Gift of Knowledge

By , singapore, Singapore
I was staring into the eyes of defeat, and hated it.

It had been almost six months since three friends united in the belief that their lives could become more wholesomely fulfilled by a tangible touch on society.

To my friends and me, the promise of 500 high-quality second-hand English books to a secondary school in India. They represented our most resolute commitment yet to society, and failure was hardly an option. Invigorated by the prospects of a self-initiated project, we set out with fierce vigor, searching for sponsors, and planning donation drives. Perhaps it was the naivety of a determined mind, but I believed nothing could stand in my way.

Reality is the devil to an idealistic mind, and once again, it pitted its wits against mine. It appeared that I had grossly overestimated the need for companies to invest their capital in an initiative started by middle-school students, and their reluctance to participate dampened spirits. The donation drive posed problems as well; a constrained budget and network meant that the reach of our awareness campaign was sorely compromised.

That was when doubt crept stealthily into my mind; it seemed far easier to give up and go on with our comfortable, routine lives. As I was jostling with demons of self-pity, a call from the headmaster jolted me to my senses. I realized I lacked the heart to mention my failures to a man who had made immense contributions to his nation’s education system. More importantly, I knew I was not a deserter. I still felt strongly for the impoverished children in a distant land, and suddenly I detested myself for ever entertaining the notion that I could leave them in a lurch with an unfulfilled promise.

Belief and purpose renewed, I rallied my two disillusioned friends and set out on our project anew. Acknowledging our limited resources, we utilized them to the fullest, contacting potential sponsors and refusing to take no for an answer. Recognizing time constraints, we pressed on fearlessly, enduring many a sleepless night. Soon, the seeds we planted began to bear fruit. We obtained a sponsorship from a supportive non-profit organization and five charity events were held nationwide. Donations flowed in from all directions.

1150 books! I stared in disbelief at the mountain of books in my room. We had doubled our initial target! Three young men shamelessly cried, hugged and cried again. The taste of success was particularly sweet after we had so nearly given in to the bitterness of defeat. We tired up loose ends, and before long, were our way to deliver our goods to our beneficiary in India.

Funnily enough, as you indulge in the joy of success, the months of exhausting preparation fade, vanishing into the past. As the smiles of hundreds of grateful children beamed up at me, I realized how terribly mistaken I had been. The thousand books were, in my mind, a major contribution to the Indian school; they were, in reality, a small repayment for a priceless life experience and lessons on compassion, determination and belief. These lessons accompanied me as I initiated a similar project to Vietnam the following year; they encouraged me when I entered my school’s students’ council to advocate change my more direct community; they guided me as I cultivated a keen interest in development economics and poverty in today’s society. I had hoped to change society; never did I expect to emerge from the encounter a changed man





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