Photos courtesy of Unsplash by Dakota Corbin and Manuel Cosentin.
They will inspire you, challenge you, upset you and make you sit in wonder! They will forever be remembered as timeless gifts to humanity.
In every age there are people who shake the world with the gifts that they offer. Their gifts remain timeless causing us to treasure them long after they are gone. But our gratitude for them is expressed in our appreciation of their remarkable talent for something that is so uniquely them. When we survey history, we discover that among the 10 most influential people of all time (Hart, 1992) are people from many cultures and every sphere of life including Muhammad (570-632AD), Isaac Newton (1642-1727), Jesus Christ (c. 5BC- 30AD), Ts’ai Lun (AD50 – 121), Johann Gutenberg (1395-1468), Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) and Albert Einstein (1879-1955). See the complete list at https://www.biographyonline.net/people/100-most-influential.html .
Sometimes, depending on who is doing the ratings, the top 10 most influential people in history changes. So, in 2013, Time magazine published the following as the top 10 most influential people in history: Jesus, Napoleon, Muhammad, William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Adolf Hitler, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, and Thomas Jefferson (Skiena & Ward, 2013).
Long gone, but not forgotten, these timeless gifts to humanity changed history forever. But the list of influencers grows with successive generations, as we lost two such timeless gifts in the past week – Aretha Franklin and Kofi Annan.
Photos courtesy of Unsplash by Israel Palacio, David Beale, Mark Solarski, Tadas Mikuckis,
Considered to be a musical prodigy to parents who were also musical geniuses, Aretha gave the world a double portion of the gifts that had lived in them. Who can forget the powerful voice demanding what she felt she deserved as she sang,
Find out what it means to me
Take care, TCB
Oh” (Redding, 1967).
Or what about the gentle crooning notes as she sang of her love,
“(I say a little prayer for you)
The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup (makeup)
I say a little (prayer for you)
And while I’m combing my hair now
And wondering what dress to wear now (wear now)
I say a little (prayer for you)” (Bacharach & David, 1966).
This little prayer was written for another artist but its production disappointed the songwriter. So, when Aretha took it and made it her song with her melodious pipes and soulful rhythms, the world changed forever. Soon, everyone was singing a little prayer for their love as they started the day. But at the end of the day, we could not forget that Ms. Aretha was all woman – a soulful woman. And, we saw it every time she sat at the piano and began to sing to the world in all her richness,
“Looking out on the morning rain
I used to feel so uninspired
And when I knew I had to face another day
Lord, it made me feel so tired
Before the day I met you, life was so unkind
But you’re the key to my peace of mind
‘Cause you make me feel,
You make me feel,
You make me feel like
A natural woman” (Goffin, King, & Wexler, 1968).
Photos courtesy of Unsplash by Jan Zhukov, Joakim Honkasalo, Vladislav Klapin, Oleh Aleinyk, and Marc Ruaix
The other timeless gift lost to the world was one of global leadership in the person of Ghanaian born Kofi Anan who rose to become the Secretary General of the United Nations. Born to an aristocratic family in Ghana on April 8, 1938, he was raised understanding his responsibility to lead others by virtue of his noble birth. This was reflected in his being schooled in Ghana, the United States and in Switzerland, with a focus on International Relations (Ghana Web, 2018).
Now gone, but certainly not forgotten, Kofi’s words fill the pages of several notable books that he authored. They include: Interventions, We the Peoples, Pandemic, The Circle of Empowerment, and The Collected Papers of Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General 1997-2006.
His admonitions to us provide powerful truths to guide us as we exercise our rights as citizens of the world. Among some of the most poignant of his words are:
“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories.”
“There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole – women and men alike – than the one which involves women as central players.”
“I have always believed that on important issues, the leaders must lead. Where the leaders fail to lead, and people are really concerned about it, the people will take the lead and make the leaders follow.”
“Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.”
As we celebrate these timeless gifts to us, let us treasure the power in the shared experience of personal and collective suffering. Let us use their stories as messages to alleviate the tremendous human suffering that we encounter each day.
Please do not forget that you are a timeless gift to someone too. Somewhere, wherever you are, someone knows your name and they are saying a little prayer for you.
As I close, I leave you with a nugget for your journey from a timeless gift that keeps on giving:
“People of different religions and cultures live side by side in almost every part of the world, and most of us have overlapping identities which unite us with very different groups. We can love what we are, without hating what – and who – we are not. We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings” (Kofi Annan).
So walk on, my friend, the journey is simply unfolding. Nature’s bounty will be on the table soon. Visit my YouTube channel and catch a preview of what’s to come at https://youtu.be/dPM6DGUZ0JU . Also consider other options at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/KeishaAMitchellPhD. Teachers, are you preparing to return to school? Refresh your spirit with gems from For a Teacher’s Heart.
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash