Sunday, October 4, 2009

A 13-Year-Old's Vision of Collaboration

"Let's imagine together: If all the HIV viruses were one virus, what a big virus it would be; if all the axes were one ax, what a big ax it would be; and if all the men were one man what a big man he would be. If that big man took that big ax and cut that big HIV, we could defeat AIDS."
Edward Thomson, 13, student in Senzani, Malawi, sponsored by World Vision,
published in the Seattle Times, 2/6/03

I love the heart of this young man.  I love his vision for the power and possibility of working together to defeat a common enemy, a common threat.  He challenges us:  "If you can imagine the problem, you can solve it."  We must begin the difficult work of imagining the problem, not as some nebulous, out-of-reach problem that happens to "them," but as our problem, our shared agony, our global catastrophe.

Let's not kid ourselves: 5.1 million people in Zimbabwe starving is a catastrophe.  One in FIVE children in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana orphaned by 2010 -- that is a worldwide sorrow, an epic tragedy.  We must do the hard work of imagining such a thing happening in New York City, in Los Angeles, in London, in Hong Kong, in the small towns of middle America.  We must make them real for ourselves, either by going and seeing for ourselves, or by using the power of our empathy and our imagination to make it real for ourselves.  We have to walk through every aspect of the experience for ourselves and own it, for it is only when we take ownership of a problem that we will truly attack it with all the creative ideas in our arsenal.

Each of us has a role to play.  Each of us has a stake.  Each of us has accountability for what has gone before and what will happen in the future.  The death, exploitation and ruination of one fifth of a country's children is the death, exploitation and ruination of that country's future, and a threat to peace and stability throughout the world.

One big problem.  One big ax.  One big man.  Working together with another big man  And another big woman.  And a big teenager.  And a big community.  Together, we CAN make a difference.

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