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Balancing Idealism with Reality

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Covey Youth Conferences for Leadership & Empowerment
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Have you ever been in a situation where you were part of something you didn't believe was right?  Did you ever witness actions that went against your principles and ideals?
Last Thursday, I had a moral dilemma when I watched a group of men carry a small kitten and place it inside a cage with two full-grown pythons.  They called their friends over, and soon a group of 10 locals (I was in a provincial town) were swarming around the cage to watch the feeding. 
They poked sticks at the snakes to force them towards the kitten, which was visibly frightened.  But the snakes had no interest in the kitten.   In fact, it was the men's thirst for violence which exceeded the snakes' hunger
They turned their attention to battering the kitten which had climbed the side of the cage in fear. They started pushing the stick violently into the kitten's body to force it to fall down on the snakes!  While the kitten hung unto the cage crying for help and begging to be released, the men started poking her as if telling her to give up trying to survive.  It was a cruel display, and I felt strongly about telling these men that what they were doing was wrong! 

After a couple of minutes, I summoned up my courage and made the decision to do something.  I walked towards the back of the cage and decided that I was going to open the door myself.  But I realized that I was being self-righteous.  And doing that would be a one-time act.  It wouldn't change these men's paradigms or future actions.  So I thought of giving them a stern lecture about animal rights.  But I realized that I also had to respect them and seek first to understand where they were coming from. 
I approached the leader and asked if we could let the kitten out since the snakes weren't interested anyway.  He just waived me off.   I repeated my question, and also told him that he seemed more interested than the snakes in seeing the kitten be eaten. 
He paused, looked at me, and said "Oo nga".   Then he dropped the stick and apologized...
He and his friends then explained the situation to me:  The park's budget had been cut, so they had no money to buy food for the animals, especially the snakes.  They also had a problem of too many stray cats that were eating the food in the kitchens.  So they thought of catching the stray cats and feeding them to the snakes.  Leaving the cats alone would eventually cause an imbalance in the park's ecosystem.  That was a paradigm shift for me.
When we see people do things that go against principles, how can we act on our ideals while also respecting the realities of other people? 
We talked about alternatives and I was honest about how I felt animals should be treated.  He admitted that what they were doing was wrong, especially since they were in an eco-park.  We listened respectfully to each other and at the end of the discussion, I felt that we understood each other's values and realities.   

I agreed to leave the kitten in the cage; and they agreed to leave her alone and let nature decide how and when it will happen.
I gained a valuable insight that afternoon - about understanding difficult realities and accepting solutions that balance idealism with reality; and about being patient with creating change. 
We hope that you constantly encounter people who can help you create the change you want to see in this world.
All the best,
the CYCLE Team
 46th Luke 18 Weekend 
September 26 - 28, Friday to Sunday
7 Habits for Teens Workshop October 4 & 5
Quotes for the week:  
"When we really understand each other, we open the door to creative solutions.  Our differences are no longer stumbling blocks.  Instead they become the stepping stones to synergy."
- Stephen Covey
"Reality can destroy the dream.  Why shouldn't the dream destroy reality?" 
 - George Moore 

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