I’ll be honest at first when I heard we had to go to this speaker I was dreading it, I didn’t know anything about Dr. Yunus, and didn’t feel like sitting through a speaker, but I am so, so, so very glad I did. He was honestly the best speaker I have ever had the privilege of listening to. His view on the world was unlike so many others. He really shed a light on the world for me and helped me connect to what I always knew I wanted to be doing, and that is helping others. But before I go into what really made me see this light, I want to explain how amazing Dr. Yunus’ speech was and what really made it feel to amazing to me.
He started off his speech discussing how he doesn’t plan, he just reacts to situations, when a situation emerges he jumps into it full force. And when he said that I was just thinking to myself, “this guy seems crazy” but that’s only because I like to plan. I like to know what I’m doing before I do it. But as he continued to speak I realized that I might have it all wrong. I can’t plan my life completely, I just have to do. I have to respond to things the best I can, and if I plan it all out I’m going to be lost when the plan changes. His speech made me realize that I just have to go with the flow and do what both he and I are always trying to do, and that is helping others. Which in my eyes now, is not something you can plan as much as you just have to take a hold of opportunities and follow them as far as you can.
One of my favorite things Dr. Yunus said in his speech was that, as a human being we can learn more than we can from a textbook. And now as we are planning our trip to South Africa and I am volunteering in New Haven, I realize that this is more true than I could have ever realized. Experiences can show us more than reading about experiences ever can.
Sure, you can have opinions and thoughts about another person’s experiences but the strongest reflection can only come out of personal, hands on experiences that you go though yourself. As Dr. Yunus stated, from the University you get a bird’s eye view from a distance, but when you are in the village you get a different view, a clear view, a more detailed view. When you study from a far you can only learn so much, versus going to these places and learning what books can never teach you.
Although I loved hearing him talk about what it takes to really learn, my favorite part of his speech was definitely when he discussed growing, breaking barriers, and not being placed in a box. He talked about this by using the analogy of the Bonsai Tree. His story was about how you can take the best seed off the tallest and strongest Bonsai Tree in nature and place it in a pot, but it will only grow as far as its roots can stretch. If you take it out of that pot and plant it in nature, it has the chance of growing to be as tall and strong as its parent tree, maybe even more so. There was nothing wrong with that seed, but since it was trapped and didn’t have room to grow, it didn’t. He explained how people are like that, especially poor people. If you give them a chance to succeed, they can, but when you keep them in a box and keep thinking that they are poor and that’s all they’ll ever be, you will make it so.
So that’s exactly what Dr. Yunus did, he gave them a chance to get some money and do better for themselves and their families, and that’s what happened, a strong majority of those poor people who received Dr. Yunus’ loans ended up doing much better than they would have ever done without him, he gave them room to grow. He took them out of their pot. He had faith in the people, and in the end his faith in them led to bettering their lives.
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
-Martin Luther King Jr.
So after leaving Dr. Yunus’ speech I realized he has done so much for these, people, he believed in them, he gave them a chance. Just by stepping outside his box, the university, did he learn more than he could have done before. And because he took that chance, he changed their lives. I’m hoping at the end of our journey to South Africa we will have done the same. If I can be even a fraction of the person Muhammad Yunus is I would be very happy, and hopefully would be able to make others happy as well.