We Can be the Greg Mortenson’s of the World

Apr 29, 2011

This post is not about whether Greg lied – this is about how I interact with stories of service. About what I am doing or not doing.

This morning I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking about Greg Mortenson. Under-attack hero. 3 Cups of Tea spilled.

I thought how much I want heroes out in the world doing the hard work so I don’t have to. How when someone is doing something so huge, it lets me off the hook from doing much of anything.

I thought “What an ego he must have!” but then I wondered, could I do better? Could I stay humble, grounded, when millions revered me? My daughter Lilly and I want to do service together this summer and as we talk, we go right for exotic, far away, save the poor, cuddle the orphan ideas. We want to be heroes, too. Don’t we all?

I thought, “How could the donors give him money so blindly?” then I learned this week that a popular organization I have given money to may be doing more harm than good. I gave money to them because it was hip, easy and everyone was doing it. I could have asked more questions, poked around more. Not that I could ever know for sure how many my money was being used but I could certainly be more discerning. Heart and head.

I thought, “Maybe he didn’t listen to what people needed in country.” Yet am I sitting and listening to those in need in my community right now to see where I could best help?

Greg’s possible blunders are a liberating wake-up call to my own power.

I’m thinking this is not an time for heroes, or white knights, or a “you know better than me” approach.

This is a time for trusting ourselves. This is time for liberating our longing to do something. This is a time for asking hard questions.

This is not a time for outsourcing our desire to make a difference.

We must not let Greg’s possible mistakes be used as an excuse not to give. This has historically happened with every major scandal – justified or not! – in the non-profit world. Giving plummets, no matter what the facts.

Giving plummets, and the world suffers – sometimes for years!~

Service action I’ll be doing this week: talking about Greg’s story as awake up call to serve and to give rather than a cynical “see nothing ever works” reason to quit.  Reminding people it’s not about what he did or didn’t do but that we loved that someone was doing something, and why do we love that? Because we want to do something, too.

P.S. Watch Tori Hogan’s “Beyond Good Intentions” documentaries to  learn more about international aid effectiveness.

P.P.S. Greg responds to allegations here.


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