June 18, 2014, Washington, DC: I remember receiving Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” as a graduation gift long ago. I loved every word at age 18 as much as I did at 5, and I appreciate his book even more today. But this weekend, I was also compelled by the words of another doctor, likewise offering advice to graduates about the power of place.
This gem from doctor and writer Atul Gawande, appearing at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, was included in a compilation of excerpts from 2014 commencement speakers in Sunday’s New York Times:
“One thing I came to realize after college was that the search for purpose is really a search for place, not an idea. It is a search for a location in the world where you want to be part of making things better for others in your own small way. It could be a classroom where you teach, a business where you work, a neighborhood where you live. The key is, if you find yourself in a place where you stop caring — where your greatest concern becomes only you — get out of there.”
Isn’t that terrific? I thought those words deserved some space here on Neighborhood Nomads, both as a reflection on the places we’ve been and on those still ahead that we’ve yet to explore.
December 17, 2011, Washington, DC: One year ago today, a young Tunisian man set himself on fire after police seized his vegetable cart, his sole source of income. His fellow Tunisians began the year 2011 incensed over the event and all it reflected about the country’s rampant unemployment. In January, they gathered on Twitter and Facebook, but they also gathered in real live person. They weren’t alone. The reaction was contagious. People emerged from the isolation of their homes and gathered in other places too, demanding jobs, demanding lower food prices, demanding regime change. They gathered in places like Algiers, Algeria and Cairo’s Tahrir Square. By month’s end, Tunisia’s leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali had left the country. In February, images of celebration burst from Tahrir Square as Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office. In places like Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain, like Sanaa, Yemen, like Benghazi, Libya and Daraa, Syria, the drumbeat continued into the spring.