I wanted this guy, elusive blogger simply named Two, to share his inspirational story in November, but it is fitting that it was not ready until December. His blog symbolizes everything that Christmas is about, compassion, giving and trying to make a change in a troubled world. His blog is an amazing and beautiful journey, so be sure to visit.
As I read her email, I felt quite special. While I took a stab at blogging during the poker days and again as a grad student , I didn’t actually feel like a legitimate blogger until I started this one at the beginning of my current journey in February. The fact that someone else thought my ideas were worthy enough to be posted on their blog was truly exciting and humbling. To be completely honest, it made me warm and fuzzy inside! So, I thought I’d write about something that has been an extremely influential component of the direction I’m heading in my current life journey. It’s also the reason I haven’t posted a new blog in a long long time. I’ve been that busy working on the subject matter of what this piece will explore. I sincerely hope you enjoy it and please make sure to check out her blog. She’s absolutely great! Thanks for asking me to do this Char. Sorry I took so long to get it to you.
A few months into my journey in Rio de Janeiro, people started asking me a question. After they’d ask me what I was doing in Brazil, many of them asked the exact same question. Some were friends while some were friends of friends. Others were fellow hostel guests and some were random blog readers I’ve never met. They came from all over the world. No matter who they were or what they were doing in their own lives, they all asked: “Two, how can I help?”
I never quite knew how to answer that. I had just started a brand new life and I was trying to make sense of everything, myself, my environment, as well as my short-term goals. I was coming out of a long relationship that was a big part of my life. I had left Oregon and moved to Toronto for 5 years and now I was in Brazil! My entire life had changed. I knew what I wanted to do with my new life but didn’t have a clue how I was going to do it. So, when the question got asked, the only thing I wanted to say was “get your ass down here and help me help these kids”, but I knew that it wasn’t a fair request. People have lives, dependents, and responsibilities and no matter how much they’d love to do what I’m doing, it’s just not possible. I got it.
I’m a pretty unique case. I know that. I have absolutely nothing to lose. I’ve frequently mentioned that I’m living on bonus time. Furthermore, I have absolutely no responsibilities to anyone but myself anymore. I decided to move to Colombia in all of 10 minutes, during a conversation with my new sister from another mother, Ursula, back in Brazil. Three months ago, she told me that I should meet her in Medellin sometime in December as she was planning to move there for a while. My response was “Naaa, you can meet me there because I’m going there now”. And that’s exactly what I did. She calls me “idea stealer” now. Haha, sorry kid. Can’t wait to see you here soon, you little brat!
If I want to leave here and go to another country or continent tomorrow, it’s not just that I can, I will. That doesn’t work for many people but for me, it’s the ultimate freedom to chase my dreams. I wish everyone had that freedom. It feels incredible and I’m so grateful that I have it. Without it, I don’t know if I would have ever been able to pursue what my soul tells me I should do: help others.
As far back as I can remember, helping others made me happy. Even during the most difficult of times in my life, helping people always brought me great joy. It’s this part of my character that kept me sane through all the bad times. It made me feel somewhat normal. It allowed me not to feel like a complete loser. It has been the one constant good in my life. I’m proud of that. I don’t quite know how to explain the feeling I get from helping others. It is the only thing that makes me feel like I’m at one with my soul. It makes me feel like I’m being who I really am inside.
When I see an opportunity to help, I’m drawn to it. I can’t walk away or ignore it even if I tried. While I’ve been in South America (Brazil & Colombia) this year, those opportunities have increased tremendously.
I’ve been on this journey for almost 300 days now and there must have been at least 300 opportunities for me to help. I’ve even been able to help some animals along the way. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had as each of them is shaping me into the person I always wanted to be. For me, helping others does so much for my own growth. It’s almost selfish! I find myself making better decisions. I’m handing difficult situations in such a better way now. I’m not angry all the time. I don’t get aggressive during situations that used to make me so incredibly hostile. I can walk away from negativity. I see and understand more clearly now. I give people the benefit of the doubt. I’m more patient and I’m more compassionate. Most of all though, I wake up with a smile for the first time in my life.
Currently, as a transforming person, all I want to do is help and even more importantly, inspire and encourage others to do the same. I feel like there’s a huge segment of the global population that wants to learn how they can help others. Unfortunately though, little is being done to help them realize just how capable they are of doing it. For me, creating engagement within this segment is just as crucial as directly helping itself. It’s vital when it comes to generating more awareness and participation in this sector and ultimately, helping more people in more ways. I alone, can help a 100 people but I can inspire others who can possibly help a 1000.
I thought about that more and more as I got asked the infamous question. There are so many people in the world that want to help others but feel like they can’t. For so long, I’ve heard a lot of people expressing their frustrations about not being able to make financial donations towards worthwhile causes. I think we’ve been conditioned to subconsciously correlate the idea of helping with money. For anyone with half a brain, historical implications clearly show why this is the case. For many, a lack of financial resources leads to feelings of inadequacy in terms of providing help. The more I got asked the question, the more I thought about how people’s desire to help gets wasted because they struggle to find feasible ways to contribute. I constantly thought about it but couldn’t come up with a solution. So, for a while, I just answered by saying “I’ll let you know kid”. It was bullshit though because I really had no idea how they could.
