By Michael A. Dimitri
What does the title of this article mean to you? The literal translation may be something like: “a patriotic act” or “something done on behalf of your people.”
Neither translation, however, produces the full impact of the expression. A narodno delo is a deed done selflessly, lovingly, and respectfully for your people. It is done without hesitation. It is an act that takes place as naturally as parents feeding or hugging their children. They do not have to think in advance and plan; parents don’t ask: Should I feed my child today? Should I hug him? Their acts of selflessness toward their children are automatic, selfless, and done with love.
Furthermore, a narodno delo is something done with the idea of short and long term benefits. Again, parents love and nurture their children in the hope that their children will in turn grow up to be caring adults who will in turn love and nurture their own children while making their own positive contribution to society. The concept of “paying it forward” made popular by an American movie where a young boy advocates doing selfless acts to help someone who in turn, must help someone, else comes into play here.
Lastly, humility is a characteristic of a narodno delo. No one should brag about how much food his or her children were fed today; how many nice things they did for someone today. A narodno delo almost has a life of its own. It is not something any one of us can claim ownership of any more than we can claim we are truly a “self-made man” or woman. Someone, at some point, gave birth to us, fed us, nurtured us, sacrificed for us—we do not have exclusive rights to any of our achievements.
Relatedly, we sometimes ask ourselves questions like: Am I doing enough for my children? Am I raising them right? What am I doing with my life? What will my legacy be? Therein lies the point of this article. We must ask ourselves the same questions as Macedonians. Whatever celta (purpose), wherever we make our home, whatever generation we may be—1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.—we have a responsibility to our heritage, to our ancestors, and to the land that pulsates with our very blood! We must each ask: What is my narodno delo?
As we begin to consider this question, it is human nature to start with excuses: “It won’t do any good to get involved; I can’t change the world. or “I don’t have time/intelligence/skills/connections/etc.” These really are poor excuses. About 25 years ago when I decided I wanted to research and write about Macedonian issues, I thought of these same excuses. I also had plenty of people feeding this negative thinking with comments like: “Why don’t you study something more profitable—like basket weaving? Why don’t you write about something more interesting? Macedonia doesn’t even exist anymore.” What mattered to me, however, was my own sense of narodno delo, deeply instilled in me by my baba (grandmother) and dedo (grandfather). I saw their eyes light up when I spoke to them about my ideas. I felt my own heart ignite as I pursued my own narodno delo. No one else’s opinion mattered. Six books, over 300 articles, and a 24+ year career in Education where I have had the opportunity to teach students and colleagues about Macedonia later, I know I made the right choice. Those of you reading this must do so, too.
To twist an old saying, rather than focus on the needs—what you can’t do or don’t have—focus on the seeds. Who are you, what do you love, and what’s in your heart that you would like to do? If you can’t quit your job to work for the Macedonian cause 24/7, can you spare 15 minutes a month to do something? If you aren’t a millionaire, can you donate $25.00 monthly or make an in-kind donation (e.g., food, clothing, office supplies, etc.) to a Macedonian cause? Can you help network between a Macedonian who provides a service and one who needs that service? (Introducing two people is free, it only takes a few minutes, and it may even be fun for you!) Consider the following ‘seeds’:
• Record your family history. Nothing is more interesting than eyewitness, personal experiences. They enliven history and help us to see the human side of events. It is also through a family narration that we can learn personal points of view and nuances of language like expressions, idioms, colloquialisms that are typically not found in textbooks. It is easy to write or tape by cassette or video your own family history. Chances are there is someone in your family already who would like to record this information.
• Speak out about your life and views as a Macedonian. Often as a writer I am sought out by Macedonians who tell me fantastic stories about their lives, but then say, “Please don’t tell anyone I told you this.” Although I respect their wishes, I also feel that we are losing a lot by not sharing this information with one another and the rest of the world. We Macedonians have a wonderful history and a beautiful culture that will not be appreciated or respected by the rest of the world if it is not shared.
