Squandered Resources

I’d been assigned to visit educational institutions receiving grants for development purposes, and report to donors all was well with their funded projects, before a continuation of grants could be approved. I was familiar with my next location.

My first visit had been on similar assignments ten years previous. In earlier days primary mode of travel through the country was by river ferry or deshi boat. Now roads had been extended throughout the country, and bridges built. This trip was to prove to be a more comfortable experience than my first.

Most of the country is situated in a delta region, and as such there’s no stone to use in road building. Any rare stone has to be brought from hills to the north so roads are constructed from bricks made in thousands of brick kilns scattered around the country.

My appointment was to a school approximately thirty kilometers from the capital. As we made the journey I remembered ten years previous in unsettled post war times when dacoits had attempted to block our progress on the road. How fortunate we were to have a driver who skillfully negotiated through the mob at that time. He saved our belongings, and possibly our lives for in those days of desperation murders were common.

Soon we were on school grounds and probing the use of grants already received.

“And here is the threshing floor!”

It certainly was. Spread from one end to another was the new rice crop lightly boiled to assist in the husking process; heaps upon heaps being spread to bask in the sun before the winnowing process began.

I’d already been on an inspection of school plant and examined accounting records carefully noting this had been a better year. A farm inspection was a sort of tradition in this school whenever a visitor happened that way. Looking over the farm was the final traditional activity of an inspection visit.

One thing bothered me about this threshing floor. I’d spent many years in Asia and understood the farming process from beginning to end. There was an incredible amount of hard detailed work to prepare paddy fields, followed by a harvest with a small army of people involved. Separation of grain from the husks made the whole process meaningful. Most paddy fields in Asia are a family concern, and at every stage of development family plots are carefully tended and protected.

But this floor was covered with feasting birds. They were eating the grain rapidly, and there were sufficient of them to make a startling impact on the crop. I glanced around in alarm. Students were watching the birds feast, farm workers were watching them in silent contemplation, and no one seemed to care. I turned to my guide and voiced concern.

“They don’t eat much,” he said and turned back toward the car for the next installment of the inspection, a meeting with administration.

I thought of the school’s pleas for grant money and made a mental note of the unnecessarily depleting harvest. It seems to make a difference when something belongs to an organization rather than a family. I’d have to include my observations in the report.

But it set me to thinking. While it was easy for me to judge the casual attitude administration was taking toward grants made to improve their harvest yield, and it was my duty to share this with donor organizations, there was something for me to learn in making that report.

What about the resources I was entrusted with personally? I was certainly not rich but had adequate for my needs. How was I using these resources? Were they being invested wisely for my children’s future; or for that matter for retirement so I wouldn’t be a burden on society myself?

And what about those resources not set aside for necessary long range personal needs? Was I standing by casually and watching birds of selfishness and waste take them away? What provision was I making to help those less fortunate? Sobering thought!

I guess I learned something from that visit to the school, which hopefully has made me a more responsible person in my obligations to society.

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2011 All rights reserved”

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