I recently finished reading a monster of a book titled Shantaram. It’s a fictional recollection of an escaped convict’s experiences as he attempts to build an anonymous life for himself in India. Through the entire 900+ pages, he struggles to redefine his identity. Prison and the events that prelude his arrest severed his human relationships. When he arrives in India all he has is his own self. He cannot identify through love, country, or achievement. Through the novel he overcomes this isolation by realizing that the power to live, experience, and love comes from within. Everything you do as you breathe and exist on this planet impacts other lives and situations and has the capacity to define who you are. Your choices make you.
Recently, I've been reflecting on the idea of development work sponsored by the international community. I believe in it, but sometimes I wonder about the effectiveness of outsiders attempting to influence change. Every moment of our lives have the potential to either create positive or negative consequences, and quite honestly, we don’t know where the ball will drop. Even the best intentions and proven techniques can be successfully implemented in one community, but fail miserably in another. Life’s kinetic variables can change the smallest details and overturn the precious equilibrium we identify as normalcy.
With that in mind, how do you work as a development worker? You realize that your presence is equivalent to a scientific variable and live with a freedom that invites influence and idea. Or, at least that’s what I’m attempting right now as this year comes to a close and a new one begins. November might be too early for end of the year reflections, but my Peace Corps boat ended up in a storm this week and I’m trying not to drown.