Friday, April 8, 2016

First World Problems

Last week was probably one of the most stressful periods at work since arriving at Smith, if not my career. I won't get into the details, but some things happened that made me question and doubt much of what I've believed about myself and the job I'm doing. If there was ever a week where I felt like crawling into a hole, that was it.

And, unfortunately, it's going to take some time for those feelings to get resolved.

At the same time, we've spent the last two to three months preparing for this trip to Ethiopia. We're gong later this year because the timing of Easter and the need for Rob Tennant, a pastor at a church in North Carolina, to be around for that time. Lori and Candy Tennant spend an unbelievable amount of time organizing everything for our trips. They are the two most organized people I've ever known. I leave home with bags that are inventoried and tallied and weighed so they're not over 50 pounds. I receive a detailed list of what's in each bag, where it goes, and which day it's to be used. This year we're carrying over 275 care packages for kids, food, hygiene kits, gifts for drivers and translators, rec supplies, craft supplies, and who knows what else. And it's all inventoried and tallied. Perfect for me.

In any case, the trip this year happens to coincide with this very stressful period at work. At the end of last week, Lori suggested that it would be good to get away from everything, that the break would be good for me. She also reminds me that what we're doing in Ethiopia is what's relevant. We're touching real people who have real problems in a way that has lasting solutions. My work at Smith is important, and people depend on us to do a good job for them and their students, but the day to day problems in my career might be called "First World Problems."

Ethiopia is a different world from what we experience in the US. Yes, there is hunger in our country, but not like Ethiopia. Yes, there is disease in our country, but not like Ethiopia. Yes, there is poverty in our country, but not like Ethiopia. In our country the headlines are dominated by a presidential race that gets crazier every day, another shooting by a disgruntled worker, a natural disaster, or the latest video of a deer who got set lose inside a store. That's not to say that (most of) these aren't serious issues, but just this week we received word that two parents of two different children died, and one of the other kids is incredibly ill with a bowel disease and has been admitted to the hospital. Ethiopia is reportedly in the midst of another drought, so who knows what we're going to see when we arrive. Many of us remember how bad it was in the 1980s. Hopefully it's not that bad.

So yes, I need to take some time off. I need to refocus on what's important and remember that as much as I love my job, and the people that work with me, and the things we're doing, that the frustrations that come along with it are nothing compared with what we're trying to do in Kombolcha.

Below is a photo of our team from Western Massachusetts. The five of us will be meeting up with more from North Carolina and other parts of the country tomorrow to start this amazing journey. Thank you for the thoughts and prayers as we try to help but a small fraction of the thousands of kids living in poverty every day.


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