For nearly 20 years, I’ve been with the same team running an NGO in the former Yugoslavia. “A marriage!” some people have commented. Yes, in a way it is. It has required many of the attributes and choices that a marriage calls for.
When we first started, we were, well, much younger. The excitement of the challenge, the great need in front of us, and the novelty of the job were all predominant factors. Even though we had distinct personalities, during that early phase we were so busy that we didn’t have time to elaborate on clashes or nurse our wounds.
Later on, though, we did experience what most marriages and relationships do: familiarity, difficulty in communication, stress, and so on. More than once we were tempted to quit. So many times we plainly just couldn’t stand one another!
Accepting and facing our limitations and differences is what eventually helped us continue to focus on our goals and not get discouraged and distracted when we faced difficult interactions or took steps backwards in our work.
Granted, it has taken a lot of forgiving, patience, and understanding. We also learned to accept each other’s low times and periods of lesser output. After all, we are human, and even though we dedicate most of our time to a good cause and we try to be idealistic and selfless, we certainly will never attain perfection.
Our own perception at times can also be skewed, and once I learned a great lesson on that. I was discussing with a coworker how one of our volunteers seemed to lack motivation of late and I wondered if he would soon drop out. Later, my mind was still clouded by my negativity toward him when I checked my email and found the following message:
It was raining outside and my heart was also raining tears of sadness and despair when one of your colleagues walked into my office. His smile and kind words were like a rainbow in my soul. I felt like an angel had just walked in.
You guessed it. It was that same volunteer.