Many of you probably heard about the killing of 10 NGO aid workers in Afghanistan late last week. For most of us, this event was one more in a line of senseless deaths to which we are exposed on a regular basis. To our family, it was personal.
Tom Little, the optometrist who led the aid team, has been a family friend as long as I can remember. While his family spent most of the last 35 years living in Afghanistan where Tom used his skills to bring eye care to rural Afghans, their US base was usually in the upstate NY town where I grew up. In fact, their current home is less than a mile from the one where I spent my childhood.
As often happens when you’re a kid, I didn’t really know Tom and Libby very well myself. They were grown-ups, after all. But they influenced my family in many ways nonetheless. And in death, he got me thinking.
Most of us (me included), spend too much of our lives and work trying to achieve objectives that in the long run don’t mean a hill of beans. Most of us spend too much energy envying others, plotting our political rise, and being ticked off with those around us. Most of us get sucked into ourselves and our own stories.
I’m sure Tom had some of those tendencies too. He was human. But he had something else. He was crystal clear on his purpose – to bring eyesight (and eventually other basic care like dentistry) to people who would never otherwise have access to it. In life he had no glamor. In death he has great honor. Through it all, he had vision of a different kind – and that vision fueled his efforts when nothing else would.
It makes me think – what purpose is driving me? What purpose is driving you? What purpose is driving your organization? Is it worth it? What could we do to make it more worthwhile?