Light at the End of the Tunnel
However, the Tunnel is an Illusion

It is interesting how things morph together, which enables one to see the light. I went to Myanmar during winter break five years ago from teaching and spent a month traveling in a former British colony. Within a week of my return to the States, I had a routine office visit with Dr. Marchand, my cardiologist. He did the routine exam and told me my heart was fine. Then he said that he’d see me in six months…unless I had a question.

I had a question, a major question, about why I was so wired. Dr. Marchand’s initial response was that it was merely my endorphins. However, he realized that my question was not about endorphins. He looked me in the eyes until he was sure that our eyes were locked, waited a moment, and then said, “You have seen the light.”

Dr. Marchand

Essentially, he said that something that I experienced changed me. Dr. Marchand just retired last year, but we discussed more important issues during my routine heart exams than merely issues regarding my heart. He was an excellent cardiologist, and he cared for his patients and me beyond heart issues.

While in Myanmar on my first trip, I met a nine-year-old girl who wanted to play Scrabble with me. Ti Ti was the bridge to my discovering my family on the other side of the world. I had seen the light, and it radically changed me.

That was five years ago, in the ensuing years, I returned to Myanmar during winter break and visited my family. Before I left during winter break a year ago, I told Ti Ti that I wanted to give her my laptop, which could help her with her schooling. Besides, I only used my laptop for storing photos and videos. I had an external hard drive, which I copied what was on the laptop. Besides, once I got home, I would copy the photos and videos to my desktop and put the laptop on a shelf on my bookcase. It seemed like a logical thing to do. So, I copied everything to the external hard drive and gave the laptop to Ti Ti.

I was content with the deal for a week or so. Then came the hauntings. I gave Ti Ti a laptop in an area where the Internet reception was poor. Additionally, if Ti Ti and her younger sisters are my grandchildren, the students with which they attend school don’t have laptops either in school or at home. There are only three computers in the school where my two younger granddaughters attend. Less than 10% of the students of the two school have access to a computer in their homes.

That was the genesis of my drive to raise $500,000 for 1250 laptops and improving the Internet reception at the two schools. If Myanmar is to emerge into a developed country, it will require educating the next generation. Laptops are the only educational tool that can assist them. It wasn’t long before I got incorporation papers for We Are Family in Myanmar, Inc. Then I had to file papers with the IRS to be recognized as a not-for-profit charity. My CPA said it would take two to three months for the IRS to go through all the paperwork. Halfway through waiting for approval, the government shutdown.

If I got my authorization as a 501(c)3 as a not-for-profit charity as you are reading this essay, I would have ten months to raise a half million dollars, purchase 1250 laptops, get the Internet reception drastically improved at the two schools, and return to Myanmar with the laptops. I’m a dreamer, but this is a really big dream. In reality, I have about a half year to raise a half million dollars. I am fully aware that the clock is ticking.

Enter Bobby Kennedy. He is the most important mentor of my life. He said the following to millions and to me….

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

To be honest with you, I don’t want to fail 1250 students nor Bobby’s legacy. I know the feeling that I could look like a fool, just someone who dreamed but failed.

Bobby Kennedy

Enter Teddy Roosevelt. I want to succeed, but I recall Teddy Roosevelt famous paragraph called the Man in the Arena, which he gave at the Sorbonne in Paris over a century ago.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Teddy Roosevelt

Roosevelt was attempting to get his listeners to fight the good fight at whatever cost. He wants us to go out and fight the good fight but “if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.” Trust me. I feel the tension of great dreams that might not be realized. That isn’t a great feeling.

The tunnel is the illusion.

Enter Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard said that truth is subjective. Whether I realize my dream or not isn’t something that can be determined beforehand. Kierkegaard tells us to believe what you deem is true, good, and in need of accomplishment.

Søren Kierkegaard

Finally, Sam Harris said, “I have always believed that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion; the illusion is the tunnel itself.” I need to personalize that truth if my dream is to come true. I can see the light; Dr. Marchand told me that five years ago.

Sam Harris

This essay is about me…. Well, at one level, it is about my dream of helping 1250 children in Myanmar. However, don’t write my dream as just about me. Remember what Bobby Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.”