Support the individual

Part 2 of ‘Change is complicated’

How many children would you bear for a gold medal?

I can bear being alone in a room with two or three for a couple hours. But that’s not the kind of “bearing” I mean. In the Kyrgyz Republic, a woman is presented with the medal “Hero Mother” for having and raising 10 or more children. That’s right. Ten. (I can’t even count that high before I lose my patience.) It’s a national practice dating back to 1944 when the Soviet Union began officially honoring and supporting women who made this incredible contribution to the state. Kyrgyzstan officially resumed the order in 1996.

imageThis Kyrgyz family has gone platinum

For a mother this award isn’t a singular event; it’s the culmination of decades of daily effort in raising a child. What incredible responsibility to raise children to love their communities and work for the betterment of their nation! It is to each of our honor to support these families so each individual has the opportunity to learn how to pursue justice and effect changes to deeply broken systems.

We often complain about these systems—poor schools, corrupt courts, tampered elections—in a way that paints them as separate, detached forces floating above our heads for which we are not responsible and have no ability to change. But we cannot acquiesce the situation nor abandon our wills; for, these broken systems are the conglomerate result of individual decisions and actions.

What does this mean?

Steadily influence one person at a time. Verbally and publicly encourage and reward earnest effort and right behavior. Create laws and economic conditions which support entrepreneurs and small businesses. Award positions based on merit in an open and competitive process. Lead by example and with integrity.

Our influence as volunteers is truly very little when pushed up against systems, but to individuals our kind of work can have incredible impact. The work is not hopeless, though it might look that way. The problem is people—but because this is true—the solution is people as well.

We were sitting around our last cups of tea the other week when my friend’s mother started talking about her brother. He had been a top regional public lawyer in Kyrgyzstan, moving up through the ranks through his intelligence and hard work. Since he didn’t exact bribes, he lived a modest life within the means of his small government salary. But his integrity soon got him in trouble. At this level, when the next round of promotions came he found his position priced at $16,000. Without a savings account fed by accumulated bribe money, he was out of the running and out of a job.

I pray his honest labor was not in vain. These are the individuals we must support and uphold. This is the character we must develop in each child being raised. And God willing, when the future looks back and honors its heroes, it will honor this man and the people who sacrifice thusly as heroes of the highest order.

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