Mr. Dickens and the Engineering Community

Jan. 1, 2000

Engineers talk about how engineering can change the world. And they're right, of course. It can and does. One organization that takes that fact very seriously is called Engineers Without Borders

It's Christmas Eve, and although both Paul, my editor in chief, and Katherine, our digital managing editor, may beat me for saying so, I rather hope you're not reading this. I hope you have better things to do—away from the computer and its built-in frenetic pace.

That's hard, I know, in any deadline-driven environment. Whether we mean to or not, when somebody tells us to think beyond ourselves at a time when our focus, seemingly of necessity, is on the narrower concerns of our own life and jobs, it's not hard to end up sounding like Mr. Scrooge when he's hit up for a donation for the poor at Christmas: "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" We're lucky if we can muster the patience to not go as far as suggesting that anyone or anything outside our immediate focus die and relieve the excess population. We think, can't somebody else deal with those issues that don't concern me right now? Please?

It's a human response. We can't help it. But, maybe because it's the Christmas season, it may be time to listen to the call of our better angels.

In their more expansive moments, engineers talk about how engineering can change the world. And they're right, of course. It can and does. One organization that takes that fact very seriously is called Engineers Without Borders. Its goal is to bring that engineering change to the parts of the world where it is most needed, one small project at a time. The projects include building hospitals, schools or other needed buildings, providing modern water and sanitary facilities, bridges, irrigation and other infrastructure projects, even information technology systems, everywhere from Argentina to Zambia.

Your involvement can be anything from a simple donation to volunteering for a project in some remote country. There are opportunities of all sorts to get that focus beyond your own world and bring your engineering skills to places in desperate need of it. Take a few minutes out of the downtime you have this week and check out the site. Expand your focus a bit.

Oh, and also take time to put your feet up, have an eggnog for me and put on your favorite Christmas movie.

Happy Holidays

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