Monday, 24 December 2012

The Key to Million Smiles - II

In the last post on touching lives, we explored how a slight shift in perspective could bring a huge difference to countless 'Ordinary Lives'. Now we shall analyze the necessity of another 'tweak' concerning 'Sharing Experiences' and its power in further broadening our horizon of impact. Here our theme will be 'the under-privileged', one of the reasons for our belief in 'Make a Difference'.

Among a staggering 7.1 billions of us on earth, have you ever wondered how many you know reasonably well i.e. having spoken to multiple times? My own guesstimate is around 2000 persons (max?). That includes extended family, friends and acquaintances, colleagues, college-mates and so on. Think for a few seconds to have your number before you proceed.

The Mirror
It was a drizzling July-weekend morning in Mumbai when I bumped into Thiru while heading out for a cup of tea. He was a colleague form Chennai on deputation for 3 months in MY city. Slowing down my drowsy steps further, I casually remarked about his morning adventure. “On a trek?”. "No, to the train station", he said. "Oh, on a city sight-seeing tour!," I declared confidently. "I am going to Central Mumbai for teaching computer to kids", and he went on to narrate his experience, upon my probe, with humility and a touch of contentment. He spoke about his association, a smart kid, their excitement and chocolates.

I was numbed. Here I was, staying in Mumbai for 5 years, thinking of making a difference but didn't know where to start from. With a sheepish smile, I also expressed my desire to do "something". Honestly, an attempt to shed my guilt - finding solace in mere expression. How easy and effortless!!

For next two months, we would work in same project, lunch together and board the same bus. But I just COULD NOT lead myself to accompany him. Didn't I want to make a difference? I truly wanted to BUT probably on my own terms. Without any discomfort, without losing my weekend and depriving myself of the blissful early-morning sleep! His SHARING of experience, however, did stir my world and later helped me step out of my 'comfort' zone.

Horizons of Impact
There is no dearth of people with such a gap between their desire and actions. When eventually we do make an effort, our actions unwittingly limit the very impact we set out to create. Based on how we operate, there could be different horizons or categories with the degree of impact and its sustenance varying dramatically across them. Higher the horizon, broader is the impact. All higher levels of course carry the characteristics of lower ones.

1. The 'Unawares'  They are oblivious, or even indifferent, of the need for them to get involved. However, I would presume their number to be a bit low. They are busy in their world grappling with their seemingly endless troubles. To them, it is a problem for the authorities to address. They may also have a feeling that nothing much can be improved anyway, a gross under-realization of their potential.

2. The 'Sympathizers'  If you often think of giving-back to the community but unable to then this is your group. Find peace in the fact that majority of us reside here. Despite their intentions, they don't take steps due to perceived scarcity of time, lack of guidance and easy-opportunities (don't know where/how to start), mistrust of NGOs/org and many other good reasons. In nutshell, they are the fence-sitters who need a nudge or two to get rolling. I was also part of this group until Thiru shared his experience.

This group is so large that it can tilt the whole scale if moved even a notch up. But who will prod them?

3. The 'Donors'  This probably is the second largest group. Donors act in an individual capacity and form the backbone of every social uplift effort. Though they help sustain a movement, their behavior constrains the very change they intend to usher. They DO NOT share their contribution openly. They either are overly humble or feel uncomfortable. Consequently, their efforts do not inspire others thus limiting its impact just to them and the needy.

This is what needs to change. Only if they can open up and start sharing, the whole game will change. Judge it for yourself if you are a donor. Did you ever share the experience beyond your family or group that accompanied you?

4. The 'Advocates'  An advocate is a donor who has stepped out of his comfort zone. They speak up for the cause with passion and proactively, encourage people and rally them. Realizing the constraints of otherwise individual-contribution, they spread awareness among ‘Unawares’ by sharing their experiences. They nudge the sympathizers into donors or even push them higher. Such a perspective is critical to broaden the support, sustain the efforts and bring a lasting change.

Unfortunately, few people operate at this level. The day Donors turn into Advocates, the world will transform into a more livable planet due to their enormous impact. Arun is one such advocate. If Thiru helped me become a donor, Arun pushed me even higher by highlighting the difference in extent of change created by a donor and an advocate.

5. The 'Anchors'  As the name suggests, they hold the fort. They create opportunities for others. Donors or advocates will be lost without them. They either manage events/org professionally or volunteer to manage from time to time. They also hook into wider events by organizing similar ones locally. They create the biggest impact - acting as a channel for all others and channeling the combined energy to the needy. They impact everyone!!

Interestingly, people don't move into this level owing to an internal conflict - a misconception about fall in effective individual contribution. This is removed when one looks at the overall objective e.g. in a tree plantation drive, do you wish to see 10 saplings planted by you or 500? At the end, does it matter who planted them?

Which level is the best to operate at?
Every level above 'Unawares' is important. They all make a difference though results vary. In fact, an individual rarely stays just at one level. He plays different roles on different occasions and that's the beauty of it.

Having said this, Advocates and Anchors are still critical. To realize their value, imagine the world if everyone were to be Sympathizers or Donors. There wouldn't have been a Gandhi, MLK or Mother Teresa.

Path to a Better World
So, how many in my circle are above the level of Sympathizers? Among the 2K, may be 50? But is that the real number? I don't believe so as I know there are many more who are just Donors. The day they start sharing, the count will rise and they will inspire many more like me to move up a level thus expanding the support for the objective we all care about though buried deep in our hearts-

To leave a world more beautiful than what we inherited!! 
Do not contribute in isolation. Share your experiences, exhort and inspire others. That is the only path to a promising future!!

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