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September 23, 2018

Making a Difference

Over the Christmas holidays, Tony and the boys were going to run errands in town when they came across the statue for Dedan kimathi.

Tj wanted to know the story behind the stature. Tony shared with him about our colonial past and how valiant warriors fought for our independence.

Dedan Kimathi was one of the freedom fighters who unfortunately died before he saw the fruits of his labour. Both boys wanted to know what happened to his family and if they were compensated.

The sad truth was that they were not. Tj was mortified, “What’s the point then?” Tj wanted to know, “why fight for your country?” Such a poignant question.

A few years ago we visited a friend in South Africa. He and Tony began to talk about the history of SA and apartheid and all that; along the way the story of the Soweto Uprising came up.

We had visited the museum earlier and seen the devastation caused. Sadly again the people who fought for the cause were the same ones who benefited the least.

Society is full of unsung heroes. People who are willing to selflessly lay themselves on the altar for the common good; unfortunately, those great men and women are quickly forgotten once the goods are on the table.

In a world of untold greed and social injustice, how can a parent train their child to be giving and selfless? In the rise of materialism, where material wealth is the panacea for all things, how can a child learn that there are truly more important things in life than getting all we can now?

The answer is not easy, neither is the path rewarding. But we must choose to learn from those who went ahead of us. Who were willing to lay their eyes on tomorrow and not just the benefits of today.

As my friend pointed out to us that evening long ago in South Africa, the reality is that those who fight the war rarely benefit from the fruits of their labour.

Often the reward is in the nobility of their actions and the benefit to humanity. I have come to realise that if one has no cause worth dying for, they truly have nothing worth living for.

As a parent, I refuse to be held back by the thanklessness of humanity in general and choose instead to focus on the good that one individual can make.

Yes, heroes are not always rewarded; yes, good does not always seem to make a difference. But I choose to teach my children both by words and in action that one person, committed enough, can make a difference.

I remember a story I read once about a fisher man walking along a sea shore. He kept bending and rising bending and rising.

A young man walking by noticed his odd behavior and moving closer realised that the man was painstakingly picking one star fish at a time and throwing them back into the sea.

The shore line was scattered with starfish that had been deposited there by the tide. In lieu of the amount of star fish on shore, the fisherman’s efforts looked so insignificant.

“Can't you see, you are not making a difference?” the young man asked? The old man smiled as he picked yet another starfish and threw it to sea, “It may not make a great difference to all the others”, he said, “but it sure makes a difference to this one”. What a great philosophy.

True change is not always about changing the world it is about changing one space at a time. I choose to teach my boys that.

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