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The Sam Daley-Harris Interview (Page 2 of 2)

Gary Barg: Caregiving affects everybody it touches. There is nobody unaffected by it. When I talk with some of the most impressive professional caregivers that I meet, I often learn they started their careers due to their own caregiving.  Their caregiving opened something up in them where they said I cannot sit in the audience anymore. I have to take this and do something with it.

Sam Harris: Yes. In some sense, just that kind of seasoning of life. I am fortunate to have Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank who won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, write the forward to this new edition of the book. He has been a friend for 25 years.

Gary Barg: I was just going to ask you about him. His story is enlightening to family caregivers as well. Can you encapsulate his story and how you got involved with him, a Nobel Laureate? 
Sam Harris: He came to the United States to get a PhD in economics at Vanderbilt University. His country at the time was East Pakistan.  He is teaching at Middle Tennessee State. His country gains its independence. He goes home. He does lobbying in the Capitol on behalf of this newly independent Bangladesh. He goes home to Bangladesh. He teaches at a university. There is a famine in the country.

He says the economic theories in his textbook are very elegant economics, but they are not working in the village next to his campus. He went to that village to see if he could be of use to one person for one day. Now, there is a spiritual crisis—an existential moment if there ever was. He met a woman, Sophia, who was making bamboo stools. He asked her, “How much profit can you make every day?”

She said, “I make two pennies a day profit.” He said, “It is a beautiful stool; why do you only make two pennies a day profit?”  She said, “I do not have the money to buy the bamboo. I borrow the money from a money lender on the condition that I sell the finished product back to him at a price he sets. The price he sets barely covers the cost of the bamboo.” He said, “If you could sell it to anyone, could you make more than that?”  She said, “I could, but I do not have the money to buy the bamboo. I have to keep borrowing it from the money lender.”

He had a student go around the village to find out who else borrows from this money lender.  The student found 42 people who needed a grand total of twenty-seven dollars to pay off the money lender, buy their raw materials, make their products and sell it to the highest bidder at less than a dollar each. It was their three weeks’ worth of working capital. He lent 42 people a grand total of twenty-seven dollars from his pocket.

This woman went from two pennies a day profit to a dollar and twenty-five a day immediately. Now she could sell her stools to the highest bidder. These 42 borrowers were the first borrowers of what became Grameen Bank or Village Bank. Today, there are more than eight million borrowers and 97 percent of them are women with about five in a family. That is more than eight million – sorry, more than 40 million family members. It is a dynamite and dazzling story.
Gary Barg: What would be the one most important piece of advice you would like to leave with family caregivers?

Sam Harris: Think of a moment in your life that you have felt the kind of power you did not or had not felt before. Or an ability you had not felt before. Know that you have that same potential in this moment. Part of that potential comes from support—group support and not doing it alone. Reaching out and, as you say, becoming the CEO of the care of this loved one. It would be remembering another time when you felt empowered, and in control, and in charge. Know that it is completely possible in every moment including this one.


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