Rolling with the Punches
Over the years I have heard folks in the developing world say “God Willing” quite a bit. Initially, I didn’t understand why this was such a big part of life; however, I have learned the reason for the this. They say this as life from day to day is very unpredictable and therefore, they have adapted to the outlook that things will happen…unless they don’t. The practice of allowing for change in everything epitomizes the concept of “rolling with the punches” and speaks to the adaptability of those who live that way. The other side of this coin is that it that this outlook often leads to a lack of detailed planning (which can be maddening for a detail oriented planner like myself). On my last trip to Nigeria (in November) my flight home was abruptly cancelled a few hours before we were set to depart. Initially I was very frustrated and anxious as this was the only departing flight that day and we had traveled 3 hours just to get to the airport. Additionally, not leaving that day meant I would not make it home to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family (something I was very much looking forward to). What was I going to do with an extra day in Nigeria with no hotel to stay in and my 13 year old son to look after (This was his first trip and I had strict protection orders. This was an undesired complication in my fulfillment of those orders). My Nigerian counterparts didn’t react with the same uncertainty or anxiousness, for them it was another day in the capital, and we would figure the details out. They were right, things would work out. British Airways promptly and professionally booked us on the first flight out the next day and put us up at Hilton Transcorp Abuja (a 5-star hotel). An extra day in Abuja (the capital of Nigeria) turned out to be an amazing silver lining as I was able to spend the day with my son at a 5 star hotel (something we don’t do state side), get some much needed R&R, and meet with a few government dignitaries (the hotel is across the street from the National Capital which made this convenient) regarding our development efforts in the local area.
The concept of maintaining a “God Willing” outlook has been tough for me to understand, let alone subscribe to, since I first began visiting developing countries in 2006. I come from a much different reality; a reality that is much more stable and predictable, a reality where the environment allows for greater planning. My experience in developing countries (which was punctuated by this experience) has forced me to reconcile the dichotomy between my “American” reality and the reality of the developing world. This reconciliation has forced me to realize that in order to be effective in unpredictable places I must adopt a “God Willing” attitude in everything that I do and to truly “roll with the punches”.
I began drafting this post in December and finished it a few weeks ago; however, after living through the last two weeks in the Unite States where we have had our predictable lives turned upside down and shaken to the core I felt it appropriate to add to my thoughts before posting them. As American we are now beginning to understand the concept of “God willing”. In the last few weeks, we have seen schools closed, businesses shuttered, the stock market stopped in its tracks, and the proliferation of a mysterious and terrifying illness. The cool predictability of life is no more (at least for now). Now more than ever it is critical that we adopt the mind set of “rolling with the punches” and become an agile and adaptable society.