The light in the tunnel

My last two blogs (The other extreme and Time to change-are government schools listening?) portrayed quite some negativity and kept me thinking whether “optimism” is a lost word in my dictionary. However, I couldn’t be more wrong – the world seems brighter today and I am feeling so positive! Why this sudden change? Well, last week I have had the most thought-provoking experience of my life.

Corporate workshops and seminars are always welcome as they call for some learning, some socializing and some change from the regular office environment. For me also this was no different. However, the summit I attended on 1st and 2nd July was quite different – different not because of what I learnt but because of the people I met. This was my second conference after becoming a part of the development sector and I must admit it stood out amongst all the conferences I have ever attended.

While there are numerous issues to be addressed in India and the world at large, we should not be dismayed, because there are thousands of people who are working hard to bring about some change. Yes, I had the opportunity to meet hundreds of changemakers who are working relentlessly over the years to solve problems related to children, women, poverty, hunger, environment, youth, economic development, disability, armed forces, human rights, governance, health, sanitation, animals and many more. Hearing about their journey, their challenges, their failures, their stories of transformations, their vision and above all, feeling their passion, was indeed a priceless experience.

Yes there is corruption, violence, dishonesty, greed, lust, anarchy, but on the other hand there are also people who have dedicated their lives for social good. Their inexorable efforts may never be recognized at the world forums or award ceremonies, or they may never earn the hefty pay packages that corporate employees draw, but that does not dissuade them from dedicating their entire lives to serving the society. For what they earn is incomparable – fulfillment, inner peace and good wishes of those thousands whose lives they touch daily. In my own little way, through this blog, I want to salute these unsung heroes for their never-daunting spirit and commitment to the cause. I feel really fortunate for being able to join their journey.

Many of my friends, on learning that I am working with a nonprofit, asked me “Why didn’t you join any corporate, NGOs don’t pay well. Or is it that you can’t cope with the pressure of sales targets anymore?” My answer to them is that a handsome pay package has never been my parameter for measuring success. I am not discounting my experience in the corporate world, that’s what makes me who I am today but I am more contented with my present job, not because there are no sales targets (there are targets of impacting “X” number of lives) but because I am able to see so closely the result of my hard work, because I am able to create change, because I am able to make a difference, because of all those smiles and because this is my life’s calling. In fact, I am the happiest person – can you believe I am getting paid to do social work!

Everyone has their own set of expectations from life and there’s nothing wrong in wanting to lead a luxurious life. All my friends who know me will know what an avid shopper I am and that has not changed because I work for a nonprofit. All that has changed is that, I now value those things much more because I know for sure how privileged I am compared to those millions, I know the distinction between necessity and luxury and that makes me more humble every day. It is said that your experiences make you the person that you are and I have changed over the last one year because of my experiences. Societal recognition is no more a parameter for my success, societal good is.

The last week made me realize that when so many people are working selflessly for creating positive changes, the world will not remain in its current appalling state for long.  All of us can be those change agents. It is a request to all my friends, don’t just contribute monetarily for a cause (please continue to do that, because that’s what keeps the nonprofits going!) but to experience this pleasure first-hand, do some volunteering and you’ll see the difference in yourself, not just in the society. These nonprofits, these social workers are like those numerous candles burning in the tunnel trying to light up the path. It is not about seeking the light at the end of the tunnel, there is light in the tunnel, but ultimately it is up to all of us to keep them burning bright!

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