My dear Albanian neighbors and friends (near and far),
Allow me to express my great respect and appreciation for your kindness, generosity and hospitality. Let me to say “Thank You” for helping me to integrate into your community, work among you and to encourage your youth to become confident and skilled leaders of the future. And let me share in your frustration with the country’s challenges as you continue your development as a democratic nation. I understand that programs and systems are not yet adequate to serve all your needs. I understand why some days it feels like nothing will ever change. But today, I have living proof that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE
A young woman stepped out of her apartment for a morning walk. Immediately, the pungent odor of dog poop hit her in the face and seconds later, she discovered the source… a nasty mound, sitting on the stairway landing. “Gross!” she thought as she passed, holding her breath and swatting away the flies that were buzzing around. “The owner of that dog should clean that up!”
Some time later, returning from her walk, and having stopped at a market, the young woman climbed her stairs and was met again by the increasingly foul stench from the doggie pile-o-poo. As she passed, she leaned away from the smell, but there was no escaping it and she had to stifle her gag reflex. Not wanting the stink to infiltrate her groceries, the girl quickly entered her apartment, again thinking, “That is just disgusting!” And she started to wonder… Who’s dog was to blame for this offense? Did any of her neighbors even own a dog? Perhaps this was the mark of a street dog? Regardless, she was steadfast, “Someone really needs to clean that up!”
Later that day, the young woman stepped out from her apartment again… it was still there, and potent as ever and she was frustrated. How long would she have to wait for someone to clean up? Until the evening? Tomorrow? Until it had become petrified shit? She was so frustrated that she made a decision. “I’m not willing to wait any longer.” She walked back inside, grabbed 3 plastic bags (tripling up for safety and the sheer ick-factor), and then literally took the matter into her own hands.
Even though it was gross… even though it wasn’t her dog or her mess… Even though others could have done the same thing… SHE DID IT! She took that steaming sack of wretched animal feces and delivered it straight to the dumpster. When she came back, the smell was nearly gone. And she felt good. Because she didn’t have to deal with it any longer. And the young woman felt good because she knew she’d relieved her neighbors of the same unpleasant experience. And she felt good because… SHE HAD NEVER DONE THAT BEFORE.
So as you can see… change can and does HAPPEN. That young woman (notice how I keep using the adjective!) was ME. And the story is true. (You can even ask my mom!) Never before in my life, have I ever WILLINGLY picked up dog crap! But today, it was necessary and important... and so I did.
And if I can change, and do just one little thing for my neighbors… think of the magnitude of change that will come when each Albanian does SOMETHING within their power to do something for their neighbors, their city, their country? And not because its easy or popular… Or not because it’s their job… Or not because they’ll get public recognition… Just because they are not willing to wait any longer for something to change! That day is coming and I just can’t wait! (which is exactly the reason why I am here.)
So there you have it… the proof that change is possible. It is within each of you. Do something, anything. Don't wait, start today. There will always be challenges and frustrations. There will always be greater need than we can accommodate. There will always be injustice. But we must never stop ourselves from doing THOSE things that ARE within our power to bring change.
Peace, Love and Extra Plastic Baggies