And as the moonlight buttered the midnight clouds on that lonely winter night, the old man awaited the rolling thunder. Standing at the gate of the undiscovered country. He knew he should have kept moving forward, but for no reason and for every reason in the world, he turned and gazed as far back as his ageless eyes could muster. In the timeless frost, he could see a Life. And he standing in the midst of it. A life well lived, filled to the brim with songs of adventure and tales of courage. A life that was no stranger to honor, no alien to sacrifice. A life that had known both triumphs and failures, and stared steely into the eyes of Fear itself, time and again, and never relented. A life that had never accepted the reality that was presented, but sought to alter it instead. A life of service and of gratitude.
A life that was never his.
And tears strode down the old man’s cheeks seeking comfort from the hopeless eyes that shed them.
I could have changed the world, he thought, I could have changed everything. And he turned back to the gate, and the keeper asked him, what could you have possibly done any differently? And the old man breathed his last breath of real air and pointed back into the mist, I could have realized that that Life was mine … and that it was my one and only.
And the old man walked through the gate knowing he would never return, and he walked solemnly, mourning the glory of a life that could have been.
The single greatest desire expressed to me by readers of this blog is simply this. A fundamental desire to change the world.
But how do we possibly define that?
To change the world.
What an overwhelming proposition.
Many of us throw around that moniker as though it is universally understood. As though it is a forgone conclusion that we’re all talking about the same thing.
Changing the world means wildly different things to everyone who utters it, but ultimately, I believe when we say we want to change the world, it means that we want to alter reality as it is presented to us.
We want to know that this world might have been a little different, a little brighter because we inhabited it.
45 days ago, I sat on a video call with Jessie and Melissa and I wondered out loud if it would work.
We had just publicly enlisted 35 people to join us to help raise $15,000 in 30 days to build a windmill in a remote area of a country which they had never traveled to for people whom they had never met.
Well, I’m no longer wondering.
As of yesterday, we blew past our goal for the Gambella windmill, and construction has already commenced on it. And on my 31st birthday, I will be in Kenya sharing live with those 35 people from a windmill celebration ceremony hosted by the village elders.
Words simply cannot express just how grateful I am and how proud I am of all the misfits who were involved in the Good Misfit project.
In a very non-figurative sense, these 35 people have changed the world. The actual reality of 500 families and the generations that will come after them has been forever and materially altered because of their simple decision to Act. To do what was in their power to make a tangible difference on this planet. To utilize their own creativity in order to connect the dots between their networks, and a group of less fortunate people whom they will never meet.
This is a profound moment.
The world of these Gambella families will be materially different because Tracy and David and Lisa and Aly hosted parties for their friends, and because Niko and Jordan enlisted their schoolmates to accost their families for pennies, and because Ike donated 5 cents a cup, and because Patrick and Sue Anne and Elsie and Kristen auctioned off their works of art, and because Beverly and Louella hosted a wonderful evening of delectable treats, and because Mary hosted a Yappy Hour for puppies, and because Srdjan rode his bike across Canada, and because Jon and his students held a good ole’ fashioned car wash, and because Clay and Antenna decided to donate a portion of their business’ profits, and because Ed and Christopher and Joel and Bianca and Raul and Connor and Jules and Garrett and Heather and Mattie called upon their local communities to help, and because Bryan hosted a one man drink up, and because Pete allowed friends to bid on dares or deeds he would perform, and because Monika and Kayla and Gigi offered up their culinary skills, and because Susan held a Wings for Windmills photo shoot at her office, and because Indrani hosted a movie night for her elementary school buddies, and because and Berni overcame her fear of windmills.
Although applauding the work of others certainly has it’s own merit, never forget that changing the world is not a spectator’s sport.
There are millions of people the world over whose choices are so limited, whose options so scarce that survival is synonymous with success.
You and I, for no reason that we can possibly comprehend, have been blessed with a Life of almost limitless choices. A life in which Hope is not an aberration. A life that can choose adventure and intention and Service. A life that can be a blessing to less fortunate souls in distant lands whose lack of choice was inherited and not earned.
And maybe, just maybe a part of our quest to change the world should be trying to change theirs.
From the mountains of Asheville
Your Fellow Misfit,
Ps – To be honest, most of all, I am proud of Jessie White, a shooting star I hired almost two years ago, who took up a challenge I gave her last month, and who led this project with grace and diligence. If it weren’t for Jessie, the project itself would have never gotten off the ground to begin with. I hope you’ll join me in thanking her for her solitary dedication to ensuring that Gambella got their damn windmill.
Image: Creation by J.Alan Photography at MisfitConf Fargo.