When I was in college my university offered a few courses loosely categorized under the heading, “Big Problems.” At the time, I just thought it sounded funny. In retrospect, I wish I had enrolled. At least I have the pride of knowing that my school wanted someone to think critically about these things.
Everyone knows the world has big problems. We are just really good at not thinking about them. The Baltimore riots of late shone light on some of these big problems in our own backyard, awakening us to the daily struggles many of our neighbors face, and, most of the time, face silently and hopelessly. I was reminded of another Big Problem just now as I looked in my inbox and saw this subject line:
BREAKING NEWS: Nepal Earthquake Leaves Thousands Vulnerable to Trafficking & Exploitation
The article from the International Justice Mission that followed asked for prayer and support in this time of crisis, not just for the normal post-disaster needs, but to help protect against violent offenders who might capitalize on the chaos and enslave people who had already lost what little they had.
It is easy to read this and feel completely helpless. I might even say it is entirely natural for the horror of this reality to paralyze us. But we mustn’t stay that way. We need to remember that there is yet hope.
This blog is about creativity, and I was reminded today as I read through the International Justice Mission’s email that our creativity is one of our greatest tools or, might I say, weapons in our struggle with the world’s big problems. How? Because creativity prompts us to ask critical questions. These questions help us identify the big problems and can point us to a solution. In this Ted talk given by Gary Haugen, president of IJM, Haugen identifies the elephant in the room: Why aren’t we making more of a dent in global poverty? We send so much aid, and yet poverty still prevails in so much of the world. Haugen shows through stories, statistics, and arguments that by asking questions he and his team identified that poverty is not the root problem but rather a symptom of violence. This violence is a product of the lack of law enforcement. Therefore, we should tackle the problem of poverty through creative and holistic approaches to building better systems of law enforcement in areas where they do not exist. This is what IJM does.
Watch this video and please share your thoughts. Ask yourselves two things: Am I asking the critical questions that unveil the core problems? How can I employ my compassion, creativity, and talents to address that problem?