In July of last year I attended the JCI Global Partnership Summit in New York. It was a last minute decision to go, and it only worked out because of a very nice colleague, my wonderful mother in law and a very persuasive new friend.
It was on that trip, that I caught the bug a.k.a. “The Active Citizen”. At the time I was attempting to inspire and coordinate efforts to collect money for the Nothing But Nets campaign in my capacity as Nothing But Nets Director 2012 for JCI Denmark – “Another bug?”, you might think, but then again there is never just one bug, is there? Once you solve one bug problem, another one will rise…
This blog post, however, is not about the bug itself but about how it took the help and persuasion of several good people in my life to get me to New York.
The kind colleague
I had not planned to take time off that week. Fortunately a good colleague of mine was easily persuaded to change his own plans and we switched weeks accordingly. He had made plans with his daughter, and as a mother I understand the importance of not breaking an agreement with ones children. However, she was as flexible and understanding as her father and agreed to move their travelling plans a week back.
It still makes me smile to think about how he selflessly changed his schedule to make my dream come true. It was not the first, nor the last time, that he was there for me – even when we stopped working together.
The much cherished mother-in-law
My husband had been out of town, walking the Nijmegen March with a team of guys from the Danish Civil Protection League the week before I took off to New York. It is a passion of his and had been planned long ago. Originally I had taken the week off to take care of our son who was not yet in kindergarden. However, since I had switched weeks with my colleague, I no longer had time off that week and needed a babysitter.
My mother-in-law is a school head mistress and since it was in July, she had time off from work. She was happy to be asked to spend so much time with her grandson. So, every morning at 8 o’clock, she showed up at my doorstep, picked up an overjoyed baby boy from my arms, and told me to go do my own thing (i.e. “the little duckling and I have things to do and we can do it by ourselves!”).
While some mothers might be annoyed with this, it suited me very well. I could leave my son to my mother-in-law every morning, knowing that he would have a great time. They went to the park, they played, they went to museums. She had a plan every day, and some days I even got to meet them somewhere after work and join the fun. I felt so privileged to have her help me out and found a new respect for the parents – fathers and mothers – who are forced to make ends meet all by themselves.
Her impact did not stop here. When my husband returned from Nijmegen, fatigued and a little dazed on a Saturday afternoon (he did not even notice that I had painted several rooms in our apartment!), he was in no shape to take care of the housekeeping AND our son at the same time. He is usually a domestic god, but the march had taken its toll and he needed some serious down time. My sweet parents-in-law invited him to stay with them for the week until they all traveled to meet me in Marseilles the following Saturday.
The persuasive friend
I had made the case in June that three or four of the Team 2012 should go to New York for the JCI Global Partnership Summit. It had been a dream of mine for years, and now I felt that I finally had a legitimate reason to go, being the Nothing But Nets Director. Chris Helfrich from the Nothing But Nets organisation would be there as well as many other people who are really making a difference in the World.
Shortly after making my case, though, I had given up on the whole thing after convincing myself that leaving the little duckling behind for the main part of a week would be impossible. Fortunately for me, a good friend, Charlotte, took the time to call me up and persuade me to go. I never stood a chance – 3-4 months later, she convinced the JCI Denmark General Assembly, that she was the ideal candidate for national presidency i 2013!
So very early on a Monday morning, I kissed my sleeping baby boy goodbye and left for the airport. I met up with Charlotte at the airport and embarked on the long trip to New York via Lisbon. Charlotte is famously aerophobic but spent a good deal of our time on the airplanes talking to me about her plans for 2013. She wanted me to take responsibility for our organisation’s work on Active Citizenship as director in 2013. It was impossible to resist, and our experiences at the JCI Global Partnership Summit sealed the deal. I had the bug and was eager to start presenting it to the rest of our JCI friends in Denmark.
The lesson learned
I enjoyed being on top of things those two weeks. Everything was meticulously planned out – even our bags for our family vacation in France the following three weeks were packed. It all worked out perfectly, although there was a short pang of panic after travelling from New York, to Lisbon, to Madrid and finally landing in Marseilles in an airport I did not recognize. It took me about ten minutes to realize, that it was simply a building next to the regular airport and that my family was landing on a plane five minutes away by foot.
I missed my son and husband immensely. However, knowing that they were taken such good care of helped a lot. I would not have been able to get anyway without the kind understanding of my colleague. I would not have considered going, if my friend had not taken the time to call me up and talk the scenario through. Sometimes it really takes a village to raise an active citizen!
I would probably be an active citizen anyway, but not as conscious an active citizen. The Summit helped answer a lot of questions and prepared me for the work I am doing in JCI Denmark this year.
If I go again, I am bringing my family, though…