Home > Uncategorized > My Encounter with SYG: Summer 2007

My Encounter with SYG: Summer 2007

By Alethia

This piece is intended to share my experience of the time that I spent with young fellow Ethiopians who challenged my views about the Ethiopian society to a great extent during my stay back home in the summer of 2007. I’ll share my experience of an encounter with a group called Serve Your Generation (SYG), which is aptly and properly named as I can call them so after my experience with the group.

My summer visit back home came after some years of being away from home. A close friend of mine would ask me and insist that I visit a group of unique young people that he kept telling me were unique and worth visiting and interacting with. He made the point that these are young Ethiopians who were once kids on the streets in Addis Ababa. He also told me clearly and passionately that they are radically different from what I’d come across in the larger Ethiopian society. He kept telling me all the great stories about these former street kids who, according to him, hold a destiny of the larger Ethiopian society. They are examples of what it means to embody distinct values that define one’s identity that also define one’s destiny.

My friend volunteers for SYG and his passion for these young people was irresistible and finally I gave in to his repeated request. I was busy teaching an intensive summer philosophy college course and thought I’d not have much to say to these young people. After all, I was skeptical to such a testimony. I was not moved by their stories. Not much but that is only until I met their charismatic leader and eventually the group.  Though I knew that my friend was not lying I could not believe him so readily and so quickly.

While my friend kept telling me about the young people in SYG I was planning  to give a talk about the bleak and dark and pessimistic future of the Ethiopian society that many of my readers would recall from many of my articles I wrote even after my encounter with the SYG. But the young people in the SYG were unique and deserve a piece that distinguishes them for what they are. And all my previous articles that sounded pessimistic about the future of the larger Ethiopian society were obviously about the larger Ethiopian society and I do stand by what I’ve written as long as the target and context of those articles is concerned. This piece is to share a few things about the SYG, not about the larger Ethiopian society. But my hope is that the larger Ethiopian society can learn some lessons from the community of its own young people who have something to teach the rest of us.

The title of my talk that I was looking forward to giving then, if I had not met the SYG, was on something like why Ethiopia’s future is its past; if much better, why Ethiopia’s future is its present. Basically that was meant to say that Ethiopia as a society would not or does not have a future, a future better than its past or its present.  The farthest we could go as a society would be as far as the present at the best or the past at the worst for reasons that I explicitly provided in many of my articles before. Yes, most of my articles on various websites bear witness to such skeptical views I hold and have been arguing for.

But the SYG challenged my perspectives way better than anything else that I know about our society. Those in the SYG are a token of examples that I’ve been arguing that the larger Ethiopian society should look like and be, of course, at the very least.  These are the key points that would capture what distinguishes those in the SYG:

1)    Purpose of life: The remarkable thing about the young people (some as young as 14 and older ones in their late 20’s or so) in the SYG is that they passionately infuse their entire existence with purpose. These were (not are they anymore) street kids, mind you,  and for them, now,  life does not make sense if there is no clearly defined purpose for it and if one fails to act on the clearly defined purpose for life. Their leader, who was a former street kid himself and now an adult, helped define life’s purpose for these kids and as many of those passionate kids would put it, they’ve re-discovered their humanity in the purposes of life they’ve been taught and by which they guide their lives now. They value life so much so that they do not waste their precious time in anything that deviates from their purpose in life. As some of those in the SYG shared their stories with me have eloquently put it, one does not need to get up from bed in the morning if one does not know what purpose one has got to live for every day!  

2)    Work Ethics: Another remarkable feature of these former street kids is their most valued ethics with respect to holding any job and working at it diligently. No job is better or worse as long as a job can help them to support themselves and their families. No need to enumerate what kind of jobs they hold: any job that can generate some income for them in order to enable them to support themselves and their families. They all value independence and are fighting against the habit of depending on others for living when they can generate their own means for living.

3)    Education:  Some of the best students at all levels of education in the country come from the SYG. Excellence in whatever they do is their motto and their driving force behind everything they do and anything less than excellent academic achievement is unacceptable to these young people. After talking with them and interacting with them one would be left with an impression and wondering if these young people are really smarter than the rest of us in the society. When life is infused with purpose and education is valued for all the good things that it can help one realize one’s dreams in life one would realize why these young people excel in most of what they do, including their education. The ones at colleges are among those who’re winning recognition and academic achievements and setting examples for the ones in lower levels like junior high and high schools or wherever they are.

4)    Character: Above all, one of the central things that define these young people is their devotion and commitment to be people of character with integrity and love for truth and open-mindedness and capacity to learn and grow and mature. They all are intentionally reflective. They’ve been taught and are being taught by their leader and also a number of highly influential and exemplary people from all walks of life in Ethiopia as their role models and they are trying to live out the lessons they learn from the lives of others who preceded them. They are simply good at what they are learning simply because they are decisively intentional in all that they do.

5)    Love for their country: One of the defining things that I’ve observed about these young people is their passionate love for their country. They are intentionally developing all their skills and knowledge and their lives overall to do all they could to the country they love so much. If anyone like this writer who holds some pessimistic view about the future of Ethiopia encounters these young people I’ve no doubt that they provide a formidable challenge to such skeptic  as me and whoever. They are all about holding Ethiopia’s destiny into their hands and working so hard to the realization of such an ideal. They are heavily involved in all sorts of voluntary community activities that provide them with opportunities to serve their people and their country and hence they are already working at the craft of what it means to love one’s country in action and with passion.

When I gave one of my talks to the SYG audience I mentioned to them, as I said above, that the talk I was about to give among fellow Ethiopians was about Ethiopia’s having no future which is radically different or even better than its past or its present, they eloquently and sharply and respectfully and intelligently disagreed with such an idea for a talk. I made a concession to them as a result of my encounter with them. I qualified my idea for a talk thus: Except for a group/community such as the Serve Your Generation (SYG) and any similar group that might exist elsewhere without my knowledge, I said, the Ethiopian society at large would not have a better future than its past and/or its present for reasons my readers from my many articles would recall. Such a concession on my part due to the exemplary role those in SYG play invigorated these young people such that they made a renewed commitment to leading the country they love so much into a much better future. I then made a promise to help them in ways that I can and this piece is dedicated to the young exemplary fellow Ethiopians in the Serve Your Generation in recognition of their exemplary role in the Ethiopian society. My hope is that other fellow Ethiopians will also commit themselves to doing what they can to support and encourage these younger people who deserve all kinds of support and encouragement from the rest of us. It’s with such an intention that I’ve decided to write this piece on the SYG.


Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. May 6, 2008 at 3:28 am

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