There are several quotes, hundreds in fact, about wisdom but two sprang to mind as I began this post. One was about wisdom without action being of little value. The other was about a computer’s wisdom. I admit that at times I am amazed and intimidated by the wisdom my computer seems to possess. Of course, it really has no wisdom. A computer is metal, circuits, and connections – all of which connect me to…well, just about everything and everywhere. The computer itself has no wisdom but the software within it, it has wisdom from the ages and quite possibly of the future. The computer is, to quote the popular movie “Short Circuit”: “doesn’t get happy; it doesn’t get sad; it doesn’t laugh at your jokes. It just runs programs.” With all its potential, a computer is useless until someone uses the wisdom within, applying that wisdom and recognizing the use, manifesting the potential.
Epiphany is a season that begins, for those who observe it, with the manifestation of a baby being recognized. In recent times, the word manifestation and its cousin, the word manifesto, have taken on sinister meanings. In transportation, a manifest is a list. It can be a list of people or places or destinations. To most of us, manifest denotes a showing, either of something very obvious or of a belief system. In all its uses, manifest implies an external display which is logical since it is a word derived from the Latin “manifestus” which translates as flagrant or obvious.
During this season of Epiphany 2016, we are going to continue the theme of kindness begun during Christmas by discussing humanitarians. Our conversation will not just be concerned with their lives, though. We will discuss how we can manifest such humanitarian behaviors in our own everyday living. Each day will have a word and an international humanitarian. More importantly, each day will focus on how we can make the world a better place in our own way with our own talents, time, and very little financial outlay.
A child begins his or her path of wisdom by becoming educated. Most of us go to school without giving very much thought about doing so. In 2009, the Yousafzai family ran a chain of schools in the Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwestern Pakistan. A daughter in the family, Malala, recognized how lucky she was since the Taliban often denied girls the right to an education and they occupied neighboring lands. The then eleven-year-old wrote for a BBC blog using a pseudonym and described both her life and her support for girls being educated. African Bishop Desmond Tutu nominated the young girl for an International Children’s peace Prize and a documentary was made by the New York Times based upon her writings.
Three years later, in October of 2012, masked gunman boarded a school bus and asked for Malala by name. A pistol was aimed at her head and shots were fired. Despite her extreme injuries, Malala Yousafzai survived, although it took months of surgeries and rehabilitation in England. She has survived to continue her support for education for all. Speaking before the United Nations on her sixteenth birthday, Malala said: “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born … I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.”
Malala has advocated for education since the writing of her first blog post and in 2014, two years after her attack and after winning the World Children’s Prize, she donated fifty thousand dollars through UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) to help rebuild sixty-five schools in Gaza. On October 10, 2014, Malala was a co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
Most of us will never win such prestigious awards or have a chance to speak to such noted dignitaries. We can, however, make a difference in our own corner of the world. Most public schools have a mentoring program and many businesses and government agencies will allow for time off to participate. Often, the mentor simply spends an hour with a student and lets the student practicing reading to them. The Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization is always happy to have volunteers. Other groups like local churches and international organizations such as the Salvation Army also have mentoring programs that encourage and increase a child’s educational opportunities and capabilities.
Anyone can help increase wisdom by donating one hour a week of their time. Libraries often partake in various reading programs and welcome volunteers. We all can find an hour to give if we really try. Maybe you are home bound or really do not have that hour. Then consider donating a book or two to your local library. There is always a need for new books and trust me, every librarian has a wish list. IN many towns, free library exchanges can be found on street corners or next to mailboxes. A child can take a book and then return it and, if possible, leave a book for another to enjoy.
Six months ago, Malala Yousafzai opened a school in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon near the border of Syria for Syrian refugees. The school will offer education for girls ages fourteen to eighteen years of age. At the ceremony, Malala Yousafzai implored the leaders of the world to invest in “books, not bullets”.
I ask you to invest in the future by helping children gain wisdom. Without a very little sacrifice of only an hour or perhaps less than two cups of coffee, you can either become a mentor or donate a book. If you have a specialty in a particular academic field, you can also volunteer to tutor a child. If academics are not your strong point, then maybe you could offer to help clean up where they mentor or bake cookies for the groups.
Whatever and whoever you have and are, the world needs you. Just as my computer needs me to initiate its wisdom, our children, the children of the world and the future of us all, need you. We all have something to contribute. We all should help manifest kindness in developing wisdom for our future. It’s the smart thing to do.