Things get better when someone demands they do, and follows up that demand by action.
That’s not the right word.
Too cold, too empty. Wrong.
Lives and hearts and minds.
That’s what gets better.
When hearts and mind get better, lives get better, then things get better.
But only with sleeves rolled up, tools in hands, minds engaged.
Rising then to dream.
But dreams are just air unless there is some foundation.
Yet there is no foundation without dreams.
Because ya have to start somewhere.
That’s what Maggie Doyne did.
Found a place that challenged her pleasant American girl dream.
Smacked it with all the force of righteous wrong, knocked it silly.
Showed her a place so antithetical to her Jersey suburban upbringing that the choice for her was simple: Stay.
Jumping off a cliff with nothing but a prayer simple.
Here was this place, Surkhet, Nepal, seemingly forsaken, poverty stricken, wracked by war, chained by traditions and practices as old as the people who first settled there.
Here was the dirty face of a tiny girl who stopped breaking rocks because that was her job, to smile and say “Namaste” to this young American who watched her work.
This young American whose mind was reeling, whose heart was breaking, and whose determination to stay and help swelled each time she saw some new aspect of life in that dusty settlement.
I had the privilege of interviewing Maggie twice 15 years ago for two pieces
I wrote for the Morris County Daily Record in the days when her dream for her foundation BlinkNow .. https://blinknow.org/ was taking shape.
A remark she made then stuck. It was about how she had to reconcile that she was the only white American woman in Surkhet.
She is on a book tour, talking about her story, “Between the Mountain and the Sky.”
When she was speaking recently at her West Morris-Mendham High School, her alma mater, an answer to that old question became evident.
How did Maggie deal with being an American woman in a decidedly non-American place?
In a way by being less American. By shaving down the great American need to fix everything all at once, by morphing that aggression into listening and learning.
Not everything moves at the pace of a New York minute.
But it moves.
If Maggie Doyne teaches us anything it’s that dreams don’t die, only the effort to shape them falters. Her next best lesson is this: Keep moving forward.
Her best lesson: Remember to love one another.
In fifteen years since she first entered Nepal, she attracted a talented team of advisors, teachers and supporters to become mother to more than 50 Nepalese kids, to build a home for them and a school for more than 500 students, some of whom are graduating from college now; to develop a woman’s center that offers job training and support for the women of Kopila Valley; to fight off the worry and depression of potential failure (because it feels so personal, because it is: She had promised all of herself to make this real); to swell with pride as her kids succeed; and to feel the weight of loss when a child fails at school, grows sick, when they die.
The BlinkNow world was shattered when in 2015, it was announced the Ravi, a three-year-old who had exemplified everything Maggie was – mother, teacher, healer – died. It seemed like there would never be enough love to salve her grief.
I remember getting the email that announced his death. I stared at the ceiling for hours before writing a piece at 3 a.m. New Years Day, 2016. https://michaelstephendaigle.com/2015/12/31/ravi/
People still read that piece today.
It has nothing to do with me but everything with how Maggie Doyne and her mission connected with people around the world.
I posed a question in that piece: What will the world be like when the Koplia Valley kids are unleashed.
We’re about to find out.
Read her book.
She’ll show you how she did the improbable: Turned heartbreak and deprivation into light.
Her kids are spreading that light.