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Taking comfort from platitudes

Sunday, October 22, 2006 by Marianne Elliott

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I loved this – at Chagcharan airport in Ghor the welcome sign is positioned directly in front of the corpse of a crashed plane, which remains alongside the runway to remind you of your possible fate. It's an encouraging sight.

This week, returning from a fantastic holiday in beautiful Oregon, I've struggled to to get back into the groove at work. What I'm quickly learning is that my preference for structure (both insitutionally and in terms of work planning and implementation) will be challenged in this role.

I'm moving from a series of roles in which my focus was on planned, proative and strategic work to a role in which my focus will often be on responsive work. It's an uncomfortable transition, but I trust that I'll adjust – and hopefully find a way to balance my natural inclination to plan with an ability to be responsive.

But if I ever need encouragement to persist, and to believe in the possibility of small and seemingly feeble contributions making a difference, I only need to drive past this statue in Herat. It shows ordinary Afghans, armed with pitchforks and sticks, overcoming a Russian tank. Fantastic…

When I worked with the Race Relations Commissioner he used to encourage me to persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges with a proverb about eating an elephant one spoonful at a time. The Chief Human Rights Commissioner gave me the story of a champion boxer who, when asked what the secret of success was, replied that the winner is the guy who is willing to fight another round. Now I'll add to those two this image of resisting a Soviet occupation by combining the impact of many small pitchforks.

And if that doesn't suffice, I have my new DVD of Ashtanga Vinyasa to calm the mind and balance the body. I also have a big box of chocolate that I bought in Dubai to give to my colleagues after Eid but which, at this rate, is likely to be gone before then.

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