“My problem is that as a social worker, I sometimes think that I am a better human being than those I serve.” A colleague humbly admitted her shortcoming in the presence of 50 other teammates as we grappled with what it meant to be a member of a community. Her sharing reminded me of an important lesson I learnt when I was training as a counsellor. My teacher stressed to me that this work is about “who” we can be for people rather that “what” we can do. Doing something for people tends to put us in a superior position but perhaps this work is simply about being human and humbly acknowledging that like all humans, we too are capable of much good and bad. If we seek understanding and compassion when we struggle then, it is only natural to do the same when the struggles of others are before us.

This evening we will have the privilege of attending a community celebration where parents and neighbourhood leaders recognise the efforts of some 50 children who are trying their best to stay in school. Not every child is brilliant in school but the adults in their community believe that children needed to be assured that they are well cared for. They reckoned that a child did not have to be extremely successful or problematic to get a community’s attention. A child, like all of us needs attention simply because we are all human. It has been a joy watching how a community pulls together to pull off this celebration. I suppose getting excited about a party and endeavouring to throw an awesome one is also human.

This evening I will be looking forward to meeting the 4 Guests of Honour. These guests will be on stage to present the Certificates of Achievement to the children. There is a 50 year father of 4 who is recovering from a stroke. Although he is being unable to work, he moves around the neighbourhood slowly with a walking stick quietly linking his neighbours to work opportunities and available assistance schemes. His neighbours value him as an important resource in the community. There is also a mother whose children have been placed in care and is determined that other parents in her neighbourhood do not need to experience the pain she is carrying. She helps coordinate a children’s reading programme in her neighbourhood and leads a group of parents who support each other as they keep their children away from substance use. Another mother that will be on stage was someone who did not hesitate to care for her neighbour’s 5 young children when her neighbour was taken ill. Finally, a mother with 7 children who inspired other mothers and the youths to organise themselves into a volunteer group that aspires to keep all children in their neighbourhood in school and out of trouble with the law.

 “Zuo ren” is mandarin for “being human” and when Chinese people lament about someone, they sometimes describe that person as someone who does not know how to “zuo ren.” Just 2 words but enough to get us thinking deeply about who want to be for the people around us.

Enjoy your weekend.


Every child, every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person, needs to be celebrated. Only when all of our weaknesses are accepted as part of our humanity can our negative, broken self-images be transformed.” - Jean Vanier, Becoming Human

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Comment by Olivia Munoru on February 29, 2012 at 6:37pm

Zuo Ren.

This is my mantra for today.

It sometimes seems so hard but then these 4 Guests of Honour do it naturally, despite their own challenges. In fact, it seems from your story that they used their challenges to enhance their ability for Zuo Ren. A stroke became a strength. Substance abuse became a strength. Illness became an opportunity to show love and care. And the strength of a busy mother - who still had time to reach out to others. 

I am deeply humbled by your story.

Thank you so much.



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