Through my years of charitable work in India, I have found that when visitors try to address a need in the East using a theorem or strategy from the West, they reap some results but not without a lot of wasted time, resources, and a fair amount of misunderstanding. It is like putting a round pizza in a square box. The pizza does not perfectly fit the package in which we place it, leaving a lot of empty, mismanaged, and unappreciated space.

For those of us who have taken business classes where most challenges are easily solved through box-like business plans, we soon discover on the field that our training does not provide all the answers after all. Around the world, there are a lot of “round pizzas” that simply cannot be labeled, catalogued, stored away neatly, or turned into easy-to-understand dashboards. What they require instead are a policy of patience, a program of flexibility, and most of all, a sweet, learning spirit.

This alternative approach becomes especially important when seeking to do something good for another country in need. A greater difference is made when we hold loosely to our Western notions and become sensitive to the cultures that likely function differently from our own.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was an English writer well known for driving home his points by turning them inside out. When Times newspaper posed the essay question, “What’s wrong with the world?” G.K. Chesterton wrote this brief letter in response:

“Dear  Sirs:

I am.

Sincerely Yours,

K. Chesterton.”

I am. The source of our problems is now better understood. Round Pizza in a Square Box gives an account of my life’s personal journey, mistakes, and lessons learned so as to provide another perspective to a much larger discussion. May we emerge from its pages more knowledgeable, responsive, and ultimately more helpful to the foreign contexts we wish to serve.

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