Living for something

Day by day we live out our routine, functioning in that monotone daily grind of “making a living”.

Life is best lived when we live for something – a purpose, a vision, a goal. It need not be a grand, big dream. It could be something small. It could be just making a difference in the life of one person.

But life is best lived when we face each day with passion, zeal and enthusiasm, when the purpose that drives us fuels our energy to make the most of the time we have in this world.

Life is best lived when we are making a difference for others, no matter how small or insignificant in the grand scheme of the world.

Little acts that shape and impact our community, multiplied all across the country, make a national difference.

We could look to the powerful and rich, to government, to organizations and associations, to make a difference in our society. Or we could each raise our hand to a simple task that we could tackle, and it would make the world of difference.

A couple weeks ago, city clean-up enthusiast Don Gomes and this writer walked around the sidewalk of the Parliament Buildings, and he expressed strong disgust at the nastiness of the place.

Gomes saw a destitute, insane man standing, quite at home, just outside the gates of the National Assembly, and he did the unthinkable. He walked up to the fellow, and held a quiet, earnest conversation with him. Gomes told the insane guy that the next day would be a Parliamentary sitting, and so by the morning he should vacate the place, and his garbage strewn area should be cleaned up. He promised the man a box of chicken if he complied. The next morning, not only was the man gone, but the area was spotlessly clean.

Gomes, in that little act of conversing with a crazy person – when everyone else crosses the road and walks away from the stench – made a difference.

After that encounter, Gomes walked into the Library at Parliament Buildings to see a friend who works there. The atmosphere in the Building was a night and day difference to that of the street outside. But once in the posh, polished Parliament, it seemed as if the streets did not matter. One forgets the rowdiness of the streets in the posh walls of Parliament.

What was even more sad was to see several computers, with free Wifi access, and scores of official government documents and books, sitting idle in the library. People were busy outside on the street blaring vehicle horns, cussing each other, avoiding several destitute souls in smelly clothes, and hawking food and goods at Stabroek market.

No one seemed to care to make use of the free Parliamentary library to check out the documents and books and Internet – all free service.

Gomes, a re-migrant Canadian-Guyanese, takes a keen interest in these things. He found it fascinating that an official emblem, handed over to Guyana at Independence, sits on a soft cushion on a table in the Library. In fact, the Library is a fascinating place.

Don Gomes lives for something – for the simple pleasure of his endless curiosity about Georgetown and the history of Guyana. He collects odd facts and pictures and newspaper articles about the past Presidents of Guyana. He stores every day’s newspapers at his home. He lives for something. And life becomes a fascinating experience for him.

Sad it is that so many folks just wake up every day and drown their soul in the daily grind, like the cane cutter in Berbice who, at 37 years of age, is already a grandfather with his two teenaged kids both bearing children out of wedlock.

This cane cutter lives a life that, in the words of V S Naipaul, leaves him in an “unconscious” state. He wakes up at 4 am, grabs his glittering, sharpened cutlass, jumps on his rickety, muddy bicycle, and heads off to the cane fields. He gets back home about midday, and proceeds to consume alcohol to the point where he becomes stone drunk, dazed and glazed in stupor. Maybe the hard work in broiling sun takes a toll on him. He seeks solace in the rum bottle – touted as the best rum in the world.

Whenever his electricity is not disconnected, he blasts chutney and hip hop music to full volume, announcing his partying to the village. Other village drunks join him at the bottom house of his house. They cook on an outside fireside. His wife had left him long ago. The house is falling apart, weeds taking over the yard, filling his place with mosquito-thriving bush.

This man was once a happy boy at school with promising prospect.

What happened?

He found nothing for which to live. He was not living for something. He was living for nothing. And when his teenage children come to visit him, he greets them with a rum bottle clutched in one hand and an empty wallet in the other.

Yet, this is the very yard that his father used to plant a brilliant green home garden in the 1980’s. This was the yard that was always filled with fertile beds of bora, pepper, tomato, calalloo, cucumber. His father lived for a thriving garden, and fed his family and sent them to school and nurtured his kids and raised them to be a generation achieving beyond his own limited dreams.

What had happened to his sons?

Our society has failed them. As much as we produce countless success stories, too many people fall through the social cracks of our poverty-stricken society. We fail to instill in our young generation the ideal of living for something, of waking up every day to dream and imagine and believe in a life of possibilities.


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