"A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed."
— Desmond Tutu

Friday, September 2, 2011

Immeasurable Good

My mom recently told me of a story she heard where a celebrity was describing losing his mother, saying that it is only when one faces a terrible tragedy that one really becomes an adult.

"Becoming an adult" is a phrase that I don't think people think about much. What does it mean? Turning 18? When I was teaching and one of my students turned 18, I would ask him what the first thing he was going to do would be. The inevitable reply: "I am going to buy a lottery ticket and some cigarettes!" Very occasionally, a student would respond, "I will also register to vote." 

I have never really thought about what it means to "become an adult." Our society makes it seem like it's a rite of passage where we can finally do all the things that we were not allowed to do as children. But is giving in to that self-indulgence really "becoming an adult?" Or is becoming an adult more significant than that? Is it taking on more responsibility like living on one's own, paying bills, getting a job, or becoming a parent, or is it even more than that?  

Perhaps it is realizing that the self-indulgence of childhood is over, and it is time to use whatever skills and resources we may possess for the greater good? The veil of "innocent childhood" is removed from our eyes, we see the world as it really is, and we declare, "I will do good here."

I found this story in The Huffington Post initially, and Susanne's story made me think even more about what it means to face loss and terrible tragedy. Instead of allowing her grief to consume her (and who could blame her?), she became more aware of the plights of others. Her own loss was a catalyst for her to do immeasurable good.

I hope, one day, to be an adult like Susanne Janson. 

Watch her CNN Heroes video here:

Learn more and/or donate to her orphanage:

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