Reflections on worth

Worthless? Worth less? Passionless?

Recently as part of my early journeys as President of my local Rotary club, I have been privileged to be invited to a number of meetings of local community facilities which our club supports. 

As I was at these facilities and also as I later read some case studies of people striken with polio I began to reflect on the questions – why do some people consider these to be worthless human beings?  If not worthless, then why worth less?  I reflected further – surely passion knows no boundaries?

The moments which made me reflect:

Firstly:  I recently attended the AGM of a local home which cares for and trains people with intellectual disabilities.The facility’s mission statement reads:  “xxx strives to meet the needs and wishes of people with intellectual disabilities through care and support to enrich and challenge them to be part of the world community”, and their branding message is “dignity and purpose”. It was pleasing to see the name of our club and our past activities noted in the Annual Report booklet, as well as see the names of several club members mentioned as individual donors. But what moved me were several things related to the residents.  Firstly, there was the singing group “The Bandits” who proudly and passionately performed several songs to those present before the AGM, completely unperturbed by their respective intellectual disabilities.  Secondly were the residents presented various achievement awards. Here two residents stood out – the male who, in spite of his autism, obtained employment and had to learn how to use public transport to travel to work, and the female who had lost her mother and brother carers before coming to the facility where she learnt social and employment skills.  Third were the interactions between a number of the residents.  They communicated need, affection and thanks to both carers and each other through simple acts of touching, kissing on the cheek or holding hands.  I must say I felt uncomfortable, embarrassed but also touched when one of the residents clutched my arm and leaned her head on my shoulder after I made an effort to engage in conversation with her at super.  All of these examples involve people and demonstrated to me the worth of individuals which we sometimes either don’t recognise or acknowledge and how the passion of these residents has no boundaries.

 The next event which moved me was my second visit to a local Aged Care facility.  “Rosie” the activities co-ordinator has sought my Rotary club’s help in creating a sensory garden for the residents. The area is small and the ask is modest.  This was my first meeting with “Rosie”, and she exuded a passion for the residents as people of worth, and she wanted to make a difference for them.  As “Rosie” showed me through the facility and we talked about the services provided, I was touched by the care and dedication shown by the staff to the residents and “Rosie’s” passion to provide.  Each of these people recognised the worth of the individuals in their care.  I do hope the sensory garden project become a reality as passion has no boundaries!

Finally I was reading of Rotary’s on-going efforts to rid the world of Polio, particularly their ‘this close’ campaign.  In doing so I ventured across a comment about a particular Band in the Congo called “Staff Benda Bilili”.  Most of the band are disabled, crippled by polio as children, and drive around in modified Chinese mopeds.  Their message is not one of despair but of hope, not focussing on their own disabilities but on the disabilities of their nation.  They are indeed people of worth; they are passionate about their music and the messages it conveys.  Passion has no boundaries!  Be entertained by the following clip in which they sing a message about polio and how immunisation cures.

Passionate People Produce!  Passion has no boundaries!


Self awareness and passion

In my introductory blog post I referred to, and quoted, Charles Kovess as being the person I attribute to making me aware of the importance of passion.  Recently Charles was interviewed by Alan Kohler on Business spectator’s CEO Hub.  In the 10 minute interview Alan asked Charles some interesting questions and got even more interesting answers.  While the interview was directed more at CEO’s and leaders in business (and mainly to males), the parallels to passion in whatever capacity one holds (such as a teacher), are clear.

Kovess maintains that the most important capability of a leader is self-awareness through discovering passion.  He says that self-awareness is needed to be able to know what one is passionate about. He defines self-awareness as being vulnerable to the ability to honestly answer deep questions such as “what motivates me?”, “what do I value?”, “what do I want?”, “what do I think life is about?”

While the entire 10 minutes of the interview is interesting and relevant, the answers to the following initial questions are what I would like readers to particularly note:

*  What is passion, and why is it relevant ?

*  What is the important link between passion and the most important capability?

*  How do you gain this most important capability?      

