In Search of Decency: The Unexpected Power of Rich and Poor
by Michael Heyn (Peru 1964-66)
$21.99 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle)
Reviewed by Ken Hill (Turkey 1965-67)
Mr. Heyn’s diary shares a life lived mostly abroad, across 15 countries on four continents, with United Nations programs as well as personal ventures and occasional assignments at the UN in New York. The saga is spiced by adventures in cultural adaptation, crisis management, intrigue and some legitimate danger!
Graced with an enviable education, the author meets and marries, serves in Peace Corps, begins a family but divorces upon discovering a soul-mate with whom he travels the globe to serve human needs. He relates examples of remarkable adaptation and innovation throughout this life story and is admirably candid about successes and failures, displaying an admirable ability to learn from his experiences.
A child of the 60’s, the author ponders questions of life and searches for solutions with universal application. Four decades later he shares his discovery of a principle to close the world’s gap between rich and poor. “What I have learned is that what is most important in life and to our human relations is… treating each other decently. Everything else springs from that.” Self-evident, some may say.
Mr. Heyn unfortunately fails to bridge the inevitable gap between principle and application. He leaves unanswered the question of just how the goal of universal, mutual decency is to be achieved which is understandable, perhaps, given the ambiguity of the ‘solution’.
Many would envy the life of adventure and challenge portrayed in Mr. Heyn’s self-published diary. Myriad experiences, however, are shared with more detailed narrative than might hold the reader’s attention. Twelve years in the writing the book begs for editing which is unfortunate as there is much in this book of value for very patient readers.
Following his Peace Corps service, Ken Hill was Peace Corps and ACTION Agency staff in Washington through 1978. He and his wife, Winnie (Nepal 1966-68), owned and operated a marina in Solomons, Maryland for a dozen years. Returning to Peace Corps in 1994, Ken was Country Director in Eastern Russia, Bulgaria and Macedonia. He was promoted to Chief of Operations for Europe and Asia in 1999 and appointed Peace Corps Chief of Staff in 2001 to manage the agency during the transition of administrations. Chairman of the Board of the National Peace Corps Association for three years, Ken is a member of numerous RPCV groups. He organized national Peace Corps Staff reunions in 2002 and 2011 for the 50 anniversary of Peace Corps and was a principal in the MorePeaceCorps and Push4PeaceCorps campaigns as well as an advisor to the Obama Transition Team for Peace Corps. He currently serves on the boards of the Bulgarian-American Society and Friends of Turkey (Arkadaşlar) and is active in local civic and political affairs.