Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Left Overs

Laying the foundation:
When I was just a boy about five years old, my mother – we called her Muemera.  I don't know why, but we did (I guess we all had a nick name of some sort as we were growing up) – my mother would have many of her friends gather at our house, and she would always, not ask, but tell, me to stand up and tell them what you're going to be when you grow up.  I would always do as I was told - stand up and say, "I'm going to be a doctor when I grow up."  Mind you, she had already decided and told them that I was going to be a doctor.
I also remember our family having barely enough to get by…I’ve never seen French fries prepared so many different ways.  One day we’d have French fries, the next day they turn into hash browns and the next day, we’d have mashed potatoes.  She would always be the last one to eat…if there was enough left for her to eat.  I didn’t know that until later on in life when I was trying to raise my own young family. Then I begin to think of us as human beings in society, as social leftovers.  If it were not for leftovers, I wouldn’t be standing here this morning speaking with you all.  I thank god for leftovers…they’re not too bad, even if I have to say so myself.  The late Dr. W.A. McMillan would always say and I quote – “There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us --- so it doesn’t behoove any of us to talk about the rest of us”.
Well, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on all the life lessons she taught me and my siblings, and how she inspired us all.  Much of what was inspired by her teachings came to light when I joined the Boy Scouts:    
As a Boy Scout, I learned the Boy Scout Oath/Promise:
On my honor, I will do my best 
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; 
To help other people at all times; 
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
The Oath has traditionally been considered to have three promises. They are delineated by the semicolons in the Oath, which divide it into three clauses. The promises of the oath are, therefore:
       Duty to God and country,
       Duty to other people, and
       Duty to self
DUTY TO GOD AND COUNTRY: Your family and religious leaders teach you to know and serve God. By following these teachings, you do your duty to God.
Men and women of the past worked to make America great, and many gave their lives for their country. By being a good family member and a good citizen, by working for your country's good and obeying its laws, you do your duty to your country. Obeying the Scout Law means living by its 12 points.
DUTY TO OTHER PEOPLE: Many people need help. A cheery smile and a helping hand make life easier for others. By doing a Good Turn daily and helping when you're needed, you prove yourself a Scout and do your part to make this a better world.
DUTY TO SELF: Keeping yourself physically strong means taking care of your body. Eat the right foods and build your strength. 
Staying mentally awake means learn all you can, be curious, and ask questions.
Morally straight means to live your life with honesty, to be clean in your speech and actions, and to be a person of strong character.
Boy Scout Law
A Scout is:
       and Reverent.
Boy Scout Motto
Be Prepared! 
Boy Scout Slogan
Do a Good Turn Daily!
The Outdoor Code
As an American, I will do my best to -
       Be clean in my outdoor manners
       Be careful with fire
       Be considerate in the outdoors, and
       Be conservation minded.

What inspired me after all these years is that my mother, Willette, was a Boy Scout and I didn’t even know it!  A Boy Scout is simply doing all the right things for all the right reasons.  She can be summed up in one of my favorite poems:

Live Your Creed Written by Langston Hughes
I'd rather see a sermon than to hear one any day.
I'd rather one should walk with me than just to show the way.
The eye is a better pupil and more willing than the ear.
Advice may be misleading but, examples are always clear.
And the very best of teacher are the ones who live their creed,
to see good put into action is what everybody needs.
I can soon learn to do it, if you'll let me see it done.
I can watch your hand in motion but, your tongue to fast may run.
I can soon learn to do it if you'll let me see it done.
I can watch your hand in motion but, your tongue may run.
And the lectures you deliver may be very fine and true but, 
I'd rather get my lesson by observing what you do.
For I may misunderstand you and the fine advice you give but,
there is no misunderstanding of how you act and how you live.

I’ve been at MIT for 19 years and I’ve learned that we have plenty of leftovers among our community.  I now understand leftovers are part of the very fabric that makes MIT special. 

“Thank God for leftovers”!

Larry Anderson
Associate Professor
Head Coach, Basketball