Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Valuing What is Valuable

In this post, I'll diverge from my usual topics of education, technology, and leadership.  I took a couple hours to join some other administrators in going to a local foundation that ministers to the mentally and physically disabled.  It is supported by municipal funds and the foundation includes something like 7 different facilities including a K-12 school, dormitory, factory where they make circuit boards, and a printing business.

These circuit boards go into GPS screens and other small devices.

Seong Se Rehabilitation School has all kinds of disabilities from mental to severe physical impairments.  Their facilities are built for the many wheelchairs in the facility.  The kids have smiles on their faces as they learn English, math, computers, etc. and attempt what are very difficult physical coordination tasks for some.  The vision of those that run that foundation is to raise the view of the disabled in Korea. As a result, they run a first class facility that does an excellent job educating these children to accomplish a level of functionality some might not have dreamed possible.

As I walked around and watched both the adults that were working and the kids in school, I had to stop and reflect on what I (and we) value in life.  In our fast-paced, busy world, it is easy to become transactional.  We give something and expect something in return.  Sadly, we often apply this concept unconsciously even in our most altruistic moments.  Even in helping the poor or the disabled, we want them to contribute to society.  What does that mean?

Does it mean they can take care of themselves?  Does it mean they can provide some work or labor for others?  Or is the goal to make sure they don't drain tax dollars as adults?  Are we benevolent yet transactional at times?  If we expect this kind of return in life, I fear we will be disappointed at many levels (and I'm not just talking about by people with disabilities).  The smiles and lives of these people contribute greatly.  For some it will not be a economic contribution nor a measurable gift.  However, they offer us an opportunity to give of ourselves and get nothing back.  To give freely without reservation or expectation of return.  They can remind us of the value of human life.  They remind us of our humanity - that life isn't a series of transactions.

We need foundations like this to keep us from losing perspective.  We need to teach our children in our schools this principle as well.  We have to remember what is truly valuable.  We need to take advantage of the opportunity to give gifts of our time, energy, and love.  Perhaps I didn't depart from my usual topics as much as I thought when I first started this post...

Then the righteous will answer him, 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
-Matthew 25:37-40 (Bible)

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