Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Review: Made for Goodness and Why This Makes All the Difference, by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu

Made For Goodness and Why This Makes All the Difference
by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
Harper One, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
copyright 2010
206 pages

Earlier this spring, I was fortunate enough to go to Baltimore for the International Conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Our keynote speaker was Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the excitement among the 3,000+ fundraisers in attendance was palpable.  He's the type of person who makes you feel like you're in the presence of God.

His speech was, as we expected, incredibly inspiring. Among the oft-tweeted lines that he said to a room full of fundraisers - a tough profession to be in during a recession - was that our jobs involve making the world a better place.

"Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey ..." he nearly whispered into the microphone, enunciating syllables like Sinatra. "You have ... a noble profession. You have a calling. You have a vocation." Gave many of us goosebumps.

His speech was also downright hilarious, which we did not expect. I'm telling you, the guy brought down the house and had us roaring with laughter. 

Photo taken by me of Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the big screen speaking at the Association of Fundraising Professionals conference, April 2010., in Baltimore, MD. (All the photos in this post were taken then.)

Because of the atrocities that Archbishop Tutu has witnessed, you wouldn't expect him to be so funny. You would expect him to be full of wisdom and perhaps, some comfort.  That's what Made for Goodness and Why This Makes All the Difference is.

A few days before the conference, I happened to see his new book (written with his daughter, Mpho) on the New Books shelf at the library. I brought it along with me to the conference, but didn't get to it until a few weeks ago. (Thank goodness for multiple renewals.)  

The premise of the book is the same as the title:  that we are all made to be good, that we all have a desire to strive toward goodness and to live our lives to be good. It's easy to be cynical about that, but I think there's something to be said if Archbishop Tutu, who has lived through some truly horrific experiences during South Africa's years of apartheid, can find that goodness in others.  (In his speech to us at our international conference, he thanked the international community for ending apartheid.) Maybe the man knows something we don't.
In Made for Goodness, Archbishop Tutu weaves his personal experiences of sitting at the front row of history and his daughter's experiences as a young mother together with the Biblical stories of the prodigal son and Adam and Eve. He ends each chapter with a Scripture and draws on Bible verses and passages throughout the book to illustrate his points. (I'm not an overly religious person, but this aspect of Made for Goodness didn't bother me at all.)

In a very conversational, reassuring style, Archbishop Tutu writes of his parents and his parishioners, the regrets he had and the questions he asked when he doubted his own capacity for goodness (similarly, in my view, to Rabbi Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People) and how he found peace.

"Anyone can make the decision to be more mindful of his words and deeds and of their effects. Anyone can choose to cultivate compassion. Anyone can commit herself to returning ever more speedily to the goodness that is her true home.

"In an extraordinary way, we can return to goodness more quickly when we have a clear vision of the present. That clarity about the present is rooted in making peace with the past. Putting words to our pain begins the process of building that peace. In speaking the truth of our pain, we start to collect the memories of what we have done or experienced. When we retell our stories we can be heard into healing. We can be heard back to wholeness, back to goodness, back home to ourselves." (pg. 147)

During the week that I read this, our community was gripped in fear by two random attacks by a serial rapist. (On two separate days in the same week, in broad daylight, a woman was attacked by a stranger as she sat in her car in a doctor's office parking lot. Another was attacked as she arrived for work in a corporate office parking lot.) It took two weeks for the sick bastard to be caught, and women were, understandably, nervous and on edge. 

As I read Archbishop Tutu's words about forgiveness, I found myself thinking about the two victims (as I have frequently since the attacks) and wondering how one ever gets to a point of forgiving such a heinous crime. 

"When we forgive, we reclaim the power to create .... We can create a new story of ourselves. When we find the strength to forgive, we are no longer victims. We are survivors.

"Forgiveness is not only a creative act; it is a liberating action.  When we forgive the people who have harmed us, we liberate ourselves from the chains that bind us to our offender. We don't hold their offenses against them. And they exert no control over our moods, our disposition, or us. They have no further part in writing the story that we must tell of ourselves. Forgiveness liberates us. We are free." (pg. 150). 

In his speech to us fundraisers in Baltimore, Archbishop Tutu was referring to the many deeply concerning economic, environmental, medical, and cultural issues affecting people around the globe when he paraphrased Martin Luther King Jr. in saying, "we must live together as brothers and sisters or perish together forever."

It's a concept found in Made for Goodness, too. We need to embrace the goodness within us and choose it for our professions and in all we do.  We need to seek and embrace that in others through our acceptance of them, our compassion for them, and in our own time, our forgiveness of them and perhaps more importantly, ourselves, as incredibly difficult as that journey can often be.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Trisha said...

Sounds like a wonderful speech! It is so awe-inspiring to hear someone with such a powerful history and talent for speaking.

Amy said...

Wow, sounds like an incredible experience - both the speech and the book. How awesome!

melissa said...
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Mary Worthington said...

I was there at the AFP conference and just checked that book out of the library. A pastor friend of mine recommended the book. Wow is right. His speech was a mountain top experience for me!

Iliana said...

This sounds so amazing. How wonderful that you were able to go see him. I didn't know about the book but I'm going to see if my library carries it.

K A B L O O E Y said...

He spoke at my college when I was an undergrad and I remember it vividly even though it was more than 25 years ago. (Holy hell, I'm old.) But reading your post made me think about that terrific day and the excitement of being part of a group sharing a marvelous experience.