around Kilimanjaro). I read about the Maasai people of northern Tanzania and the desperate straits they have found themselves in after years of drought, and how the Heifer Project helped them transition from raising cattle to camels, which produce nutritious milk and are much more suited to a desert climate. This desert climate is something new, as older Maasai people remember eating a very meat-based diet in their youth. Now, they survive on watered-down camel milk and porridge, about 800 calories a day. Changing the basis of their culture from raising livestock to camels was radical and very brave, and necessary for their survival.
I don't think I could go live with people who are surviving on 800 calories a day. (For one thing, I'd be consuming some of their tiny allotment of food.) I need someplace where food is more abundant. How's that for priorities!
One of the great revelations I have had is that of all the issues facing people, access to education is the keystone. If young people and particularly women have access to a nonreligious-based education, then they can help solve the problems of the part of the world where they have grown up. I say "nonreligious" because it must be education, not indoctrination. Reading "Three Cups of Tea" was transformative.
Also, a podcast I listened to and an article I read both were describing a movement to start small entrepreneurial efforts in third-world areas with very limited resources, similar to the micro-loan idea that won a Nobel prize recently. The idea is that it's better to give poor people choices in a marketplace, rather than a handout, because they can then have input into what they actually need and find useful. There are companies popping up that offer low-cost sources of clean air and energy, for example, in places like India.
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