• Use your knowledge wherever it may be helpful or needed. If you are good with computers, teach other Macedonians to use one or establish websites and other sources of information. If you speak, read and write Macedonian well, teach others. Whatever you are good at, share.
• Whenever I attend a Macedonian event, I am always amazed at the number of successful Macedonians I see. Doctors, lawyers, business owners, teachers, etc. fill the room. More must be done to create professional organizations where Macedonians can meet and network to help one another out. Those of us who have established ourselves in our careers must also reach out to help those who are beginning theirs to make the path a bit easier for them than it was for us. Along these lines consider becoming a mentor as is frequently done in business. I’ve had the opportunity to mentor a few people through their own Macedonian Studies programs and to inspire some others to pursue their own narodno delo. Few things are as satisfying as this!
• Establish scholarships, foundations, and other organizations designed to help further the cause of Macedonia and Macedonians; participate in ones that already exist. Many of these are easy to start, easy to get involved with on whatever level you’re comfortable, and donations (financial and in-kind goods) are usually tax deductible; they help the organization or cause without costing you as much as you gave.
• Patronize Macedonian businesses. “Buy Macedonian!” Should be our mantra. A few months ago during a meeting, my boss mentioned that he needed to take about two dozen visitors from our home office out to lunch. I suggested a local Macedonian restaurant. I wasn’t able to go with them, but I later received a note of thanks for the recommendation from my boss with the comment that he liked the restaurant and food so much, he had taken his family there over the weekend, too. It is now the restaurant of choice for them, and it cost me nothing in time or money to recommend it. Many other Macedonian businesses are available via the Internet, and products can be bought from businesses in Macedonia. Locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally, Buy Macedonian!
• Donate materials to libraries, museums, and other such educational institutions. Many publishers will give bulk discounts for books, CDs, DVDs, etc. Some of these “bulk discounts” start at two items! You may even want to contact the publisher to see if they will either give a deeper discount because it’s for a place like a library or if they will even donate some copies themselves. You can also scan and donate copies of old photos, documents, etc.
• Travel Macedonia! Tourism is the lifeblood of many small, developing countries. In addition to traveling to Macedonia yourself, try to encourage others, especially travel groups to sponsor trips there. Consider the special features of Macedonia and what groups would be interested in those features; then suggest they go!
• Read everything written about Macedonia and Macedonians. Keep questioning statements made about Macedonia and the Macedonians. Accept no idea or theory without question. Be watchful of the media and our governing officials. When something is said or written that is negative or inaccurate regarding Macedonia and/or the Macedonians, contact the source and politely request a retraction or correction. Become a source of advice or information for them.
• Although this one is much tougher, get active in the existing Macedonian organizations around the world, especially those trying to improve the economic, political, and/or human rights status of our people in various parts of the world. Although again, it’s easy to complain and claim powerlessness, there is much we can all do, and the existing Macedonian organizations are excellent at providing action plans to those looking for a way to help. As difficult as their situations were, our ancestors often helped one another out and ‘paid it forward’ to help others out. You can to this locally as well as internationally. About 90 years ago, my great-grandparents helped a family escape the ethnic cleansing in Aegean Macedonia, and they took this family into their home (as they did several other families at various times). This family had a little boy named George who is now in his 80s. Although I see George almost weekly, he always makes a point expressing gratitude for my Dedo Petre and Baba Maria; that same bond forged a few generations ago still exists with our ever growing number of descendants.
Of course I know that many of the above suggestions have been done by many Macedonians for some time. It is good, however, to occasionally rethink what we are doing on behalf of our extended Macedonian family. It is our strength as a people that has made us hardy like the zdravets, and it is our unity that will preserve us. What is your narodno delo?
Michael A. Dimitri is an author, lecturer, and a specialist on the ancient Macedonians. More information about his works is available at http://www.MichaelADimitri.com; he may also be reached at:
P.O. Box 5321
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46895-5321
Copyright © 2008 Michael A. Dimitri All rights reserved