 Go to

I am interested to hear your views of the relationships between Kovess’ ideas and being a passionate person/leader/teacher

Primary students with passion

I am currently the proud President of the Rotary Club of Mont Albert & Surrey Hills (affectionately known as MASH) – a mixed gender, non-traditional, active, welcoming club of 36 members.

We are only 7 years ‘old’ and since being chartered have conducted an annual Public Speaking competition for local primary (elementary) schools – principally for grade 6 students.

The idea came from two of our charter members who visited a club in New Zealand and saw this type of event being held. Our club adapted the model and has been running it ever since. So successful is the idea that in 2010 our District (District 9810 – 49 clubs) recommended it as an initiative for other clubs to follow. Several clubs have.

All of that is by way of background. Our finals were conducted on August 30 this year and I acted as MC. As an educator, what impresses me on each occasion this event is held is the passionate presentations by the students, and no more so than this year. By way of introduction to the night I advised the 10 finalists (from 5 schools) by quoting Doctor Zeus:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”

Below are my comments or quotes on each speaker’s presentation and a brief summary by my fellow MC from Toastmasters while the judges were deliberating:

What ‘others’ lack..? “What I would do is put a sparkle in their eyes, smiles on parent faces and harmony in the world” (Chryssa) – finalist

Judges comment: “a very thoughtful speech”

 Happiness is “immersion in an activity or goal…a feeling of accomplishment when you do a good deed” (Charlie) – finalist

Judges comment: “profound thoughts and good humor”

“I love my mum, even though she embarrasses, …she would do anything for me…” (Holly) – 2nd place winner

Judges comment: “Good use of humor and a very expressive speech”

 “I was born in Chile and arrived in Australia when I was 3. Australia is a great place to live because people are polite and friendly, it is multi-cultural….” (Luna) – finalist

Judges comment: “Confident presentation and well put together”

“Happiness is a smiley face – an emoticon – so simple but so complex; as simple as things like enjoying favorite foods; complex because happiness often comes with other emotions…elation..achievement…joy..pleasure..concentration..anticipation..excitement..” (Daniel) – 3rd place winner

Judges comment: “Well crafted and strong delivery of speech”

“If I had superpowers I would take away three negatives – racism, cancer, poverty” (Lachlan) – finalist

Judges comment: “Good detail and knew the topic well”

 ”…. but it was about having a conversation…that will always be special” (Nicholas) – 1st place winner

Judges comment: “Great energy and humor; very expressive and energetic presentation”

 “My happiest experience…. a roller coaster ride at Disneyland.. excited, nervous, scared, numb.” “ups, downs and loops……again! again!” (Emily) – finalist

Judges comment: “Great vocal variety”

 “1.4 billion people in the world live below the poverty line -1 billion of them children” If I could change the world…. I would get cured…the hungry, the homeless, poverty” (Harry) – finalist

Judges comment: “Strong speech with a call to action”

 “Happiness… people search for happiness without even realizing it… happy minds lead to healthy bodies…… you choose happiness” (Zara) – finalist

Judges comment: “Expressive voice and well researched”

What words can I add to the extracts above from the students themselves to explain further the sheer talent, confidence, competence… and passion, of the 10 finalists of the MASH 7th Primary Public Speaking Competition ?

The prevailing themes of the speakers tended to revolve around ‘happiness’ or the cure for ‘unhappiness”.

I’d like to share some of the words I scribbled onto my MC notes by way of summary about each speaker – passionate, emotive, confident, profound thoughts, confident, passionate, clear, confident, informed and real, great, great content, clear diction, confident, powerful, expressive gestures, passionate, great punch-line, passionate, confident, great research, great content, passionate.

 Simple summary really: passionate, confident, and great. These students were not even born when the film “Flashdance” adorned the cinemas [1983] and the theme song – “What a feeling” was a number 1 hit on the charts. But they embraced what the film was all about and what one line of the lyrics so aptly describes “Take your passion and make it happen”

Photo: (front from L to R) 3rd place Daniel, 1st place Nicholas; 2nd place Holly. Rear: Tony, MC and President of RC of MASH

 The final word

 If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it might be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you” (T. Alan Armstrong, Author.)