Passionate Debates

I joined La Ceiba during a mistake.  We were trying to accommodate more students, so there were two sections of the class.  I was in the smaller of these, with hardly any La Ceiba veterans, and for most of my first semester felt incredibly out of my league and isolated from the group.  During our few meetings of the whole group, I was overwhelmed—it’s rare that I’m unable to get a word in edgewise, but this group had such intense discussions that I felt like I was doing well to be keeping up, and completely unable to actually contribute.  But we needed to include the entire group in these discussions, the kind that are so fundamental to La Ceiba where we question our values and our methods and whether we know anything at all, where we argue what might seem like tiny points (is saying “mothers and fathers” in our mission statement too heteronormative?) until we become emotionally and physically exhausted, the kind of discussions that have made me who I am and that to me embody more than anything else the internal spirit of La Ceiba.

So we tried to have a blog.  Supposedly everyone was supposed to do weekly readings and discuss them, but the veterans usually had too many practical things to do (that whole running a MFI thing) to be bothered (at the time I found it frustrating, but three years in, I more than understand). But I did blog, and found trying to articulate my thoughts and my vulnerabilities difficult and frustrating and more rewarding than I possibly imagined.  And not only did I blog my own responses to the readings, but I… debated, shall we say, with another young new member.  We were about as opposed as you possibly could be, on basically every issue.  We pulled each others’ arguments to shreds, I wanting to pull my hair out with frustration at his accountant’s cold heart, him I’m sure harboring similar feelings towards me for my idealism.  Without having met in person, we had some of the most intense and intellectually engaging arguments I’ve ever had, mostly because we both cared so much.  The debates continued when we both took Dr. H’s microfinance class—we didn’t agree much more on the theory than we did on practice, so that 8 am class turned into a caffeine-fueled sparring match between us with the rest of the class as bemused, if sleepy, onlookers.  Later that spring, we both sheepishly admitted how much we enjoyed our disputes—but I think from the beginning we were destined to both come out better from the encounter.  We both, from our disparate perspectives, had the interests of La Ceiba and our clients at heart.  So no matter how viciously we argued, it was always ultimately a productive discussion.

I’ve come out of other La Ceiba meetings having cried in public, having gotten so angry I couldn’t speak, having been so drained by the sheer intensity of trying to figure out what to do in the context of something you care so much about, with others who care as much or more than you do.  But no matter how exhausted I am at the time, those discussions, debates, fights, and conversations are the crucibles of La Ceiba, and they’re the memories that I feel in my gut.  They’re about being torn completely apart and realizing how ferociously you care—so much so that you’re willing to shout about a comma, cry about how helpless we are to solve the issues we know need solving, talk yourself silly in your imaginary arguments with Ivan Illich, and then go home and continue working, because you have to, for your own sake and that of the clients.

Submitted by Laura Dick

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