I have had the privilege to volunteer many times for Free the Children, an organization I deeply admire. The organization was founded by Craig Kielburger in 1995 when he gathered 11 school friends to begin fighting child labour. He was 12.
One morning, Craig flipped through the Toronto Star in search of the comics, he was struck by a story. A raw, but courageous story of a boy his age named Iqbal. Iqbal Masih was born in South Asia and sold into slavery at the age of four. In his short life, he had spent six years chained to a carpet-weaving loom. Iqbal captured the world’s attention by speaking out for children’s rights. Eventually, Iqbal’s wide media coverage caught the attention of those who wished to silence him. At 12, Iqbal lost his life defending the rights of children. What Craig learned from Iqbal’s story was that the bravest voice can live in the smallest body. Craig had to do something. Craig gathered together a small group of his Grade 7 classmates and this is how Free the Children was birthed. Today, Free The Children is an international charity and educational partner, with more than 1.7 million youth involved in our innovative education and development programs in 45 countries. I admire many things about Craig and Free the Children, but his passion and integrity are two characteristics that are extremely refreshing.
It is amazing what one person can do to cause change in the world. Imagine, he was only 12! He saw a need and developed a passion and vision. How inspiring. For more check out Freethechildren.com
So back to my story! I was asked by Free the Children to do an interview for a video for ” We Day.” Snippets of what I said, along with others, on how we felt about the organization and volunteering for them, would be blended into a presentation. I was honored by this opportunity. This was a cause that I truly believe in. I pondered what I could say, in a few minutes, that would influence others. If you aren’t familiar with “We Day,” it’s a huge, one – day, event with thousands of young people and adults in attendance. I wanted to make sure that what I said, mattered. I contemplated for days. Then I began to think about what I was going to wear for this video footage. I mean, seriously, I had to look good, after – all I was going to be on the big screen with thousands of people viewing this video! I picked out an outfit that I felt I looked best in. I made sure all my accessories were matching. My hair and my make up were just right. I left for my interview; feeling a bit nervous but very inspired. I was excited. Just a few minutes before I arrived, I realized that I had forgotten to put my dressy shoes on. I was wearing my slippers! For a split second, I was mortified. Here I was working so hard to create an image that was appropriate and now I had shown up in my slippers. I had no time to go back and get my shoes. I was doomed to film in my slippers.
That is when the truth hit me and it hit me hard! Here I was, speaking for a group of passionate people about being the change in the world and I was concerned about my shoes! My priorities were out of line. My attitude was quickly readjusted, as I began to think of children in other countries that don’t have the opportunities that we have. They aren’t allowed education and access to water and a wardrobe of clothes with shoes that match their outfits. I felt so ridiculous to be concerned over such a trite issue. I walked into that interview with a real story and a renewed purpose that day. I shared my experience with them. I was humbled by the life lesson I learned by accidentally forgetting my shoes that morning.
I believe it is time we all begin to shift our perspective. We need to be less concerned with frivolous issues. It is time to get a vision for the issues that matter. In closing, remember the words of Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”