As time passed, the question kept popping up to the point I had to sit down and really think about it. It had been months and I still didn’t have a real answer so it started driving me absolutely crazy. I became increasingly frustrated about the desire to help not being enough. And that’s when slowly started realizing I was wrong because it is!
Through the various ventures I’ve undertaken in my life, I’ve learned the value of thinking outside of the box when I can’t see a clear path towards a desired outcome. I learned that most of all as a high school teacher. On several occasions, I found myself reaching bigger and better outcomes than previously envisioned when I allowed myself to escape conventional thinking and simplify my approach by finding direct solutions for specific situations.
The first thing that comes to mind relates to my attempt at providing unique, customized lesson plans for my students. After learning about multiple intelligences in grad school, I was so determined to provide all my students with opportunities to learn in ways that were compatible with their unique learning styles. At first, it seemed like a daunting task. Effective, dynamic lesson planning , for experienced teachers, is a substantial task on it’s own. Doing so while adhering to and incorporating multiple learning styles is significantly more laborious for new, inexperienced educators. In the beginning, I found myself hitting a wall when it came to formulating plans that catered to all the major learning styles in one lesson. It was extremely difficult to make the lessons effective and concise within a limited time frame.
In order to reach every student, I began to create multiple lesson plans for each topic. Once I had 5 or 6 separate LP’s (each of them geared towards a specific learning style), I grouped a few together and gave my students the option to choose which ones they wanted to tackle. Once they were finished, they taught their lessons to the other students. Of course this allowed students to learn the same material in a variety of ways. But, it also gave them a sense of ownership and also ended up reinforcing the material as they had the chance to learn, teach, and re-learn. As I always say, to teach is to learn something twice. In the end, breaking down the obstacle and simplifying my approach actually created better results.
Similarly, I’ve found that simplifying my approach towards other obstacles in my life can lead to more dynamic results. For quite sometime after grad school and teaching, I fell back into being an unproductive, self-destructive asshole. But since I’ve started a new life this year, I find myself implementing this approach quite frequently again and the results have been great. So, I started thinking of specific ways people can help me with my work on this journey. I thought about each person who posed the famous question. I started with the people I knew very well. I thought about their backgrounds, their skill sets, and their experiences. Then, I examined each project related task I was working on at the time. I started matching people with projects based on what they might be able to offer. I determined what resources were required for the projects if no money was available.
Then, I started determining who had access to those resources. At the time, I wanted to create an after-school program for some of the local teens in a favela that didn’t go to school. Some of these young people worked as drug runners up and down the favela all day and all night long. As vital components of the economic structure within some favelas, these kids are at the front-line of the drug trade and a necessity of communal infrastructure. Unfortunately, any hopes of maintaining a school life for these kids was abandoned years ago. So, I wanted to figure out a way to give them a chance at learning and getting somewhat caught-up with their peers who were attending school.
Again, without thinking of the necessary financial resources to undertake and maintain such a program, I figured out what was needed and who had access to it. Firstly, I’d need physical space to run the program. I thought about local business owners with available, suitable space who I could approach. Then, I’d need access to local school curriculum so I thought about teachers and administrators I could seek out for help. I’d also need materials like notebooks and other stationary so I determined what schools and local business might be willing to make some donations. Lastly, I’d need permission from those in charge of the community. They too, in theory were approachable, no matter how problematic or dangerous it was. I realized that some of these components were only accessible to someone like me who just doesn’t give a shit about those dangers but I’m where I am and I’m who I am so it made perfect sense for me. Essentially, I created an entire mock business plan needed to achieve the program with necessary knowledge, skills, and materials instead of money. When it came down to it, with the right help from the right people, it was completely possible!
I applied the same logic to some other projects I had in mind and realized that so much was possible if people were able to donate their knowledge, skill sets, and resources they had access to. This made me truly understand that so many people who don’t think they can make meaningful contributions actually have the ability to do so much!
Around that time, I was starting to learn about crowdfunding and how it was being applied to non-profits around the world. One night, as I was doing research about some recent successful crowdfunding campaigns, it hit me! I wanted to create a platform, based on the principles of crowdfunding, that enabled people around the world to donate their knowledge and experience to the projects I’d take on in my travels. People didn’t have to donate money, they could donate their minds!
Since continuing my journey to Colombia, I’ve been working on this daily. I’m creating a web-based platform, a space for discourse and collaboration, that I can use to profile worthwhile projects I visit and work with and in turn, make available to the public so they can determine what helpful resources they may have access to. Thus, hopefully, creating a new kind of engagement within the global community and ultimately making it possible for more people to help more people around the world.
This allows so many of those who are genuinely interested in helping others but feel like they can’t, to do so without the pressures of financial commitment. In the upcoming months, I hope to share more progress and ultimately launch this project. All of this happened because so many people kept asking; “Two, how can I help?”.
To all of you who kept asking, thank you. You inspired this and you’re already helping me realize some personal dreams and I hope it translates into helping a lot people one day.
As always, thank you so much for reading.
Be kind to yourselves and to everyone around you. Help someone when you can. You’ll be helping yourself too.
Thanks for helping me.
Source: All images found at www.bucketinbrazil.wordpress.com