January 5, 2018
For many people, today will be the actual last day of the Christmas season. Today is the twelfth day after December 25th. Many will have already taken down their holiday festive decorations while others will spend the weekend putting away Christmas. The true meaning of the holiday should never be put away and the joy and charity of the Christmas season is, I fervently hope, just beginning.
Irony sometimes seems like it is my middle name. Without getting into the age-old discussion, often loved by English instructors, about the difference between irony and sarcasm or any other of a number of words, let me clarify which definition to which I am referring: “incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result”. On the day that I planned to write about Bill Gates and his work in making technology available to the masses, my technological connections seemed to revolt. Someday this week will make a really humorous anecdote.
I first became aware of the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation when working at a public library. I had prior computer experience and was picked to write training manuals for the staff. The Gates Foundation had gifted the library a computer lab so that inner city children could have access to computers and the Internet. Only three people on a staff of thirty had a personal computer so I ended up mentoring and teaching computer usage as well as drafting manuals.
The local library had, as most do, a foundation that provided monetary support. At an unveiling of the new lab several days before it opened to the public, members of the foundation were invited to a reception and the computers were on display for the foundation members to try and appreciate. I had been paired with the oldest member of the foundation, a 96-year-old architect who was not overly impressed. He saw no need for computer educational support when we had three stories of books and were part of a national and international book exchange program. Computer screens to him were blank nonsense that would not inspire nor provide opportunity or anyone. In fact, he was certain they “would suck all opportunity from the children who sat in front of them”.
I walked over to the front desk and retrieved a blank piece of paper. I then gave him a pencil and asked him to draw a simple outline of a three-story building or, for that matter, any object he saw on the paper. He gave me back my pencil and proceeded to make a building using the ancient Japanese art of origami. It took him about two minutes and we were all fascinated.
I then took his old, gnarled hands obviously showing signs of rheumatoid arthritis, in mine and said: “I gave you nothing and you created wonderment. With the resources available to a child on the Internet, just imagine what he or she could create.” This stately, elderly gentle man then smiled and said: “Oh, you should then call the computer what it is – a box full of opportunity and potential.” He served as a volunteer in the computer lab for two years until his passing, and then we learned of his bequeath to the computer lab which provided support for the computers long after the original grant had expired.
We all can create opportunity for another person. The Gates Foundation has moved on to things beyond computers. In 2016 they have made three resolutions or promises to serve as goals. The first involves their continued efforts regarding vaccines for some of the world’s most deadly diseases, especially in underdeveloped countries in Africa and the Far East.
They also have women and girls in their “hearts of our endeavors”. They plan to invest time, funding, and efforts towards empowering women. Better healthcare and wellbeing for girls and women means a better world. Third, they plan to invest in innovation. The future is all about science and technology and that includes drug therapies for such things as elephantiasis which alone affects over one hundred and twenty million people.
The world today is a world with poverty and the future will be dim until we all take steps to do our part. We can do better. “You never know how far reaching something you may think say or do today will affect the lives of millions tomorrow.” B. J. Palmer’s words are very true and they are speaking directly to each of us. We need to make poverty an opportunity for success by taking action. This planet is our home and everyone living here needs you and me in order for us all to live a bountiful life.