Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fall for the Book: Conor Grennan


When Conor Grennan tells his audience that his actions were not heroic, that anyone could and would have done them, he honestly believes that.  His explanation makes sense.

All it takes are baby steps.

All he planned to do was volunteer at a Nepalese orphanage: baby step.  After that, it was only one step to helping these children find a safe home.

When a parent came to claim her sons, it was a step to help her become reacquainted with them and help her find the resources to feed and clothe them in the city.

That led to the question: were they all really orphans?  Next step: find out whose parents are alive.

When children became "lost," it was only a step to try to find them. 

Just baby steps.  Putting one foot in front of the other.  In fact, he noted, "This book has one message: there is nothing extraordinary about the person I was going into this."

It's a truth I hold very dear: you don't have to be a hero to do heroic things.  You just have to do them.

Of course, had Conor told me clouds were gummi bears, I'd have believed him.  His self-deprecating approach to everything, his willingness to show his failures and foibles, made him someone I could trust.

I met him first on the pages of his memoir, Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal.  He was funny, charming and utterly trustworthy.  Anyone who confesses to having been petrified of an orphanage full of children gets my vote. 

At the 2011 Fall for the Book Festival, he was exactly the same.  He pointed to the title of his book, the cover of which reached 12 feet high on the screen behind him on stage, and confessed, "I wouldn't read this book."

(I concur: I began reading it only because it was Fairfax County Public Library's 2011 selection for the community reading program, "All Fairfax Reads" — and the author was going to be at the book festival.  I am so glad I did.)

He also confessed that he doesn't trust those darned Canadians after being told by some of those countrymen that he didn't really need to read the guide books (which wrote of Nepal as a pretty dangerous country in the midst of a civil war).

He confessed that he signed up to volunteer at the orphanage because it made him look less self-absorbed.  Plus, it was a great way to impress women, which was "a pretty low bar."

In other words, he wasn't special.  Quite the opposite.

And yet, this man helped save at least 50 trafficked children in Nepal from slavery, starvation, abandonment and almost certain death by creating a home for them.  He created a non-profit organization to fund his efforts.

And he trekked through the mountains of Nepal searching for the parents of the children in his care.

He's right: you don't have to be a hero to be heroic.  And he took lots and lots of baby steps.

Meet Conor on the pages of his memoir.  (A portion of the proceeds fund Next Generation Nepal, his organization.)  Then see if you can't take a baby step of your own for something that matters to you.  If a guy intent on impressing chicks can wind up helping save children on the other side of the world, just think what you can do in your own neighborhood.

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