A few days ago, I was heading home at the end of (yet another) productive but exhausting day. In front of me was a truckload of construction workers, all headed home too, albeit in slightly less comfortable accommodations than mine; they were standing, packed like sardines, in the back of the open truck, in the pouring rain (I was in my nice, warm, dry car). They, however, looked quite undisturbed by the rain or the cramped condition of their commute home (there were probably 50 or more guys standing in the back of that truck). It occurred to me that each man in that truck represented a family. Some were fathers, others were the sole breadwinners in their homes, others had multiple households to fend for (as is often the case in this part of the world).
I looked around and saw a sea of people, walking home in the rain, all representing families, all having various people depending on them for daily living. It struck me then that the men in that truck and the people trudging home all around me were not very different from me, hardworking, breadwinners, passionate about their work and trade and gainfully engaged in work to earn a living. Many of them, just like me, had mouths to feed, backs to clothe, school fees to pay, and young lives to impact. The realization hit me hard in that moment, what I was looking at was a forest. A forest of impact, raw, grassroots, but powerful impact, and each person in the crowd was a tree of impact in that forest. Each of the brave men and women I was looking at was making an impact in their own unique way on the world around them.
I have had the privilege of attending different forums and events centered around the Impact and Development space in Africa. I realised that around the tables we had some of the greatest and most progressive minds and ideas in development today. I also realised that I was looking at a different kind of forest, and that somewhere in that swirl, there is a real danger of loosing sight of the trees.
We often think of impact in very broad or lofty terms. Words like ‘social enterprise’, ‘impact investing’ and ‘transformation’ are used to describe what is essentially a process of improving the quality of life for those around us. Yet, this gradual, progressive improvement of life happens slowly and steadily all around us every day. Families are able to eat and live a bit better than yesterday, children are going to school and gathering life skills, young men are putting their hands to work to earn a productive living. Lives are getting better all around us. Impact is happening all around us. Every day. All because of that sea of hardworking Kenyans, drudging home in the rain, or standing drenched in the back of a tipper truck. Everyday Kenyans who have chosen the discomfort of the daily grind to put their families in a better place.
No matter how big the forest may be, we must never lose sight of the trees; the impact that happens around us every day.
Have an impactful time ahead.