I recently had the opportunity to hear two different speakers on two different Sundays that, while delivered by very different people in very different settings, shared a very similar idea. On Nov. 4, the young men in Boys Life had the opportunity to listen to a recent Darlington graduate, Kwame Wireko (’15), a senior at Emory University. The following Sunday, I listened to a sermon by my parish pastor at St. Mary’s Catholic Church here in Rome. While Kwame and Father Rafael couldn’t be more different, they shared a common message of compassion and empathy.
Kwame is a senior business/marketing major at Emory University. During his time at Darlington, he was a member of the soccer team, Discipline Committee and head residential prefect of Neville House. He told the Darlington students his story, one that was both similar and familiar to a good many of our current students. His family moved to Georgia from Ghana when he was 16. He started at Darlington and lived with then-Head of House Reba Barnes in Summerbell House. He was originally in the Soccer Academy but realized quickly that the travel demands were too much for him. He described himself as “a scrawny, little, 120-pound kid from Africa.” He told the audience about his goals through high school and even into college. “I had two goals,” Wireko said. “One was to be a doctor and the other was to make a ton of money.” He even poked at the students by adding that he’d bet that a lot of them probably had the same goals.
It would be after his sophomore year at Emory that Kwame Wireko’s path changed. After two years of pre-med studies, Kwame said he just wasn’t enjoying it. He was most worried about telling his parents about his decision. But I am positive that now they are proud and pleased. As his story goes, Kwame was passing through a gathering at Emory where he heard a group of students discussing social entrepreneurship. One of these students was Cole Holan. Kwame told the students that just listening to Cole sparked something in him that he just knew he had to be involved with. The two quickly became partners and investing his own $65 and a small$500 loan from a relative, they started Calabash water bottles.
Their start-up initiative was designed to sell the bottles and use profits to build wells and hand-washing stations throughout villages in eastern Uganda. With support from Emory and some Atlanta-based companies, their start-up grew to the point where the two students were able to take the trip to Uganda this past summer. Kwame spoke of this time of service being a real turning point for him. He pointed out that it was when he was put into action, helping and building wells and hand-washing stations or even just playing soccer with the children in the East Ugandan villages, that he realized that it is doing for people that changes lives. He said, "It is far easier to give up on one of your goals if it is just about you. It is easier to quit something. It is far harder to quit if it is for someone else.”
Let’s fast forward to the following Sunday.
I sat and listened to Father Rafael’s story. He was referencing the scripture that day from Mark 12:38-44. It is the story of Jesus watching many of the rich contribute large sums, while a poor widow could only give two copper coins. Jesus’ teaching is that the poor widow truly gave more because it was all she had. Father Rafael shared a personal story of being confronted by a man asking for food. He offered the man $20, but the man refused saying, “Father, I asked for food.” Father Rafael responded by going into the restaurant to purchase the food. He taught us that it wasn’t money the man wanted but instead what he really he wanted was his time and a chance to connect with another person. He simply wanted to be able to talk and share the meal with someone. Like Wireko, Father Rafael found that it is easy for us to say yes or no to giving money, but much harder to not to give when there is someone else in front of you.
In December and January, the monthly tenants for our Boys Life program are Service and Empathy. At Darlington, we are consistently providing service opportunities and trying to instill in our students the importance of giving. Kwame Wireko had this message for the students: "It’s ok to want to be rich.” He admitted he still wants to be wealthy. But, he used the idea of social entrepreneurship to say that if you do acquire wealth, it is important to understand how you can use your wealth to help. Kwame’s future goals are to work in business and marketing. He eventually wants to use his knowledge and wealth in the future to help underdeveloped African nations get their products into the global marketplace to improve their quality of life.
Now, I am pretty certain that Father Rafael isn’t too concerned with getting rich. But, I believe that he and Kwame would agree that giving of yourself and sharing your time will make you far wealthier in the end.