In praise of those who make nothing happen

He who cures, wins acclaim, while he who prevents, passes unnoticed

We live in a era of hype where people blow their own trumpets all over the social media to make sure everyone knows about every little thing they do. So it’s refreshing change to know there are people quietly doing miracles that no one is talking about.

Take Bill Gates. He seems to have spent the last few years of his life fighting the menace of mosquito borne diseases in Africa. Through his Foundation, he has toiled ceaselessly to to reach its goals in mosquito net usage, used his influence to get other billionaires to give their billions to their cause, and much more. The only reward he will get is knowing that somewhere a mother will not lose her child to a mosquito borne killer disease.

The thing is Bill Gates has nothing tangible to show for his efforts. If his team had made a medical breakthrough against malaria, or he had returned to Microsoft and launched a revolutionary OS, or started a new company that came out with an innovative electric car, then everyone would be talking about Bill Gates again.

But all Bill Gates did in Africa, was make sure nothing happened.

To me, people like Bill Gates are the real heroes of our time. They are visionaries who see catastrophes looming up in our future, and have the supreme belief in their ability to change that future. All the while, the world goes on blissfully unaware of the disaster that never happened because of the vision of a few.

Unfortunately, people who make nothing happen are rarely recognised or rewarded for their outstanding efforts.

Why do we give so much appreciation for those who cure a problem, and place so little value on those who do the far harder task of foreseeing that very same problem and doing whatever is necessary to prevent it from happening?

I think it’s a collective failure of imagination of our species, a surprising inability to see the consequences of not doing something. People who make nothing happen and get neither reward nor recognition are not an unusual phenomena. If you observe carefully, you can see it happening all around you in everyday life, at a micro level.

Like the old lady walking down the road who painfully bends down to pick up a banana peel lying on the ground so nothing happens to the next person who steps on where the banana peel used to be.

The neighbour who overcomes his fear to kill a deadly viper so nothing happens to the little child who lives next door.

The busy working woman who cooks wholesome food for her family before leaving for office everyday, so nothing happens to her family’s good health.

The lawyer who convinces her client to put divorce talks on hold and go in for counselling with her husband to sort out a petty misunderstanding so nothing happens to the happy family life of their precocious child.

The doctor who notices his friend’s weird cough and persuades him to go see a specialist so nothing happens in case he has a tumour.

The individual in your team at the office who makes sure your client stays happy so nothing happens because of an upset client.

These are the unsung heroes of our times.

That is why I love those youtube hero dad videos that make ‘sung’ heroes of these wonderful dads.

So can we change this attitude? Yes, I think we can if we start small, by training our minds to observe such acts of prevention in our everyday lives, and giving the doer recognition and acclaim by drawing attention to the act, by acknowledging it, speaking about it, writing about it, singing about it…

The other day, I noticed my elderly mother bend over painfully and wipe the wet floor outside the bathroom door dry so her grandchild wouldn’t slip and fall. Like any other mother, all her life she’s been making sure nothing happens to us, and it’s never even been so much as acknowledged.

And that explains this post about the ones who make nothing happen.

it’s an odd world

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