“What does the world need with just another good musician? We have plenty, what the world needs are good people.” – Victor Wooten, 2016 Commencement speech at the University of Vermont Rubenstein School
This past week I had the pleasure of hosting my mother, who this year turns 83 years. As we visited her doctors, she ambled along at her slow pace. She still maintains her queenly manner in the way she conducts herself and especially in the way she walks. This gait kind of masks the pain she feels as she battles the debilitating effects of old age-related ailments. So, like the queen she is, she projects an image of a seven-foot giant from her slightly stooped five-foot frame.
The slow majestic pace at which we walked and the abundance of time waiting on her afforded me happy reflections of some of her random acts of kindness. My mum is a treasure trove of benevolent acts. As I walked by her side, I reminded her of some of the things she had done.
One stood out for me.
Many times, when a neighbour in the village lost a loved one, the custom where we come from is that the village got into mourning and condoling with the bereaved. My mother always went the extra step.
Immediately, she received such news we would be sent off with axes to chop firewood. Then she would busy herself looking for food to cook – invariably it would be maize and beans. She would load a debe full of dry food on her head and tag along with a selected carrier whose cargo was the firewood.
The two would set up camp at the homestead of the bereaved family. My mother would prepare food at the funeral venue for the day, serve the guests and then clean her cooking equipment and head back home. This sequence of events was repeated over the duration of the mourning period, which was several days in many instances.
We never understood why she would go to such lengths. Even now, I still struggle to understand how the people who would fall into “the people to hate” category received such love. I mean, the village champions of cruelty, drunkenness, gossip, slander, hostility, suffice it to say all kinds of evil, all were treated as close friends by the old lady.
So, during one of the slow walks to the doctor’s clinic, I asked her why she did it.
“I do not have a reason for it”, she said. Then she added, “As I long as I have, I will keep giving”.
Her words resonated well with Victor Wooten‘s speech at the University. Indeed, the world needs good people.
Sadly, evil excites humanity more than good to the extent of dominating newspaper headlines, social media pages, street talk and family dinner tables. The political, economic, economic and social platforms are alive with buzzing when somebody has done something wrong. Politicians caught with their hands in the cookie jar, robbers escaping with money from a bank or pop stars having marital problems with their partners have more airtime than a successful discovery in the field of medicine or the construction of a school in a rural area to support less able populations.
Whereas it is within our power to do what is good, the common stance we take is to ignore such acts. “In any case, no one seems to notice them, so why bother?”, we say. Alternately, we are scared that we would attract “less deserving” individuals coming to seek similar support. Worse still, we would rather not give for fear that we will end up with less in this uncertain world where the next tragedy is right outside our doors. So, we end up hoarding as much as we can even to our graves when our wealth is bequeathed to relatives who proceed squander it.
Good outlasts bad every time. Is this not what drives strangers to rush to a disaster scene to assist a fellow human being, and this, not expecting anything in return? Just think about the scenes after any tragedy, and you would find that this is true. You see it repeated over and over again. It could be at a site of a car accident, a collapsed building, a flood that has carried away a village, or even at a hospital bedside. People always come out to help, giving of themselves and demanding nothing in return.
So, like Victor’s I ask, what does the world need with just another doctor, teacher, nurse, engineer, accountant, manager, student, child, lawyer, actor, designer, musician, journalist, president, surgeon? We have got many of these; maybe you are one of them. The world needs good people.
While you do what you trained to do and follow your passion, go beyond that which you would be known for and do what is not expected of you. Reach out when you can and even more. The small ripples that are caused by one good act positively impact humanity in ways we cannot imagine. When we express kindness to strangers, these small ripples gather momentum to form waves that make the world a better place.
The world needs good people, so go out there and be one of them one action at a time.