FTF in Guatemala: Welcome to the Reilly Dooris Post

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Reilly Dooris is the latest addition to FTF. Reilly will live and work in Guatemala for two years as our Executive Field Director for Central America. His blog can be found here on a weekly basis and you can contact him at reillydooris@first-things.org. He'd love to hear from you! His work with the extreme poor is the work of all of  you who support what we do around the world. Welcome to The Reilly Post.  the authorEver since I arrived in Guatemala a month ago I’ve been spending sold chunks of time thinking about the unlikely series of events that conspired to get me here. I’m in Guatemala doing something that profoundly excites me. What am I doing? How did I even get here? Over the course of the next few blogs, I’d like to talk about what brought me here and the guiding principles I used in making my decision to join First Things Foundation and move to Guatemala for the next two years.

Let's start with this thing called curiosity.

Now I know there are a lot of ‘follow your passion’ articles out there. We see them all over the place. They say things like “do what you love, love what you do.” If you have ever seen those inspirational mountain climbing posters in elementary school classrooms, then you get the gist.

I’m not going to lie, I love these articles, but they can also get old pretty quickly. When the only guide is “just follow your heart, and your passion will appear,” much of this seems like inaccessible voodoo reserved for only the most self-aware among us. I remember looking in awe at people who traveled the world, or started their own beach-side bar in Malaysia, or were Ed Sheeran, and thinking, “You have access to the golden key of life. Where did you find it and where can I get one too?” It was like they had figured it out, they had cracked the code. They had dawdled out of Plato’s cave while the rest of us were left chained up inside, staring longingly as they frolicked in the green grass outside. I have a feeling many people are also in this position. Here’s what Elizabeth Gilbert, American author and TED Talk veteran, has to say on the subject:

Whenever you’re told to “follow your passion,” it can be very intimidating, and it can be very confusing, because sometimes passion isn’t very clear, sometimes passion burns hot and then burns out. You can’t access that every day…And yet curiosity is this faithful, steadfast, friendly and accessible energy that is never far out of reach. There’s never a day where you couldn’t dredge up some tiny little fragment of interest in something in the world… curiosity doesn’t take anything from you. Curiosity just gives. Follow it. It might lead you to your passion or it might not. You might get nothing out of it at all except a beautiful, long life where all you did was follow your gorgeous curiosity. And that should be enough...

Thus we arrive at the first reason I am in Guatemala; curiosity.

In the final semester of my leadership program at Gonzaga University, I was asked to interview someone who spent their life working a job I found interesting. And I was asked to write about it. I decided to interview Ernesto Sirolli after having been introduced to his TED Talk. Everything about him was curious to me. He was flipping the script for international aid and development and giving ownership back to local communities. His youthful and revolutionary mindset was wrapped up in the wisdom of a 60-year-old life, and he was sporting one of the most wonderfully crafted mustaches I had ever seen. I wanted to know more about this guy. A year after completing my servant leadership paper on Ernesto, I was invited to his Trinity of Management Master Class in Salt Lake City and met a throng of others who, like me, had allowed curiosity to lead them to Ernesto and his teachings.

And here is where I met John Heers, another curious phenomenon. His introduction at the beginning of class went something like, “At FTF, we do Peace Corps-ish stuff, we learn the language, and we basically do what you’re trying to do Ernesto, except we lack some of the fancy lingo to describe it.” I was, again, curious. I liked this dude with long hair who chose to forego political correctness in favor of plain spoken questions about hard-to-fix problems. I sided up to him during one of our breaks, and five short months later I began living and working with him in Guatemala.

I still wouldn’t say I’ve found my ‘passion’. I haven’t found the “burning, yearning thing that keeps me awake at night and motivates me to shave my head and move to Nepal to start an orphanage” as Elizabeth Gilbert would say. No, I’ve only found that little voice that tells me to stop shaving my face and move to Guatemala to start a foundation. But for now, FTF is my jam. It is something that tugs at me every day and makes my heart skip a beat when I think about where I am. This is a good thing.

Even though curiosity was the starting point, it wasn’t quite enough. In my next blog, I’ll tell you more about the internal struggles that our work with the extreme poor inevitably foists on us. I think you’ll recognize these conversations. I think all of us struggling to apply simple human values and a touch of humility to our daily grind eventually struggle. Keep following and eventually I might even have something to say about outcomes here in Guatemala.

Sign up and support what we do if you too love the idea of solving this puzzle called life. #stopaidstartpeople