When I was in Sudan working on the book Harvest of Hope, I passed a marketplace with several stalls offering ebony artwork for sale. Besides the sleek, satin-smooth leopards and other animals, I discovered a strikingly unique art form: Small trees hollowed around the hard ebony core, which had been intricately carved into the figures of people. I bought one–nine inches tall with a family of three carved inside–for the equivalent of about five dollars. The long, thin carved man holds a skinny walking stick not much wider than a large needle. The child has a water jug balanced on her head.
“Ebony wood is almost gone from around here,” my translator said.
“They use it all for carvings?” I asked.
“No, no. They gather it and burn it on their cooking fires.”
What?! That gorgeous wood fit for the priciest piano keys and most elegant chess pieces? Such a valuable natural resource tossed into cooking fires? I blurted out my indignant whys.
“Because we need wood for our fires or we can’t cook food,” one man said. “This is the wood we can get, so it’s what we use.”
But what about the next generation, I insisted. The grandchildren who would never know what ebony looked like — what about preserving for them?
“There won’t be any grandchildren if we starve to death,” the man said.
What I learned in Sudan is that we don’t know everything. That there are no easy answers — maybe there aren’t any answers at all. That we westerners tend to respond before we understand. (Perhaps that’s why a whole bunch of Haitian children got sneaked illegally out of Haiti and well-intentioned “rescuers” sit in jail.)
What’s the answer? I don’t know. My goal is to work for the day when saving for the next generation isn’t just a luxury of rich countries.
Harvest of Hope: Stories of Life-Changing Gifts
So, how much good do our charitable donations do?This book tells of my travels around the world, following donors gifts to the recipients, in order to find the answer to this question.
The book is written in conjunction with Partners International.
“We judge others by their actions. We judge ourselves by our intentions.”
Walk the Talk…And Get the Results You Want
by Eric Harvey and Al Lucia