There are many ways to be an empowered youth, and there are many different kinds of great things to achieve in the world. Here's one example I want to share with you (but I emphasise again that it's just one example - everyone has to find his own path in life).
I feel honoured and deeply privileged to have had the opportunity to know this young man, Rhordan Wicks, during the time when we were both university students. He was a very special human being, I knew it then, and I said so then, and I'll say it again.
What was so special about Rhordan? I think he was an empowered youth. What empowered him? I think it was his Christian faith. I am not a Christian myself, but I knew Rhordan well, and I knew he was a staunch Christian. The effect of his faith was that he gave himself wholeheartedly, unselfishly, to whatever he was doing, believing that it was all somehow not for himself, but for a higher purpose he called God.
In terms of formal, tangible achievements, Rhordan had more than his fair share. He played hockey for varsity and hostel. He also played hockey for Singapore. A talented pianist and singer, he performed regularly as a member of a rock band (I swear that if he was the kind inclined to take part in Singapore Idol, he would make it at least to the final eight). He also acted and sang in musicals and plays. He was a good student, a scholar and when he graduated, he was the class valedictorian for the Arts Faculty.
Those are formal, tangible achievements. Actually, the formal, tangible achievements don't impress Mr Wang that much because Mr Wang has plenty of formal, tangible achievements himself. What impressed Mr Wang deeply was the way Rhordan gave himself 100% to everything he chose to do.
Rhordan really cared about people. When he captained a hockey team, the members became friends, good friends, people who grew together through the love and discipline of their sport, who came to realise that this was about teamwork and character and not about ECA points or winning or losing (usually they won anyway). When he performed musically, it wasn't about solo glory - it was about guiding everyone to experience the joy of music and teaching people how to put your heart and soul into song and make it come alive (and I personally gained a lot musically, from Rhordan - how much, he'll never know).
Whenever people got involved with Rhordan - whether it was to play hockey, sing acapella or act in a play - they came away with the feeling that they'd just had a life-changing experience. Rhordan was inspiring. One year, a bunch of girls even started a Rhordan Fan Club and printed their own T-shirts with his name on it. Needless to say, each year he collected university awards for being "Sports Captain of the Year", "Arts & Culture Person of the Year" etc. None of this mattered very much to him, because that really wasn't the point.
The point was that Rhordan loved life, he loved people, and he treated everyone as a special, unique human being. He wanted everyone to grow, to share, to be proud of their own gifts and talents. I perceived it then, I read it in his heart and soul, and I told myself then - "It is my privilege in life to have met Rhordan, I am enriched by my knowing him, he is a very special human being." Rhordan constantly touched the lives of people around him, how much, I think he himself does not know.
I lost touch with Rhordan after we graduated. In fact, I have not met him more than once or twice in the many years since then. I know that he became a teacher, but apart from that I don't know what happened to him.
This morning, out of curiosity, I googled for Rhordan's name on the Internet. Guess what I found?
Winner of the National Youth Council's Outstanding Youth in Education Award 2002. -
"Rhordan Wickramasinghe, English Language and Literature teacher at Loyang Secondary School, inspires his students to believe in themselves and to be confident in their own abilities. Always calm and approachable, Rhordan spends time listening to his students patiently and often stays back in school to help them resolve personal and academic problems. Through his constant support and untiring efforts, Rhordan has succeeded in turning low achievers and difficult students around. His students regard him as a mentor, role model and friend ...." [Click on link to read more]
Rhordan had received the award in 2002 from RADM Teo Chee Hean, basically for being Singapore's most inspiring young teacher.
Sometimes I doubt the value of medals, awards etc. These are tangible things which can't really describe the intangibles, which are the most important things in life. But because I personally knew Rhordan, I can make a pretty good guess about Rhordan's intangible achievements. If there was a bright, idealistic student, Rhordan is the kind of teacher who would give him the courage to chase his dream. If there was a suicidal, depressed student, Rhordan is the kind of teacher who would know, and who would know how to reach out and save his life. Rhordan was (is) that kind of person.
Teo Chee Hean's award can't tell you that. But I, Mr Wang, know that much about Rhordan. And if somehow, Mr Rhordan Wicks, you find my way to this blog and read this, I want to tell that you are a very special human being, you bring light to people's lives and I hope that your God helps you to shine on and on.