Risks and Dollar Bills

“Why not go into the profit world?” said Merle Hoffman as I sat in her conference room alongside the other Moxie girls. Why didn’t this ever cross my mind? This entire time I dreamed of becoming a doctor and doing nonprofit work overseas in an impoverished country. I also dreamed about starting my own non profit (which I do not know what I would focus on or what my mission would be), and I envisioned someday designing a method to give my hands as support to others who need it. But to make a profit, now, was something that never even crossed my head!

My family always instilled in me the importance of helping others who are in need. I was raised to help, to aide, to support others in need and to expect NOTHING in return—not even a thank you. As Ms. Hoffman described her initiative to make a profit through helping others, I began to feel this antsy, thrilling, inspired little voice inside of me…maybe I could help others, and just maybe I would receive a profit from using my own ideas and my own hands to create a difference in this world. helping
Despite feeling motivated to make a profit by my giving to society, I feel a bit in disbelief. I grew up volunteering at local hospitals, hospices, and elementary schools. Why did I spend my entire childhood doing this? Is it because I wanted an early opportunity to experience working with people and children? Or is it because I liked speaking to others and hearing about their struggles and achievements?

Actually, it’s a little of both. Through the hundreds of hours that I spent each year not receiving any monetary value for my work, I always felt extremely proud of the time I spent giving my care and affection to my students and patients. Never did the need for money cross my mind. Now, however, that I look back at my childhood I am skeptical about the volunteering I did. Should I have asked for a wage? Should I have done less quality work because I was not receiving any monetary value?

Even though Ms. Hoffman’s voice continues to echo in my head, I the voluntary experiences I have had through my childhood and teenage years are essential to my ability to work with others now. The numerous encounters I had with people as a volunteer will continue to help me as I work with others in the public sphere. My basketball coach always said “Practice give you perfect,” right? Maybe through the years I spent practicing, I gained the poise and confidence I have now as I work with my colleagues at Legal Momentum and as I speak to my Moxie girls.

Not only was the conversation with Ms. Hoffman eye-opening, but the daily conversations with the Moxie girls have truly made me reflect on my goals and aspirations. But hey, that’s what a summer program like this one is supposed to do!

Although I continue to have my dream about becoming a doctor, there are many other things I want to experience before I settle down and become a physician. The only reason why I have been so hard on myself about following this path and not letting anything get in between is because I am too scared to take risks. I fear the unknown and I fear losing grasp of where I am now. However, both the Moxie gals and Ms. Hoffman have been depositing the idea of taking risks—taking risks to achieve what makes me happy. In the end, these risks could lead me to ultimate bliss. Coming to Duke was a huge risk that I had to prepare for mentally and physically, of course.
And I comforted myself and convinced myself that this was it. After four years, I was going back to good ole’ California. Now, however, I ask myself, “What were you thinking!!?” There is so much more work that needs to be done and so many more sites to see before you settle down and work in a hospital. There are so many social injustices still prevalent all over the country that I need to help address by taking risks. Moxie has given me insight into the various aspects of life that I had never ever touched or even though about. Now, I feel empowered to take risks, to fight for justice with my own education and sovereignty.

1 thought on “Risks and Dollar Bills

  1. Hi Lorena

    Merle’s observations about the ability to make a difference with a clear business model show up in my work in international development. It seems that so much of what we do under the name of “aid” just builds dependence, and often strips AWAY independence. That is not to say doing things for free, volunteering, giving — are not important. But finding ways to work WITH people in a way that supports INTERDEPENDENCE is also a viable model. I too, come from a family that valued “helping.” Sometimes i failed to notice the only one I was actually helping was me. 😉 It will be interesting to see what other models you see in your time in NYC. I keep finding new ones… and at 55, that sense of “what I’m going to grow up and be” has become “what a I becoming today…” 😉

    Waving from S. of France where I’ll be facilitating a meeting on e-procurement in the MENA (middle East, N. Africa) region for the World Bank. And guess what? Viable business models are on the agenda, not just “let us buy/build you a procurement system for your government!

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