I was reading about Desmond Tutu today and how he grew up in South Africa in the midst of apartheid and segregation. Tutu is known for being the Nobel Peace Prize award-winner and a renowned South African Anglican cleric. He is famous for his opposition to the policies of apartheid and as one of the world’s most prominent spiritual leaders. He advocated to speak for all oppressed people’s struggles for equality and freedom.
One of the things that made a significant impression on Tutu as a young child was one day as he was out walking with his mother and a tall white man in a black suit came towards them. In the days of apartheid when a black person met a white person while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and then nod their head as a gesture of respect. This day however before Tutu and his mother could move out of the way, the white man stepped off the sidewalk, and as they passed he tipped his hat in a gesture of respect. Tutu’s mother went on to explain that the white man was Trevor Huddleston and that he’d stepped off the sidewalk because he was a ‘man of God”. This was the first time the nine year old Tutu had seen a white man pay respects to a black woman, and on hearing that Huddleston was a man of God, Tutu decided that he wanted to be a man of God too.
Tutu later said that day on the sidewalk and the subsequent friendship he developed with Huddleston helped shape his unshakable optimism and limitless faith in the ability of human beings to do good.
“Despite all of the ghastliness in the world” Tutu once said, “Human beings are made for goodness. The ones that are held in high regard are not militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. They have a commitment to try and make the world a better place.”
Trevor Huddleston didn’t do anything remarkable that day. He simply chose to do the right thing and show respect to a woman and another person.
In a world where stepping off the sidewalk, honouring another, opening a door, or even smiling a greeting is sadly not always the norm, Tutu’s story serves as a reminder of the difference treating others with love and respect can make.
Perhaps as more of us “step off the sidewalk”, show kindness and treat others as we would like to be treated, we too will start to see that human beings are made for goodness, and together we’ll make the world a better place.
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these”. (Mark 12:30-31)
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” (D.Tutu)
Prayer: Lord please help me to be more aware of the areas of my life where I have habits or mindsets that need to change. I want to make the world a better place, so please fill me with your love today so that I can. In Jesus name Amen.