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Don\'t let the Why Not's Win!

In John 4:7-9, during the noonday heat, Jesus asks the woman at the well to meet his need and give him a drink. While it would have been easy to provide some water for Jesus, the lady's response is marked with two reasons why she can't help in this simple task, both based on petty prejudice. Firstly, she says that she can't because she is a Samaritan and he is a Jew (and the rivalry between them was intense), and secondly, because of gender differences.

Unfortunately, she focuses on the "why nots" rather than meeting practical needs.
Have you ever done that? When asked to help and fulfill a need, you choose to throw out all the reasons you can't. Unfortunately, this is the default position for many.

In 1990, Jerry Sternin worked for "Save the Children," an aid organization that works tirelessly to help needy children. He had been asked to open a new office in Vietnam, and while the government had invited Save the Children into the country to fight malnutrition, they needed to be more welcoming of him. The foreign minister let him know that not everyone in the government appreciated his presence and told him that he had six months to make a difference or would be asked to leave.

Sternin arrived in Vietnam with his wife and 10-year-old son, minimal staff, and meager resources. Conventional wisdom was that malnutrition resulted from intertwined problems: Sanitation, poverty, ignorance, and the unavailability of clean water being the main culprits – and these were ills that couldn't be tackled within six months. These 'big issues,' his lack of resources, and his frosty welcome were all legitimate reasons for him to say, 'why not'? Malnutrition couldn't be fought.

Like the woman at the well, Sternin was faced with all kinds of facts about why a need couldn't have been met. But rather than throw his hands up and miss out on something that would make a real difference, he decided to do something.

Sternin came up with another idea. He traveled to rural villages and met with groups of mothers. Each child in the village was measured, and then the results were pored over, asking the question, "are there any very, very poor kids who are bigger and healthier than the typical child?" The answer was 'yes,' and they went to see what the parents of these kids were doing. If some kids were healthy, despite their disadvantages, there was hope! They found that parents of the healthier children were doing several small things differently than parents of unhealthy kids – they were feeding them four meals a day instead of two (using the same amount of food), the eating style was different (e.g., Kids were hand fed,) and – most importantly – they eat different kinds of food. Tiny shrimps and crabs from rice paddies were mixed in with the kids' rice. Sternin decided to replicate these minimal changes across the country. These dietary improvisations, considered strange and low class, were doing something extraordinary: adding sorely needed protein and vitamins to the children's diet.

Six months later, 65% of the kids in Vietnamese villages were better nourished and stayed that way! The program went on to reach 2.2 million Vietnamese people in 265 villages!

Why? Because Sternin, unlike the lady at the well, didn't believe that the reasons why something couldn't be done needed to define reality. He didn't stop at the 'why not's but found a way to meet a tough yet genuine need.

Don't let the "why not's" win.

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