I suspect this winter break was a welcome one for many: a chance to take a breath, reflect on the year that has passed, and see more clearly all that we hope for in 2022. For me, amid that reflection, I was struck by the news of Desmond Tutu’s passing.
Growing up at a time of less globalization and less immediacy of information about the world, I remember learning of the atrocity of apartheid through fragments of news stories shared by my parents and teachers and marveling at the courage of three men: Nelson Mandela, Stephen Biko, and Desmond Tutu. I was in high school when the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established.
By then, the horrors of apartheid had placed South Africa at the forefront of international news, and the notion of justice in partnership with reconciliation seemed to take the world by surprise. Such a notionthat true peace in a torn nation required truth and reconciliationwas visionary, and Archbishop Tutu stood on the thrust of the world’s stage to champion it.
“We can be human only together. A person is a person to other persons. We so desperately long for all of us to learn that we are meant for one another. We are meant for complementarity.”
At the start of 2022, only a day removed from the one year anniversary of an attackthe very antithesis of complementarityon the United States Capitol, Tutu’s vision stands as a reminder of the power of hope, the power of our humanity, and the power of forgiveness.
A parent shared a story with me of seeing Tutu in the 1980s and its impact on her family, life, and career. She wrote:
“As I think about Archbishop Tutu this week, I am reminded of how formative it was for me to encounter him when I was young and just beginning to discern my own sense of purpose. I think my commitment to the power of a diverse community coming together to act for the common good, and the greater good, has something to do with what I learned then.
Now, as I think about my sense of purpose at the turn of the new year and my renewed fire to work for the common good, I am thinking of Tutu’s compassion, his humility, and above all his humor. These qualities undergirded his extraordinary agency and power, his ability to bring people together in community to inspire and affect change and healing.”
The world needs more voices that remind us of our humanity, our compassion, and the power of a commitment to the common good. At Belmont Day, we aspire to be those voices together.