1. having concern for or helping to improve the welfare and happiness of people.
“I wish I could do something like you, helping others.” A man came up to me and told me this at an event at the University of North Dakota some years ago. “But, I’m too old now.” I asked how old he was, and he said, “Forty-three.” I’m forty-four, I told him. “Yeah, but my finances are just not where I could take the time to dedicate to others.” I live month-to-month, I told him. “And I have a son, so I really need to take care of him first.” I have two kids, I told him.
He was going to wait until the stars aligned for him to decide that he was ready to help others. I wasn’t trying to guilt him in to becoming a humanitarian, but the point I did try to make in our short conversation that followed was that he already had everything he needed to start helping others, and that his life was at the perfect point for starting. He just need to start!
There are amazing, brave humanitarians around the world. I have met many at the camps we visit in the harsh and dangerous region that eastern Chad is. They wake up every day and think about the food, shelter, medicine and other basics for survival for hundreds of thousands of people. But they are not the only humanitarians.
There are also the humanitarians that have families, a tight budget, and grueling “regular” jobs. Within their everyday comings and goings—taking care of life—they also mesh in to it the thinking about “others.” The key, I believe, is that they actually get rid of that distinction, the “others” part.
My extended i-ACT Team is made up of 90% volunteers. That 90% has full-time jobs, families, and are far from being rich. Right now, we are heavy in to designing an early childhood development program for the most vulnerable of the vulnerable in the refugee camps. We are also designing and creating support for a comprehensive soccer program for all twelve refugee camps. For both projects, we have so many beautiful people that have stepped forward and said, “I want to help, now!” At the beginning, some don’t even know how they can or how much they can give, but they know that they are ready to take that step.
They then start thinking of the kids in the camps as “our kids.” It is a neat thing to see, when someone begins to refer to children on the other side of the world and living in extremely different circumstances as “our kids.” These new spontaneous-humanitarians then bring this “caring for others” to their work-place, gym, dinner table, and it is always with them. The “how can I help” disappears because it’s just a part of what they do. They notice opportunities to help and to learn and to bring others along.
“I was here” is the theme for today. August 19, 2012 has been declared World Humanitarian Day by the United Nations. Sending a big hug to all the dedicated humanitarians around the world—and to all of those spontaneous-humanitarians everywhere, whether you know you are one or not.