I was asked to do a short video interview about volunteerism and why it is important. While prepping, I considered all the reasons why people don’t volunteer. Typically it is because they don’t know where and how to get involved or they believe that they do not have the financial or other resources to volunteer. And then Michael came to mind. We met here on WP. You can read more about the enormous challenge he undertook to raise a teenage boy virtually at Long-Distance Dad. By virtually I mean from a different continent. What impressed me most about this story is that Michael didn’t take the easy way out and just send money over to South Africa, he poured his heart and soul into this commitment that he had made to mentor Mtuseni from a teenager into a young man that any parent would be proud of. Michael has been more engaged in Mtuseni’s life than many fathers I know, who live here in South Africa. With their kids. In the same house! He navigated our system from Boston, going as far as checking Maps to find dentists that Mtuseni would be able to reach by public transport. He kept in touch with the Principle of the college Mtuseni attended, tracking his progress and guiding him through a very confusing and challenging time for any young person. Mtuseni is all grown up now and still needs his ‘dad’ to guide him and pick him up when he’s down and Michael is now involved in mentoring Mtuseni’s siblings.
He’s never said this to me but I think Michael must have been terrified some days. He was dealing with a system totally unfamiliar to him, one that is not very user friendly. Just dealing with the emotional issues of raising a teenage boy would have made me run a mile. 10,000 miles. He could have pulled out any time but he has hung in there for the whole journey and his endurance and love are inspirational.
Many people say “I’m just one person, I can’t solve the world’s problems”. Well, you don’t have to. Michael Beckett didn’t set out to solve the world’s problems. He set out to make a difference to one young man’s life and he did just that.