Something I mentioned in one of my previous posts were my career aspirations as a kid. I obviously went through the obvious boy fantasies of being a policeman, a fireman, a warrior, and all of that, but from the time I was about 9, I wanted to be Bill Gates. Bill Gates was my hero, this man who came and completely revolutionised the world, and the world knows him as absolutely brilliant.
Beyond this point, I also wanted to be a doctor, an engineer, a businessman of a multi-national corporation, a pastor of a mega-church, a philanthropist who goes and saves the day, and whatever else would make me a hero. The guy who is seen, revered by many, loved by the world, feared by his enemies, the absolute don of his day. By the age of 23, I should have developed my own world class computer application, become a multi-millionaire, and saved the world from the ills that the world was facing. I was to be superman without kryptonite. I was born to be the world’s hero!
Yet at 23, I’m sitting behind a desk in a large Johannesburg corporate, counting down the seconds for my work day to end and writing a blog about the hero I was supposed to be. Through all of this, it got me thinking, maybe I have not become the hero I thought I’d be, but instead I became the hero I never thought I’d be.
For example, I think of my parents. They worked jobs in a random town in the Eastern Cape, South Africa for most of their lives. Raised 2 children. Instilled disciplines and values such as the value of hard work, the importance of treating people well, the love for the quality things in life (e.g. my interest in music, photography, graphic design, video editing, etc), and most of all introduced me to God. To zoom in, my mom has taught mathematics at a small “previously disadvantaged” for more than 20 years. She consistently poured out her life into the learners at that school, spending extra hours teaching the learners, increasing the percentage pass-rate of mathematics over the years, and giving the possibility of a much brighter future to the students.
Then I look at my own life, and I see how in High School, I stood up for my values and beliefs despite being viewed as uncool from some quarters. I look at how in university, I conducted a drive to collected old clothing and food to displaced survivors of the xenophobic attacks in Cape Town. I look at how I’ve been the best son I can be to my parents and the best I know how to be to my friends. And I realise, that must be a pretty heroic feat.
Then I look at the people around me. The young lady who works at the coffee shop I frequent and studying towards a business degree because she was forced to by her parents, but upon completion will be working towards a teaching degree because her passion lies in foundation phase learning. The middle-aged Afrikaans man I met in that same coffee shop who had the courage to come up and start talking to an unknown black man reading the newspaper, and is pursuing his own business in the mining sector. The young high school learner in the youth group I volunteer in, who was extremely shy when I first met him, but has broken out of that, and can almost confidently talk to new people with a smile on his face. The young man who has recently had the opportunity to advance his career in the States and Canada. The campus missionary who works day in and day out doing amazing things in transforming people’s lives without getting much recognition.
In primary school, I learnt that a hero doesn’t have to wear a cape and tights (because he looks ridiculous and nobody can praise you when they’re busy laughing at you). Recently I’ve learnt that most heroes won’t even make the local newspaper. It’s easy to discount other people by superficial attributes such as status, wealth, educational level, race or the like. Even more dangerously, it’s easy to discount ourselves by those same superficial indicators.
(At this point in time, I feel like breaking out in song singing Hero by Mariah Carey but that just goes completely against the personal brand I am trying to create).