In Travels with Charley John Steinbeck ponders “Perhaps my greatest wisdom is the knowledge that I do not know.” That is the way I feel today, day 2 of my long planned blog. I do not know where to proceed. If I was a real writer I would have mapped out my blog from day one to my final chapter: Obviously that can not be the case.
This morning as I sat in rush hour with my trusty Australian Shepherd, Dobby, I thought a lot about a topic for today, and all that struck me was that my journey has been full of not knowing the path I have been on. While this had consequences, the benefits have won outright. Together they have shaped how I see the world. My choices in life have shaped my education and my learning.
Formal education took a common path, culminating in a Masters in International Affairs (MIA) from Ohio University with a few re-directions and pauses along the way. The pace permitted me to understand my interests better by traveling and working; at times in mind numbing jobs or in grease up to my neck. Above all else I realized that if I wanted something enough I had to do whatever I could to achieve that goal.
With MIA in hand I was off to work in Malawi to espouse all my acquired expertise from university and a few jobs in community development and change: including a work study in Malawi a year and a half prior. What started was an unplanned journey to become a leader, a study of partnerships, a skeptic of multilateral aid agencies, an expat, and above all the most humble white man in all of Africa at the time. I soon learned why it was important to be teachable: to listen.
Week one was spent navigating the city of Lilongwe to acquire furniture, pots and pans and a car: all in new shoes and with a wife and 3 month old baby at home in the rainy season. We had no screens on the windows in a newly built house surrounded by mud outside and leaky plumbing inside. Stress was high! Yet my new colleagues and friends reached out to help for no other reason than they understood what I would learn soon enough, to give is to receive. This generosity of the spirit would forever change the way I look at the world and in particular the onion of partnerships…