Al­most a Mar­riage

Activated - - NEWS - ANNA PERLINI IS A CO­FOUNDER OF PER UN MONDO MIGLIORE, 1 A HU­MAN­I­TAR­IAN OR­GA­NI­ZA­TION AC­TIVE IN THE BALKANS SINCE 1995. By Anna Perlini

For nearly 20 years, I’ve been with the same team run­ning an NGO in the former Yu­goslavia. “A mar­riage!” some peo­ple have com­mented. Yes, in a way it is. It has re­quired many of the at­tributes and choices that a mar­riage calls for.

When we first started, we were, well, much younger. The ex­cite­ment of the chal­lenge, the great need in front of us, and the nov­elty of the job were all pre­dom­i­nant fac­tors. Even though we had dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ties, dur­ing that early phase we were so busy that we didn’t have time to elab­o­rate on clashes or nurse our wounds.

Later on, though, we did ex­pe­ri­ence what most mar­riages and re­la­tion­ships do: fa­mil­iar­ity, dif­fi­culty in com­mu­ni­ca­tion, stress, and so on. More than once we were tempted to quit. So many times we plainly just couldn’t stand one an­other!

Ac­cept­ing and fac­ing our lim­i­ta­tions and dif­fer­ences is what even­tu­ally helped us con­tinue to fo­cus on our goals and not get dis­cour­aged and dis­tracted when we faced dif­fi­cult in­ter­ac­tions or took steps back­wards in our work.

Granted, it has taken a lot of for­giv­ing, pa­tience, and un­der­stand­ing. We also learned to ac­cept each other’s low times and pe­ri­ods of lesser out­put. Af­ter all, we are hu­man, and even though we ded­i­cate most of our time to a good cause and we try to be ide­al­is­tic and self­less, we cer­tainly will never at­tain per­fec­tion.

Our own per­cep­tion at times can also be skewed, and once I learned a great les­son on that. I was dis­cussing with a co­worker how one of our vol­un­teers seemed to lack mo­ti­va­tion of late and I won­dered if he would soon drop out. Later, my mind was still clouded by my neg­a­tiv­ity to­ward him when I checked my email and found the fol­low­ing mes­sage:

It was rain­ing out­side and my heart was also rain­ing tears of sad­ness and de­spair when one of your col­leagues walked into my of­fice. His smile and kind words were like a rain­bow in my soul. I felt like an an­gel had just walked in.

You guessed it. It was that same vol­un­teer.

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