Sunday, March 24, 2013

A One-Man Radius

What is the Radius of a Single Person?

What can one person reach or accomplish on his own? What can a solitary human being produce by herself? Some evidence would reveal that one man or woman can do quite a bit. We have all heard of quixotic quests by dreamers who have changed the world. We who grew up in America have been imbibing the "power of the individual" while yet children. Indeed, the "one-man team" seems capable of great feats of survival, occasional vision, artistic or literary expression, and even monumental construction. One person can do a lot.

I would like to unfold as well how the addition of even a single other person into the mix changes the shape and appearance of what is possible to that person (now pair). It seems that if the boundaries of one person are like a sphere, the boundaries of two people together are not just a larger sphere. They are egg-shaped, or dumbbell-like.
And as you add more people to the team, the shape gets even more strange but specific. A group of architects looks very different from a group of carpenters even though both deal in the worlds of design and construction. Our team of six doctors, three teachers, and eight kids (baby McLaughlin is almost here!) has a very peculiar shape when you consider our various talents, interests, fears, skills, and weaknesses. I would say that we look eerily similar to the socket that fits the bolt that needs tightening at Kibuye Hospital and the Frank Ogden School of Medicine at Hope Africa University (or maybe we’re the loose nut).

All this would lead up to the big reveal that when we live within our boundaries, when we function as we are supposed to, when we work as a team doing what we are good at instead of what we cannot do, we are better off.
Happiness research continues to show that people find greatest task satisfaction when the demands of their job are closely matched to their skills - with happiness favoring a job that is just a little out-of-reach or challenging. Ostensibly this is because such jobs promote growth. Like plants reach for the sun or children reach for the cookies on the top shelf, we are encouraged to grow by what lies just out of our current range. If it is too far out of range though, we’ll lose heart before we get there.
Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man shows one type of human radius

But what of this ragtag team of doctors, teachers, and children? What we’re setting out to do is certainly out of reach - and by a long shot. We just received a small deluge of discouraging news about the hospital and medical school. There are encouraging notes as well. A major market chain is going to open up a grocery store in the capital, Bujumbura. The engineering team that spent about a week at the hospital tested the one working well on the campus and said that it could provide enough water not only for the 150 bed hospital  currently there, but the homes and facility expansions we have planned. Praise God!

But therein lies the second big reveal. Usually when we try to live without boundaries, we are surprised if not disappointed by the results. But when we have abandoned self-confidence for trust in a God who designed the growth process and called us to His work, we get an opportunity to see Him do the impossible. You know me. I may love drawing, wood-working, languages, medical education and reading philosophy/theology, but I’m also highly distractible, prone to over-extension, addicted to talking (in languages I already know), and sometimes impatiently project-oriented. If me or we are to survive and thrive in Burundi, it will have to be because God is carrying us over the horizon of our own strengths and reach.