‘Balance’ and urgency

In a couple of places in Creating Room to Read, the founder/author emphasizes the need for urgent action.

“Every day we lose is a day we can’t get back” (p. 7).

It’s a feeling I share, a compulsion, really, that has prompted more than one person to tell me that I have a ‘savior complex’.

And it can be a very good thing, this urgency, if it pushes us to evaluate every organizational decision in light of the questions:

How can we reach more people, in more places, with more needs, more quickly? (p. 201)

How can we fill the vacuum around this issue before someone else–with a different agenda and different impacts on those we serve–does?

How can we do what needs to be done, as cheaply and quickly and well as is humanly possible, since the world really needed it metaphorically ‘yesterday’?

This almost-manic urgency applies, of course, to so many of the social problems on which we are working, not just to global literacy. Really, I would argue that everything worth fixing in today’s broken world is worth fixing now, and there’s always more work to be done than we can possibly clear off our desks before the end of the day.


How can we justify taking a break, even when we need one, when the need is already outpacing our abilities?

How can we care for ourselves, without using ‘self-care’ as an excuse to retreat from the desperately urgent work that needs us?

How can we prevent falling for the savior thing, when the truth is that the people we serve and assist aren’t waiting for us to swoop in and rescue anyone.

How can we approach that elusive ‘balance’ that seems to be so important for preventing burnout and sustaining our commitment–and our effectiveness–when every day that we take off is a day that we’re not getting closer to the world as it should be?

How do you answer these questions, in your own field, and in your own practice? How do you calibrate the pace of your life, given the urgency with which problems press? How do you surround yourself with a team, to prevent the temptation of thinking that we are one-person shows? How do you harness the passion and energy that comes with urgency, without slipping into the ‘busier-than-thou’ martyrdom that turns people off? How do you reflect strengths and possibility while convincing people that they need to be part of our cause–today?


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