My recent trip to India had a very impactful itinerary of Impact Partner visits and Meal Packaging Events alongside our partner, United Airlines. Rise Against Hunger India Executive Director, Dola Mohapatra, secured the partner visits, and our U.S. team assisted with logistics. We were excited to see firsthand the impact Rise Against Hunger and United are making together, and to talk about the future of our partnership.
My heart got in the way.
I don’t know her name. I am not even sure how old she was…but she melted my heart.
I had been laser-focused on the job at hand, maintaining the energy level to cultivate and steward by day and return work emails by night. But at 3:36 A.M. I cannot sleep nor can I finish my long overdue performance reviews.
Around midnight, I had an overwhelming sense I was not doing enough. My small, inconsequential impact on saving the world was merely a grain of sand on a never-ending beach. By 1:00 A.M., I had convinced myself that we cannot do this work alone. That it is only through the collaboration of individuals and organizations, global conglomerates and NGOs that our impact will ever be felt.
She was 11 and has lived in this children’s home for few years. All of the girls at this home were wards of the State. They had either lost both parents, been removed from their homes because of abuse. This little wide-eyed girl with a broken, pink barrette in her hair was removed from her home as best as I could understand. She attends school at the orphanage and she eats meals supported by the government of India and supplemented by Rise Against Hunger. She has had her BMI measured, been tested for growth in academic performance and she has received counseling.
I learned all of this because she beamed with pride at how far she has progressed in her Computer and English classes by sharing a poem she wrote to her Mother. I was torn between praising her vastly improved typing skills and grasp of the English language and simply falling to pieces at the heartfelt content of her poem.
She wrote of unconditional love for the mother she could only speak with on the telephone. She spoke of no emotion or feeling more important than her love for the woman who had given birth to her and taught her to read.
This proud little girl with the broken pink barrette held my hand as we sat in the non-air-conditioned, cinder-block room with poor lighting and decade-old computers and let me read her work.
In the wee hours of the morning, I allowed her story to make me feel I was not doing enough, that there were too many children like the girl in the pink barrette who need assistance, and that there were not enough grains of rice or nutrient sachets to feed the children our NGO partners plucked off the street. I felt inadequate. That was around 1:30 A.M.
Earlier at dinner, I learned of one United Airlines employee’s commitment to mentor at-risk youth and how she combined that personal mission with supporting developing countries through Leadership Immersion programs. This desire to help those in need must have been something this employee had instilled in her children a well as she described her daughter’s work in Thailand and Cambodia where she mentored young women who had been rescued from the sex-trafficking trade, equipping them with vocational skills to be self-supporting and never fall prey to those who would abuse.
Her daughter was making a difference…one woman, one story at a time. Her weapon in this war was education and training. My weapon was nutritious meals and empowerment programs.
As the morning light seeps through the cracks in the hotel curtains, it dawns on me that perhaps in the days leading up to this all-important trip for our United partners, I was not actually doing my job. I was only checking off the steps to complete my job. It was yesterday when I connected those steps with the impact on one human being that I actually completed the circle.
I know what the mission of Rise Against Hunger is, but yesterday, I was reminded why we do it. I was reminded that we cannot save all of the world, nor can we feed all of the people. But as my newfound friend at United so aptly put it……“it will take time, it will take an attitude change, and it will only be a series of baby steps…. but we as individuals and as global conglomerates can make a positive impact.”
I am making a difference and I am doing it one step at a time, one child at a time, one grain of rice at a time. I feel good about what I do and I am proud to share it.
Tonight, I will sleep well.