I have seen a picture crop up on Pixabay. It is a hard picture to see. A young boy sits looking the absolute picture of misery. He has injuries- his knee, his mouth, his eye. He looked lonely and unloved – neglected.
It is a hard picture to see….
Years ago….around twenty years ago, I used to work closely with a man who had been a champion sportsman – winning many titles and awards and championships. He was a remarkable man – but it was not his career in sport that made him one of the most adored men I knew – it was his career as a full-time volunteer for charities he was passionate about that made him a very very loved man.
I was sixteen when I met him, and I went on to have the privilege of working closely with him for around ten years. I remember asking him what had motivated him to make the decision to turn his back on his career in sport at the height of his success.
He told me that he felt deeply moved by the state of many of the people he had met in his work as a volunteer. He said when he got to know some people, and the way they felt about their existence, it was like a little boy sitting on a bench, shivering in the cold, mucky face, malnourished, injuries from accidents, showing all of the signs of neglect. He told me that when he spoke to these people, getting to know their stories, it was like asking a little boy, “Where do you live? Where are your parents?”…and the answer from the little boy, “I don’t have a home. I was told that my parents abandoned me. I am all alone in this world.”
He told me he was deeply moved by his experiences. Realizing how many people felt neglected, abandoned, uncared for….he just knew he could not turn away from the desperate situation of people. Where did this all occur? In England – one of the “wealthiest” nations. People were impoverished of hope and purpose.
I thought of him today as I saw the autumn leaves all over the pavement. He used to rise early, and sweep the leaves from the pavements that had gathered overnight around the building where he lived to prevent anyone from slipping. The local council realized what he was doing. So they decided to show their appreciation by erecting beautiful hanging baskets all around the lampposts that surrounded that building. They would come and water them every day. It was one of the ways they expressed their thanks for all that he did in his role as a volunteer to benefit and inspire people in his community.
In the course of my career, I have met thousands of volunteers. When I have got to know them, so many of them have told me that they were so moved, and had so much appreciation for the personal interest, the extraordinary kindness and sincere love that they saw in this wonderful man. He has been such an inspiration to so many volunteers for decades.
I am so grateful that I met and worked with and was a close friend of one of the most lovely men to walk the streets of London. He is a gem amongst men.
I met someone the other day who told me about all of their accomplishments in education, and the career it has led to, and the value of the house they bought, and their car, and the cost of their wedding, and the yacht, oh yes, of course there was going to be a yacht!….and whilst outwardly saying “how admirable that you have been able to stick to one field for so long” (lol – can you tell I was completely not impressed) inwardly I rolled my eyes. What a complete and utter pathetic waste! I don’t call this success – I call this a monstrous failure of an education – for someone to leave thinking that is all about what they can acquire….rather than all that they can give….from the heart…to touch the hearts of the many millions of people who are impoverished of hope and purpose.