Late yesterday afternoon, after a long day of meetings and planning discussions, Roberto and I were walking back to our hotel near the Vatican when I asked him how many times he had visited Rome. Without pause, he held up nine fingers. I asked him what was his favorite place in Rome and his reply was incredible. He told me, in all of his visits, he had never been to any of the ancient attractions with the exception of the Trevi Fountain. He said his trips were related to his work for the Church and he spent all of his time in or near the Vatican.
Well, needless-to-say, last night we headed out on an adventure that would take us past a number of the main attractions of Rome . . . including the Trevi Fountain.
We walked for hours. While we walked, we talked. We talked about our meetings earlier in the day. We talked about our hopes for the work of HBI. We talked about our dreams for our families and our futures. Late in the evening, after traversing the city and taking in a number of sights we found ourselves back near the Vatican and we stopped for something to eat.
At one point Roberto asked me what is my biggest dream for HBI. He said, "what is the one thing you most dream about for HBI?"
I told him my dream was to grow HBI into a global organization. An organization with the ability to create connections and collaborations between groups, communities, and organizations to best serve the complex needs of people living in the most marginalized situations around the world.
He said, "that is exactly what I thought you would say." And then he went on to give me an astonishingly powerful bit of advice. He said, "[you] have chosen a difficult path. The work . . . it's hard work." And, because it is so hard, he said, "you must never expect it to get easy. Because it won't." Rather, he said, recognize "hard work is not impossible work. It is just hard and many people get lost in the 'hardness' of the work and give up."
I won't give up. I know this work is hard. I also know the world is never going to permanently change through the actions of any one organization working in isolation or through a single Herculean effort. Rather, the world will change when we unite in our efforts and share in our resources to create meaningful pathways to the meaningful futures all people deserve. The world will change when we all build bridges.
Thank you Roberto for teaching me that our work is not impossible, it's just hard. And . . . well . . . I'm not afraid of hard work.
My mother once said to me, "don't ever let the busyness of your life interfere with your ability to truly enjoy every moment." And, it is times like I am currently experiencing when my mother's sage words of wisdom ring loud and clear.
I'm back in Rome. Last year I was invited to participate in a small symposium at the Vatican, and once again I've been invited. I arrived late yesterday and will be here for a little over a week. Dr. Roberto Tarazona and I will be meeting with a number of potential partners and high profile organizations over the next couple of days before spending all next week in a conference.
To say Rome is a magical city is a bit of an understatement. It is the magical city. The history, the people, the food - everything about Rome is magic to the senses. This is especially true for me in the shadow of the Vatican. The Vatican is a mysterious and wonderful walled country of immense importance; and, once again, I will be meeting with participants from around the globe to talk about our work and ways we can collaborate.
I am honored to be here. I'm excited to be experiencing this with my colleague and dear friend Dr. Tarazona, and I am enjoying every moment of this great opportunity. Thanks Mom, for helping me to remember to stay present in my life.
‘Why haven't I heard more about HBI? Why haven’t I seen a documentary about your work?’
The questions seemed straightforward enough. In fact, I must admit, I was a bit flattered by the questions. For what I heard the person asking was akin to “HBI is doing so many great things. Everyone should know about HBI.”
Sure, it would be great if HBI received more recognition for our efforts – but that’s not what drives our team. In fact, we are driven by the hope that our collective efforts can generate lasting impact by supporting local communities to be the drivers of their own change.
HBI exists to bring people together to address some of the biggest challenges of health equity and social equality. We use innovative solutions to respond to the big gnarly issues that seem almost impossible to overcome. We are working to be the change we wish to see in the world (thank you Gandhi); and, if this means we operate with a certain degree of anonymity – that’s okay for us.
Especially now, in this world of seemingly never ending tragedies and disasters, it doesn’t make sense for any one organization to work in isolation. The needs of the world are far too great. The modern challenges of our planet require organizations to work together – to collaborate.
Our experience has shown us time and time again that collaboration is the single best mechanism for creating the kind of sustainable change the world needs. It is, however, not easy. Collaboration requires compromise. It requires relationship. It’s a lot of hard work.
However, when we truly build partnerships that are grounded in collaboration – our impact, our efforts are so much greater. Collaboration means we share our gifts, talents and resources. It means our focus is not on the recognition we receive for our individual efforts – but the impact we can help to make through our collective partnerships. This is the focus of HBI. This is the reason we exist as an organization and in many ways, this is the reason we aren’t a very well-known NGO. And, that’s okay.
So, the next time someone asks me ‘why don’t I know more about HBI?’ I think I’ll reply – ‘let me tell you about our work and the philosophy of collaboration that drives everything we do. Let me talk with you about our partnerships and the vision we have for a different way of working with and serving the complex needs of people living in marginalized circumstances and underserved experiences. Let me tell you about the bridges we are building.” For us, that’s a better way to get the message of HBI into the world.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.