Walking the streets of Abene, Senegal

“Hello! What is your name? Where are you from?!” I slow my pace. This is the sixth Rastafarian man to try to talk to me on this 20 minute walk to town. Should I stop? I smile and keep walking. He follows. I have been walking this same hot, dusty dirt road for 6 days now, back and forth to town from the nearby beach. It is a long enough walk as is, without shade. I try to slide by with a smile and a nod of the head. He puts his hands aggressively forward to shake mine, so I stop. This is the sixth time I have stopped on this walk.

I can’t just ignore him right? So I give my hand with Love. He takes it and stops me from walking. OK, so I stop, with Peace. Am I excited to talk with this man? No. Would I rather keep walking? Yes. So why do I stop? Because he has asked me to, and in respect for him as an equal human being I will honor that request. If I ask another person to stop, I hope that he or she will also stop for me as well. That is what makes us strong as humanity. Respect for each other. Plus, if I keep walking he will yell at me and I don’t like that. Too much negative energy. So here I am talking…

And now I am answering questions, sharing personal stories, doing what I can to create a positive experience out of an uncomfortable interaction. We are smiling, genuinely. And then he ends with, “come to my restaurant,” or “stay at my hostel,” or “check out my artwork,” or “I will come with you” (to wherever I happen to be going at that moment).

And then I must either accept this or sternly refuse and say goodbye, leaving the man to feel whatever he feels. And that is really what it is about—my understanding of what he feels. My attempt to act in a way that makes that man feel best. My personal attempt in every action to create a positive impact, a “conscious impact.” But this is dangerous, as what this man feels is very much out of my control. No matter what I do, he could still be upset—and that is how I leave him in the end. Upset. I can never give enough to satisfy. Enough energy, enough time, enough money. And that hurts.

Take this into the field of international development and it may be hard to follow. Where does talk about consciousness and awareness (spiritual stuff, belief stuff you might say) come into play in global health and economic development? It is one in the same, especially when we focus on community-based development solutions.

Positive human change is not about programs and projects as much as it is about how we live each moment. This means being conscious about the impact that we have in each moment of each day. How are we treating another person? How are we eating? Are we taking care of our own health? Are we acting out of anger, hatred, fear and reactivity? Or are we acting from Truth, Love, Peace and Awareness? This is what defines our progress as human beings. This will take us towards improved quality of life for all.

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