I’m sure by now you’ve been Kony2012′d. Me too. But wait, we should go back in time a little…
It was 2000, I’d been in South East Asia for a couple of weeks, and pretty much made a bee-line to Burma. One day I was wandering the dirt streets of Nyaungshwe and ended up at an orphanage on the outskirts of town.
“Would you like a tour?” asked a nun at the gate.
“Well, okay, sure.” I wasn’t sure I should do it. I mean, there are a multitude of reasons, the most glaringly obvious being that I was a smelly hippy backpacker on a 5-dollar-a-day budget, and wasn’t really looking to adopt a child. I had visions of the children fighting over the lone spigot in the washroom, trying to get cleaned up and looking presentable for their visitor, in hopes of being adopted and taken to America. Would I summarily reject all of them in one fell swoop if I left the orphanage without a child? Would I traumatize them, and do more harm than good just by showing up?
I asked the nun about that, and she assured me that they loved to have visitors just for the company. We arranged a time for me to come back later that day.
I walked back to town, past a little sugar cane field, past houses where the children and adults rush out to see the foreigner, in hopes of touching the fine blonde hairs on my arms. I thought, “You know what kids in the orphanage would like, what would be a great treat for them? Candy! I’ll buy a bag of candy! I’ll hand it out and wow, won’t that just make their day?” I was going to give the orphanage a big ol’ ray of sunshine in a cellophane bag. And, being not entirely altruistic, it appealed to my ego. I was going to be a mothafuckin’ Mother Teresa! Hell yes, the pied piper of the orphanage with my toothy smile and bag of candy.
You know how you get a really good idea, one that makes you all warm and fuzzy, like you could really make a change? And you get super excited, and you feel like you’re six years old and are pretty sure that the spare change on your bedroom floor (the pennies you haven’t eaten yet) is enough to buy a pony? That feeling that absolutely anything is possible, that anything is possible FOR YOU?
Ever notice how, as a kid, that feeling about a subject like pony acquisitions could last you for freakin’ days? Yet, the older we get, the shorter the duration for that feeling. Then you hit 30 and you are so full of “pragmatic wisdom” that the enthusiasm for possibility is fleeting at best and you usually confuse it with the flu or maybe a food allergy. I started thinking of all the ways that I was a really lousy representation of Mother Teresa, and really of humans in general. By the time I got back to my room I was so demoralized that I considered not returning to the orphanage. But damn, what kind of message would that send the kids if they all lined up and waited, and I never showed up?
I knew what it would say about me. It’d say that if I didn’t believe I could make the change that needed to happen and adopt every one of those kids, I shouldn’t even show up. Here’s a confession: I’m frequently caught thinking and behaving that way. It turns out, showing up is the biggest part of the battle. If I can’t fix it, I want to ignore it, to find reasons not to even deal with it.
I went back to the orphanage for my tour. I didn’t take candy, since I’d been accosted by a handful of children in town begging for candy and realized I’d be really screwing up the orphans by teaching them that tourists are mobile vending units. I decided that the very best I had to offer was to learn every child’s name, and to take their picture. I forced myself to show up.
I swear to God and chocolate that I have a point. That is this: the KONY 2012 campaign is a reminder that you have something to offer, even if what you have is not a solution. Don’t let your pragmatic wisdom — the wisdom that tells you you’re wasting your time — keep you from getting involved in something that gives you that little flush to your skin. It’s not a food allergy. It’s your inner 6-year-old who still thinks that anything is possible, and THAT is the kid you need to be giving candy to. (or maybe something a little more healthful, but not broccoli because it’ll make him/her gassy.)
So, the KONY 2012 thing isn’t your bag. You think it’ll take more than clicking on a “Like” button to stop a Ugandan dictator. I actually think you’re wrong. I think “showing up” is what KONY 2012 is all about.
I’m really not advocating KONY 2012 specifically (although, I clicked the shit outta that Like button). It’s just the event that triggered this post. What I’m really latching onto is the power of showing up for whatever it is that you’ve talked yourself out of, whatever your dream or desire may be.
As for me, I’m going to make it a habit to show up. And, I’m bringing my inner 6-year-old. As I recall, she kicked ass.