A Boy’s Trauma, A Man’s Violence, and How Two Men Plan to Heal the World – Part 2

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Part 2

            In part 1 I described the wounding Scott Harrison and I experienced and how it led to increased disconnection, anger, and violence. Here, I’ll explore more deeply the connection between trauma in our families of origin and later violence in our lives.

            Violence directed at ourselves and others is common in men who have experienced trauma growing up. The adrenaline rush, and the hunger to fill a void we don’t even know is there, can become a potent and addictive drug. It can lead to death and destruction, or for those who have support to heal and some good luck, it can guide us on a journey of transformation.

            Scott also became a success, but with a violent undercurrent. “I’d climbed the ranks of New York nightlife to become one of the top club promoters in the city,” Scott says. “Most nights you’d find me at the hottest party in town, sitting at the owner’s table with beautiful women, drinking expensive Champagne and looking like the guy who had it all.”

            “I was making about $200,000 a year but living like a millionaire, thanks to the perks. I looked like the guy who had it all, and for a while, I did. I was twenty-eight, and I’d had an amazing run. But the last eight years of partying had been like a constant injection of adrenaline to my overworked system. My body was dull. My conscience was cooked. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d prayed.”

            “For years, I’d been pursuing the wrong things—from the BMW I’d bought as a teenager to the designer clothes I now wore, to the drugs I took and the hip cities I bragged about visiting. But where had it left me? With a numb body, a drug habit, and fingernails bitten down to ugly nubs. I’d watched middle-aged men torch their marriages so they could date girls younger than their own daughters, only to see those relationships fall apart, too. And I’d enable and curated all of it in the name of fun and money. It took about ten years to pull it off, but somehow I’d managed to become the worst version of myself.”

            That was Scott’s turning point and the beginning of his journey to heal his own life through service to others. My own turning point came after I recovered from the surgery on my broken hand and realized I had nearly killed someone and I had badly injured myself. I thought of my two children and didn’t want to be an absent father or a violent one. I kept seeing my father’s dark, blank, curtain beginning to descent over me. What saved me was the commitment I’d made to my son when he was born.

            As I coached my wife through the birth of our first child, the doctor said it was time for my wife to go into the delivery room. “It’s time for you to go to the waiting room,” the doctor told me. I had become a dutiful man, doing what he was told. But as I began to walk through the waiting room doors, I was drawn back. I felt the calling of my unborn child saying, “I don’t want a waiting-room father. Come back for me.”

            I made an about-face and walked in the delivery room. There was no question of my leaving if asked. I took my place at the end of the table and shortly thereafter our son was born. He was handed to me and as the tears ran down my cheeks and looked down at him, I made a vow that I would be a different kind of father than my father was able to be for me and I would do everything I could to create a world where love and life replaced violence and death.

Scott Harrison Finds His Calling Bringing Clean Water to the World          

            Scott left his old life in pursuit of the opposite. He began applying to humanitarian organizations where he could help others, but all his applications were rejected. “No charity wants me,” he told his dad. “I guess promoting nightclubs isn’t high on the list of skills they’re looking for.”

            When an offer finally came it didn’t seem like a great deal for him. It was a job on Mercy Ships which sailed along the coast of Africa bringing the best volunteer doctors to perform surgeries on people who can’t afford or access medical care. He was offered a volunteer position as a photographer to document their work. He could volunteer if he were willing to pay them $500 a month for the privilege. He jumped at the offer.

            He spent a year seeing people who devoted their lives to helping others and people who needed help in the worst kind of way. He met Dr. Gary Parker, a well-respected surgeon who could have gotten fabulously rich reconstructing the faces of beautiful people in Beverly Hills, but signed on to Mercy Ships for a three month tour to fix the faces of poor people with disfiguring facial tumors. “That was thirty-years ago,” Scott recalled. “He just never left. He even met his wife, Susan, on board, and they raised two children on the ship.”

            “By June 2005, my tour with Mercy Ships was ending, but I wasn’t ready to leave,” Scott recalled. “My education felt incomplete and I didn’t want to say good-bye to my mentor, Dr. Gary.” As he spent time away from the ship in the countryside, he realized the biggest problem facing the people was not a lack of good doctors, but something even more important.

            His friend Lafe brought him to a village and then drove and walked some distance to a small pond filled with muddy green water. “It smelled of rot and was brimming with water bugs,” Scott recalls. “Across from us, at the edge of the pond, a group of women and girls was approaching the water. They carried yellow Jerry Cans, the kind of plastic containers that people back home use for gasoline. Except these women were filling their cans with pond water.”

            “This is it,” Lafe said.

            “This is…what?” I said.

            “That village we were just in. This is their water source.”

            “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said. “They drink this?”

            Mosquitos hovered over the surface of the water, and I was pretty sure I saw something big move below it.

            Lafe nodded. “Yep. It’s all they have.”

            From that moment Scott felt something come together for him. He knew what his life purpose was. “I want to bring clean water to everyone on Earth.”

            Says Scott, “785 million people lack basic access to clean and safe drinking water. We’re on a mission to end the water crisis and bring clean and safe drinking water to all people in developing countries of the world.” Why is this so important? “Dirty water,” says Scott “is responsible for more deaths in the world than all forms of violence.”

            Since 2006, the organization he founded, Charity: Water, has funded more than 64,000 water projects and helped more than 12.6 million people in 29 countries. I heard him share his journey and was inspired to join his efforts. If getting clean water to the world will prevent more deaths than all forms of violence, count me in.

            For more information drop me a note to Jed@MenAlive.com and put “End Violence, Bring Water” in the subject line.

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