Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Act of courage

There is no guarantee that a speaker is actually good at it. And it's so annoying to listen to one who isn't. I, being raised catholic, have listened to priests who could make me fall asleep at the first sight of them walking to the podium to say their sermon. I had teachers who had the same power of me. I swear I slept through every grade 12 chemistry class.

And then there are those wanna-be-good speakers that try too hard. They are the Tony Robbins of the world. They use their hands, walk around, their voices go up and down trying to keep the listeners awake and entertained. This is when I need to use the restroom. I take the longest route and take another 15 minutes strolling around before I get back to my seat.

Last week Daddy and I attended a lecture given by Dr. James Orbinski. I had never heard of the guy. But reading an article in the paper about him I decided that we should attend. To ensure I didn't get disappointed I gave myself an internal talking to: "Even if he is a bad speaker focus on the words and the meaning of what he is saying. Don't focus on the delivery." I repeated this to myself like it was a mantra. All for nothing. Dr. Orbinski, was not flashy. He delivered his message with heart and possessed a soft compassion about him. I didn't even have try to focus; it came naturally to want to listen to him.

As the past president of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) Dr. Orbinski has seen disturbing stuff. I was honored to be in his presence. To meet someone who not only has seen the horrors in Rwanda, Sudan, Afghanistan, and many other locations but has taken an on hands role in tending to the thousands of people affected by these atrocities was humbling.

During the Q&A period someone asked, "What can we do?" Dr. Orbinski answered, "Donating, signing those online petitions are not enough. You have to join a group in your community, participate in something that you have a passion for. You need to do more. Refuse to accept the unacceptable."

I jotted down a few other things he said on my pink wrinkled little notepad that I carry in my purse for the boys to scribble on as entertainment...I knew it would come in handy for me one day.
  • ...political responsibility....imperfect outcomes
  • alternatives are possible if we choose to see it
  • indifference...silence...forgetting
We purchased his book at this event and I was the first in line to have him sign it! He asked, "Who do I make it out to?" I said proudly, "To James, our son that we adopted from Liberia."

I'm taking a small step. I am completing a volunteer application for our local women's shelter. Though my true goal is be an aid worker in a third world country. This lecture sealed the deal in my heart that indeed I'll be doing that one day. When? I can't say for sure. But I will. You can bet on it.

For James - with great hope - James Orbinski