Goats have no clue what they’re doing. They exist in an eternal present tense, incapable of planning beyond their current motivations. Obviously, this lifestyle has worked just fine for goats for thousands of years, though they technically do not deserve any credit for persisting as a species.
Roman philosopher Seneca nailed it a few thousand years ago when he pointed out that the mystical-minded concept of “luck” as an external, arbitrary presence in the universe is more accurately diagramed as the decidedly individual, terrestrial practice of combining preparation with opportunity. We should give ourselves more credit for good fortune, in other words. It’s not random.
“Opportunities come and sometimes, we fear that we may not be up to it/ we cannot manage them successfully. But if we pass the opportunity, we might just regret it. Hard work and perseverance, those are the words that should motivate a person to accept an opportunity that comes her way.”
Prior to their affiliation with Outreach Philippines , community members Tess and Badet had unknowingly spent their lives weaving a welcome mat for opportunity as they went about their days, doing their respective best to earn enough money to afford regular meals for themselves and their families.
Average monthly household expenses in Tess and Badet’s community are around $40. With steady work and reliable sources of income, it is possible to devise and adhere to a monthly budget.
When income is irregular, even calibrating the proper level of expense-related stress can be tricky. “Sometimes, we earn $20 a month,” said Tess. Badet continued, “If we are lucky, we earn $4 a day twice a week, but that does not happen every week.” Both women did their best to make ends meet, taking whatever work was available, but without an opportunity to establish a permanent source of income, all they earned was experience.
Luckily, opportunity literally came knocking when Outreach Philippines facilitator Agnes began integrating into Tess and Badet’s community. During organized community meetings for neighbors, group members collectively identified the lack of steady sources of income as the most pressing issue they faced. Ideas were offered, suggestions floated and discussed, and before long, Tess, Badet, and the rest of the community partners were making the long-overdue introduction between the preparation they possessed and the opportunity that just arrived.
A few meetings later, the women had drafted a project proposal to their government’s Provincial Veterinary Office, outlining their request for income-generating farm animals like chickens, ducks, goats and pigs. A few meetings after that, the PVO sent a reply, granting their request in the form of a gift of a dozen goats, to be awarded to, in the letter’s wording, “two beneficiaries only.” Each beneficiary would take ownership of five female goats and one male, which is the ideal ratio for goats to produce up to seven offspring annually.
In most Outreach-facilitated instances, the goats would either be co-managed by the entire group— who would also then share in whatever profits were produced—or they would be awarded to specific members who were selected by group leaders. This time, however, Agnes and the group decided to devise a list of criteria to determine whom among them was the best prepared for this opportunity.
A lot of people would try and winnow a list like the following down to a clean-looking five entries, but it’s important to keep in mind that for a lot of people, luck is an abstract concept. For Agnes, Tess, Badet, and the rest of their group, maximizing luck means sometimes, lists have six entries, and that’s just fine.
Together, they decided that the goats would go to group members who:
1. Were affected by the issue of unreliable sources of income.
2. Lived in homes that could accommodate goats and their offspring.
3. Were able and willing to provide care for goats.
4. Had families who also agreed to help care for the goats.
5. Regular attendance and participation in group meetings.
6. Were in good financial standing with the group, with all dues paid.
The rationale behind establishing these criteria, besides expediting goat distribution, was a means to give newer or less-involved group members an example of the positive outcome of participation in community development meetings and projects. “Everyone in the group has an equal chance for such things,” said Agnes, “so long as they uphold their responsibilities.”
Tess and Badet both exemplified the group’s ideal goat recipients. Their dedication to forging a sustainable path toward income-generating projects, combined with the natural leadership qualities that emerged over the span of meetings and activities prepared them to serve as examples of how good luck is earned, not encountered.
Here’s what good luck looks like for them: In exchange for having their basic needs met, the goats serve as regular sources of milk and fertilizer, with any excess not used by Tess, Badet, or their families sold at market. On a longer timeline, the goats reproduce, which is where the best luck lies: A six-month-old goat fetches $50, which is more than an average month’s salary in their community. That extra income makes short work of food insecurity.
As part of their agreement with the PVO, some of the goats’ offspring will be given back to the program to be dispersed among others in their community or routed elsewhere to other qualified organizations and individuals. Meanwhile, licensed PVO veterinarians make quarterly visits to Tess and Badet’s community for animal wellness checkups and vaccinations. Additionally, group members all attended a one-day “Animal Health Care and Management” intensive course taught by the PVO to cement a shared understanding of best practices for happy, healthy goats. In April, one of Badet’s goats gave birth to the first of what will surely be a steady stream of helpful offspring who haplessly empower their owners to accomplish their goals.
“The Goat Project makes us truly grateful but a little worried too. These goats are great blessings for us and we are happy to become the first beneficiaries,”
Tess said, speaking for herself and Badet. “At the same time we recognize that we have to work hard and persevere to make this project successful so that others can benefit too.” Each new blessing is also a new foundation on which to build.
Here’s another example of how unstoppable these women are: After their interview for this story, they noticed a narrator-imposed “fourth wall” preventing them from directly sharing some closing thoughts with you, the audience, and acted decisively — just another barrier, reduced to rubble.
Badet: “ I hope that you were able to gain lessons from the experience that I shared. I hope that my experience provided knowledge that you can use if ever you are in a similar situation of thinking of how to solve your community issues.”
Tess: “Opportunities come and sometimes, we fear that we may not be up to it/ we cannot manage them successfully. But if we pass the opportunity, we might just regret it. Hard work and perseverance, those are the words that should motivate a person to accept an opportunity that comes her way.”
If luck is not a mystical force, ensuring a lucky streak is only a matter of deeper preparation and greater openness to opportunity. Once the goats were in place, the community group took a collective deep breath to assess the insights they gained from the process: Chiefly, the group reflected on their new ability to write a project proposal, and the closeness and kinship they built with one another as they improved their ability to articulate their problems and discuss solutions. When the task at hand is to collectively resolve poverty-related issues affecting a community, mastering these lessons means that in the future, not only will you be ready for anything, you’ll know that you don’t have to wait for opportunities—you can will them into existence yourself.
Unless you’re a goat. Then you’re just along for the ride.
How to Help
You make your own luck, but you can also make some extra luck to share, in the form of a donation to Outreach. Good news: By reading this far into the article, you’ve gained the preparation necessary to provide an opportunity. Donate today, tomorrow, and the day after that!