“So shines a good deed in a weary world.” ~ Willy Wonka (paraphrasing Shakespeare)
There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He’s ordinary (~Foo Fighters, My Hero)
When I think of distilled goodness, I think of Jimmy Carter.
The news last week about his brain cancer saddened me. I wasn’t surprised given his recent liver surgery, but even when you know someone’s end is likely coming sooner rather than later, it doesn’t make the confirmation land any easier.
The magnitude of my own reaction surprises me, honestly. I don’t know this man personally, but I have such deep respect and affection for him. Who he is and how he continually demonstrates his authentic desire to make the world a better place with quiet dignity commands it.
I know we all die. He’s 90 for heaven’s sake. None of this is shocking. But there are certain people so luminous in their generosity, service, and unrelenting determination to improve humanity that a world minus them seems dimmer.
The Carter Center’s motto so eloquently states what Jimmy, Rosalynn and those who work there do each day: Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope. They take on the essential, unsexy work of improving the lives of the world’s poorest people who make up the Bottom Billion.
I didn’t think I could admire him more, but then he turned his energy toward the cause of making the world better for women and girls and wrote a book about it. As a woman, a mother to two daughters, as someone who cares about all women having full agency in their lives, this couldn’t be more personally poignant. That, in the process, he calls out most of his fellow men for sitting comfortably in their own privilege while doing little more than paying lip service to supporting equality for women is bold in its unvarnished truth. It grabbed my attention.
There’s one more basic cause that I need not mention, and that is that in general, men don’t give a damn. That’s true. The average man that might say, “I’m against the abuse of women and girls” quietly accepts the privileged position that we occupy, and this is very similar to what I knew when I was a child, when separate but equal had existed. … During that time, there were many white people that didn’t think that racial discrimination was okay, but they stayed quiet, because they enjoyed the privileges of better jobs, unique access to jury duty, better schools, and everything else, and that’s the same thing that exists today, because the average man really doesn’t care.
…I hope that out of this conference, that every woman here will get your husbands to realize that these abuses on the college campuses and the military and so forth and in the future job market, need to protect your daughters and your granddaughters.
As far as former presidents go, I believe Jimmy Carter is indisputably in a different league than his peers. To quote something I read on Facebook, he was “the only man who’s ever used the Presidency as a stepping stone to greater things.”
In a world begging us to end human suffering on so many fronts, Jimmy Carter is the human version of hope rolling up its shirt sleeves, getting dirty, and making a difference one life at a time.
I feel privileged to live in the same lifetime as President Carter. I’m touched by the consistently authentic personal example he’s set of what we are capable of when we act from the deepest wells of our generous hearts. It is beautiful to behold. It makes me want to do more, to be better.
I am glad he’s still here, for now. I will miss him when he goes.