Living My Questions

Last October, I finished reading James Orbinski’s An Imperfect Offering, which took a hard look at humanitarianism and politics. Orbinski’s job as head of Doctors Without Borders and his founding of Dignitas International exposed him to the type of preventable human suffering that raises a mountain of questions surrounding why things happen and how can they be stopped. I thought that Ghana would begin to answer my questions about the developing world, international education, and peace studies. However, for every potential answer I stumble upon, I am faced with many more questions. As easy as it may seem to pose a solution, there are no easy answers to the complexity of human life. I have found, though, that the simplest think I can do is continue to work and confront those tough questions as they come along. Orbinski’s narrative introduced me to a phrase I have come to embrace: “I can live my questions.”

Orbinski talks about how he can change his own life and practices to enable the ideology that he believes in to become embedded in his daily life. I think that’s what it’s about—knowing that even though the answers are hard, there is so much to learn when you throw yourself headfirst into the scene. Seeking answers myself is the one thing I know I want to continue to do in life. Oftentimes in devotionals, George mentions how he hopes that we can all find purpose and meaning in every encounter we have. There is something to be found in the simplest of tasks, the shortest of encounters, and the minutest details. Perhaps George speaks of adding puzzle pieces to the unfinished picture.

This week I have been blessed with many victories after months of sometimes, honestly, not being filled with as much hope or optimist each day because I did not know if I would be able to successfully implement my program because of various barriers and challenges. However, each day I still had faith, even if it was as small as a mustard seed. And if it is as small as the mustard seed, I know from a familiar story that I can watch as a large tree bursts through the ground. And each week I am grateful for even the smallest of victories.

Today was a big one though. I successfully launched the start of my program at my pilot school of Edbek Academy. I arranged for a specialist on child abuse to come in and speak to all of the teachers. I believed this needed to happen before I began my own work because I do not want to talk about topics with the kids without letting the teachers know what those topics will be about, and giving them information themselves. Because if the students bring new questions to the table because of the program, I want the teachers to know where it might come from, and it is easier to reach the teachers for now than it is the parents. The teachers were very receptive, asked insightful questions, and were excited about the program. They even decided to get together and create a specific plan for themselves as to what to do to deal with situations of child abuse that might arise. My heart soared at this news. And I was especially filled with optimism when one of the teachers told me that he felt almost embarrassed to sit there through the training because he knows that he is guilt of sometimes not listening to the students or blaming them before asking the questions of why they may be behaving a certain way. To recognize that means that people are open to change and are ready to talk about hard topics.

This all reminds me of the time that my friend Richard Coffin and myself went to introduce ourselves to a speaker after one of our last classes in David Gergen’s “Becoming a Leader” course. As we turned to leave, the speaker looked us dead in the eyes and said, “Don’t sell out. Don’t you ever sell out.” I hope one day I can tell her that I always sought genuine paths. The questions are hard, and the answers are few and far between, but giving up…well, that is not something the world can afford all the optimists out there to do.

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