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Each one of us holds the weight of just one person. In a world of six billion, a number too large to comprehend, it is not uncommon to feel like our work is insignificant. For those who let the problems of the world into their daily consciousnesses, it is easy to feel helpless against the tsunami of never-ending injustice, ignorance, and suffering.
But giving in to the feeling of being powerless and voiceless is taking the easy way out, especially for those raised in privilege with access to education, to health, and more opportunity than could ever be lived out in a million lives. Everyone, especially those with relative means and privilege, should use his or her time and resources well and responsibly.†† In order to not let life pass us by unchecked, it is important for each person to ask: What is the true weight of one person? What is the real sphere of one personís influence? Though people in positions of disproportionate power, like presidents and CEOs of economically and politically influential enterprises, may seemingly have more easily quantifiable answers for themselves and their actions, it is crucial to realize that every person has the potential to carry very significant weight of influence in his or her life.
It is always unfortunate that it takes a tragedy, or the threat of tragedy, to make us see in a clearer perspective; to let us weigh and truly appreciate the value of our own lives, and those of every single living being around us.
On January 26th of this year, Amy Sosnowskiís life on earth came to an end at 28 years.[ed. see 9 Feb 05] Hundreds of people in many corners of the world took pause to grieve and appreciate the internal and external reaches of her lifeís actions, and I was among them. For nearly the last five years of her life, Amy had worked in rural Mozambique as a teacher and then director of an educational center. Though Amy had been positively affecting the lives of others in large and small ways long before she worked in Africa, it is a valuable question to ask: What can a person accomplish in just five years of life? It is worthwhile to ask because the answers are remarkable and inspiring.
In just five years of life she can oversee four classes of over 200 students apiece at a teacher training college. She is not only empowering future teachers of a country in dire need of them, but she is empowering these teachers to learn to develop their communities through micro-projects in education, healthcare, agriculture, and the arts.
She can master a foreign language and comes to understand a culture so different from her own. She fundraises thousands of dollars for a place where the dollar has an extreme value, especially for development. She enables Mozambicans to join an international development collaboration that empowers them with responsibility, skills, and upward opportunity almost impossible to attain in a place so recently stripped and scarred by war, colonialism, and poverty.
She can establish warm relationships with local government officials and countrywide dignitaries, cultivating support and understanding. She hosts seminars for other non-profits, promoting knowledge of the school and its mission.
She can bring the realities of a misunderstood African land on the other side of the world into the homes and personal lives of many Americans who would never† have made those personal connections without her. Amy brings to disparate people across oceans the considerations of each other.
In five years of life, she can give great emotional, financial, and familial support to those suffering loss around her: To Paix„o, who lost a four-year-old daughter, and to Felizberto who lost a baby the same age as her own is now; to comfort Terezinha who lost her husband to HIV and to encourage Terezinha to get an HIV test herself Ė something that takes immense bravery for anyone living in a country with little access to AIDS medications, societal acceptance, and emotional support. Amy talks about AIDS in personal ways with her students and teachers-to-be, so that they too will broach the reality of this taboo topic for the thousands of students they will later impact.
She can birth and raise a now two-year-old daughter in Africa, giving her more stimulation for healthy growth of mind and body than Iíve ever witnessed. By the age of 19 months, LuLu runs and plays with all children and adults, and is learning to express her bright mind in three different languages.
She supports a life partner and a band of willing but naÔve volunteers; she is successfully responsible for their health, their well-being, and their contribution to the school.
She does these things without running water, reliable telecommunication, and often times without electricity. She does it 9,000 miles away from her family and close friends, and for unglamorous pay.
She does it because she knows itís real, and because she is affecting hundreds, and by extension, thousands of lives in significant ways.† Sheís managed to use her strong mind, good health, and the resources in her reach toward the betterment of this world.
If we can add to this list of life feats, letís include inspiration that will live on in uncountable others, and letís give credit to Amy for the realization that each and every life has this same potential for magnitude. Let us each take pause to measure our own weight in this world, for it is most certainly not insignificant.
Ali can be reached via email: alipinschmidt[at]yahoo.com (Copy & Paste)
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