I have been involved in international development work for almost 20 years. We have helped build schools, community medical centers, leadership academies, chartered Rotary clubs, and even started a few small businesses. 90% of our work has been in closed Muslim countries. How have these projects happened? How do radically different cultures collaborate for the greater good?
- Drink tea first: I loved Barack Obama’s inclination early in his presidency to grab leaders from opposing sides of issues and say, ‘Let’s go have a beer.’ In Afghanistan, the ritual of sitting down for 2-3 glasses of tea before we got to work was very frustrating to me at first. The truth though, radical results and transformation will not happen without the cornerstone of solid relationships. Drink the tea.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Stephen Covey’s 5th Habit. Social media has turned many humans into critical, mini dictators. The ability to carry on a civil discourse on the tough subjects is disappearing from society. Have you really tried to understand the complexity of the issues facing your community? We really need to break away from party-line rhetoric and talking points.
- Search for shared vision: For thousands of years, we have debated, fought, and degraded others outside our communities and tribes. Democrats and Republicans, Christians and Muslims, Protestants and Catholics, you love the Dallas Cowboys or you hate them. Continuing those battles is easy, but bears no fruit.My global adventures have shown that humans also have a breadth of common ground: only by working in the shared vision areas can we make progress. Freedom is good. Children need quality education. Peace is better than war. Corruption undermines societies. The human desire to leave the world a better place for our children and grandchildren is universal.
- Take action in your passion: If we lament constantly over the hundreds of things that are wrong in the world, our mental health is at risk. The most soul-refreshing and mindset expanding experiences of my life have been honest efforts to go serve with my hands, feet, and heart where I have a personal passion. Imagine if we took half of our social media and TV time to instead, invest in actively loving and serving our communities.
Insights you may gain in the effort:
- There are no simple answers to these complex problems.
- More money and more government programs seldom fix the issues.
- The highest impact, sustainable work is done collaboratively at the community level; moving from simple to complex.
- It takes gritty leadership and sustained commitment to make progress.
Don’t complain if your hands aren’t dirty and your shirt isn’t sweaty. Peacemaking needs fewer spectators/critics and more participants. Where are you engaged?