One Million Jasons
Posted on April 30, 2010 at 5:27 pm
The roundtable meeting with Jason, the founder of 1million shirts, was an elaborate version of similar conversations I’ve had with scores of people just like Jason. Each Jason is completely unaware of the harm that can be done by a well-intentioned but ill-informed aid project. These conversations usually take at least an hour because Jason can’t hear what I’m saying until I break through all the donor misconceptions so prevalent in western society.
When whichever Jason I’m teaching finally gets it, he/she almost always says some version of “I just wanted to help” – “it seemed like a good idea”- “I didn’t understand” – “I had good intentions”. The end goal with each Jason was for them to understand that Good Intentions are Not Enough.
When my mother’s preacher stood up in church and told the congregation to “send money not stuff” to Haiti, I rejoiced. Maybe I’d made a difference. Then projects like 1millionshirts come up and are harsh examples of how small my impact really has been. Unfortunately, for every Jason I reach there are another 1,000,000 Jasons I haven’t reached.
There are times when I just want to give up the fight. How can I compete against the photos of “orphans”, the excitement of movie stars shipping shoes to Haiti, the western doctors flying off to heal some child’s cleft pallet, the mass media constantly reinforcing donor misconceptions. I feel like I’m standing here shouting into the wind.
But I haven’t given up yet because of people like Teddy and Mariem. When they spoke today, tears sprang into my eyes. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I could never reach all the Jasons in the world. Yet it is the hundreds of voices and stories just like theirs that compel me to continue trying.
So there we were, so many talented people dedicating so much time and effort to reach just one Jason. How are we ever going to reach the next 1,000,000 Jasons? And what will happen if we don’t.