Episode 11 - Moment of Obligation
Join Jerrid and Courtney for a walk down memory lane as they discuss their personal moments of obligation. In social entrepreneurship, the moment of obligation is when social entrepreneurs realize they have to make a change in their own lives or others for the greater good. However, as is evident in the episode, such realizations occur in many different fields and circumstances.
For Jerrid, his moment of obligation came in the form of one of his students. Several years ago, he chaperoned a class of college students on a service-learning trip to Immokalee, FL. Immokalee is a rural, farm community that primarily grows tomatoes. Many of its citizens are immigrants and are among the working poor. Jerrid and his students were there to volunteer at a homeless shelter.
Late in the day, Jerrid discovered that the parents of one of the students had been frantically trying to reach her. She had not returned their calls because she felt her parents would not approve of the trip. They were not the type of family that worked for free. In spite of her family’s values, this student went on to become a valuable leader in the service program—all without the knowledge of her parents.
This encounter left a profound impact on Jerrid—even if he did not know it at the time. This is the case with many moments of obligation. Seeds are planted along the way until the feeling or thought of change is crystallized. Therefore, many moments of obligation are years in the making. As Jerrid continued his work, it troubled him that the student thought her wishes to better society and her parents’ philosophy of work were so at odds. Through his work with social entrepreneurship, Jerrid realized that common ground was attainable. He has discovered a multitude of ways that people can have a profitable, beneficial life and still better society.
Courtney’s moment of obligation stemmed largely from her upbringing and a short stint as a middle school language arts teacher. While she lived comfortably as a teenager, there were some amenities her family could not afford. There were no computers and, by default, no Internet in her household. This lack of access to a powerful resource served as a building block for Courtney’s moment of obligation. Reflecting on her own background, she realized that everyone does not begin at the same starting line. Through her work at the library and as a champion of lifelong learning, she is able to direct people to resources that may give them a head start.
As was the case with Jerrid, one of Courtney’s students also left an indelible mark on her life’s work. As a middle school teacher, Courtney enjoyed taking the journey with her students as they met their academic goals. One memorable student was the class clown who was frequently absent and did poorly on assignments. Courtney and the student would talk after class about his goals and what he wanted from life. Sadly, the student eventually failed her class and had to repeat the grade. The following year, the student came back for a visit and thanked her. He told her he had been listening to their conversations and he was determined to make something of his life. Courtney often looks back at this moment as motivation to listen to people’s stories and to understand everyone has their own unique paths.