When I moved to Thailand I imagined myself being all intrepid and cruising around the jungle—sleeping in bamboo huts, eating crazy food, doing front-line field work out in the mud. Turns out, I have an office job.
I realized that there are people better equipped than I to go out to those bamboo huts. People who already know the language perfectly. People who are of the same culture. People who have the same skin color and don’t draw the same kind of attention that I do here.
I realized that what I can do better than others is to sit at a desk and write emails, conduct meetings, write reports and proposals, and encourage and teach those people who are naturally better suited to the field work that I had imagined myself doing.
Fortunately, I am sufficiently mission oriented, so this was not a crippling disappointment. There is work to get done and my unique skill set among the skill sets we have on the team indicates a particular job description in order to best allocate resources toward getting the work done. I do my job with satisfaction and even joy. I am effective and the team is effective. I see the results of our work, each of us working in the capacities that we are particularly equipped for, and am impressed with and proud of what we are accomplishing.
However, there are a few standout occasions that hit me personally and deeply, that show me what the team is accomplishing.
A few months ago there was a woman who comes from a very difficult situation attending a seminar we hold that teaches lay level counseling and social work. This seminar gives folks some basic tools to effectively address difficult situations in their communities. One evening this woman came in and told our team members the effect the class they taught was having on her family. I can understand her situation to an extent, but the team members who teach the class truly know this woman’s situation in far more of its complexity than I am able be aware of. They began to cry, hearing the effect their work was having in her life.
For me this was a foundation I could stand on, this told me that my office job was effective. The things I do in the office make it possible for us to employ, empower, and equip these team members to have such an effect on their community that when the community reports those effects back to them they cry tears of joy. My office job makes it possible for them to support their families doing work that produces that level of effect and reward.
Just the other day I got to go “into the field.” In one of our programs we bring weekly groceries to high risk families with pregnant or nursing mothers or with seriously disabled children. We have been training new team members to run this work since February. They don’t drive so those of us who do need to provide transportation. I got to step in for the usual driver so that he could be free to celebrate his wife’s birthday.
In the very first house we visited I began to cry. I was crying tears of joy because I got to see these women, my partners, encouraging this mother in her painful situation and counseling her. They were also using the physiotherapy they have learned to help her baby who was born different and who has been struggling to survive and is now getting fatter and stronger. I was crying for joy that my office job is a piece of this.
I have the huge honor and privilege of playing my little part in making this possible and it is really working. Mothers are getting stronger, babies are getting healthier, families are being made strong.
We each play a little part in the big picture, but each little part is vital to the effectiveness of the whole team.
Now pause and think about how the little part you play really is transforming people’s lives. I hope you will let that flow into gratitude for the honor and privilege of that participation and let that feed your joy today.
Aaron is the co-founder of The Charis Project. He is the current CEO also. In Thailand he is president and director of Shade Tree Foundation, our Thai partner foundation.