Is it worth fighting for a better world? Is it worth believing, in a world irreversibly subject to the laws of entropy, that hope, positive thinking, and beauty will still have the chance to develop and enrich our life through education? Can tomorrow’s world be better than today’s, when everything we hear seems to be so catastrophic, and everything we do seems to focus only on the here and now?
Fred Zwaniker was born in Ghana. Despite many challenges, his life path led him to the White House, where he had been invited to meet Barack Obama. In 2011, Forbes magazine included him on the list of the 10 strongest young people in Africa. And all this because of a dream that stole his sleep.
It was Fred’s belief that the success or failure of the African continent would be determined by the local and national leaders of each country. So he set up two organizations that aim to train a new generation of leaders: the African Leadership Academy and the African Leadership Network. He believes that by training people, he can change Africa’s future. His students are not treated as mere applicants to a degree. They are educated to become Africa’s future leaders. His goal is to prepare 6,000 young people to become agents of change for the whole continent, over the next 50 years. He speaks passionately about Africa and believes that education is the key that will turn the entire continent into a peaceful and prosperous area in the next decade.
Jean Pablo Romero Fuentes is 30 years old and lives in Guatemala, the country ranked fifth in the world according to crime statistics, crushed both by poverty and drugs. After seeing many of his schoolmates addicted to drugs or being killed in conflicts between rival gangs, he decided to be more than a spectator.
At the age of 23, he became a teacher. The image of his poorly dressed pupils, lacking the prospect of a better tomorrow, convinced him that it was time to lend a helping hand. In 2006, he gathered a small group of children. He personally cared for them after school and helped them not only learn the mystery of letters, but also to gain a new perspective on life and education. The news spread quickly in the community and the group grew.
Today his association, “Little Ones” (Los Patojos), offers free classes, a hot meal, various educational activities, and primary health care. He has managed to help more than 1,000 children so far, becoming one of the 10 heroes on a CNN list for 2014. Speaking of the purpose of his actions, he says: “I want to give them a better present to enable them to have a bright future.”
The ideas of these two men are simple and similar—look at the child in front of you and think of the adult they will turn into in 20 years. Then, begin their training in the direction in which you would like them to go.
Obviously, if you don’t have a target, you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re not getting anywhere. Imagine what it would be like for every teacher to look at their students as future ministers of education or future colleagues, what it would be like for every pastor to look at the young people who stand outside during the service as the future leaders of his church, what it would be like for every university professor to look at his students as future senators and house representatives or what it would be like if every parent saw his child as a future leader of change in society.
This way of seeing the future is neither convenient nor easy. It is much easier to offer things or information to your child than it is to offer them time and experiences together. Take a simple test and you will be convinced that reality is much more painful than we can describe. Think about how much local communities invest in educating children so that they can attain a better life, and how much they invest in the schools where these children study. Or, even closer to home—what do we tend to offer more of to our own children: time or goods? It is paradoxical that parents make excruciating efforts so that their children can have things they do not need, ignoring key ingredients that their children actually need today. Hence the natural conclusion: society itself sells its future for the sake of a comfortable present.
According to the Christian theology that revolutionized the European economy after the Reformation and turned America into a realm of beautiful dreams, people are more important than goods, than programs, than pride, than politics, than anything, because it is people and only people that Jesus Christ died for.
Perhaps we sometimes become complacent, thinking that, from the perspective of the biblical apocalypse, the Earth is rushing to the end, so any idea for a better tomorrow is illusory and any effort to change the future superfluous. However, precisely from the perspective of this understanding of the future, the only ones who will survive a catastrophic end of the world will be the “faithful and wise” while “the Earth, with all that is on it, will burn”. So any investment in people is not only necessary, but also mandatory. Moreover, the Bible has an incredible perspective on this: people will finally have the chance to sit with God Himself on His throne. This destiny forces us to look at the little ones in our home or next to us through the lens of eternity and to offer them the chance to one day be able to reach this ideal to which God has called them.
Society cannot be changed with larger churches or more beautiful schools, just as God’s heaven cannot be furnished with luxurious towers or expensive cars, but with people who love God and their fellow men enough to make the world more beautiful every day.
However, a society cannot train agents of change if those who train others are not themselves what they want to see in their children or students. The idea that we can only offer what we have is axiomatic.
However, I still believe that this dream can change us as well as others.
Starting today, have the courage to look at those around you: the young people in your church, the children on your street, the pupils or students in front of you, and your own children, as those who will be the leaders of your church tomorrow, who will operate on you when you are ill, or as future mayors or country presidents, but more importantly, as those who will change the world. Then just give them what they need to get there.
Don’t steal their future by giving them surrogates with this many pages, so many zeros, this much horsepower, many floors or many megabytes. It’s the only chance for tomorrow’s world to be better—for them and for us. And it will be so beautiful that God will keep it, even after all things on this earth have come to an end.