top of page


I recently heard of a true story that was so far outside my own cultural and social paradigm, it made we teary. This is the story of altruism that filled my heart with joy:

An anthropologist decided to conduct an experiment with a group of African children. I don’t recall the country. He lined all these children up in a wide, open, grassy space and told them that at the base of a distant tree, there was a large bag of their favourite sweets. The first child to arrive at the tree, would claim the lollies. The children all stood eagerly at the start line as the anthropologist shouted, Ready-Set-Go!

What happened next, I found hard to believe. Instead of racing off over the grass towards the tree as fast as their feet could carry them, the children didn’t move. Instead, they looked at each other, grasped the hand of the person on either side of them and they all ran together! A whole line of children holding hands ran to the tree in the distance. When they arrived, the children shared the sweets amongst themselves. True story!


The reason this altruistic story brought a tear to my eye is because neither when I was a child nor even now, would the thought to behave like this have ever entered my head. I have been brought up in a largely individualistic, competitive society – so much so that the choice made by these African children wouldn’t even have occurred to me! How shameful it makes me feel!

An internet reference says that altruism is acting out of concern for another's well-being. It is a desire for happiness of other human beings and/or animals.

This beautiful story of altruism, however, gives me cause for hope. As the saying goes, Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. For the last two days I have been fortunate to have participated in the Positive Schools Conference ( here in Brisbane. There were a number of inspirational educators and speakers such as John Hendry OAM, Dr. Helen Street and Richard Gerver who have proved that when schools and communities think as a harmonious collective where everybody feels a sense of belonging and where teachers, students and parents walk the talk with acts of belonging, connectedness and kindness, these social meeting places thrive! It reminds me of some lines from my poem, Kindness, in Life’s a Mango:

I look at another

And what do I see?

A brother? A sister?

They are just like me.

They want to be happy,

To feel safe and good.

I could be them.

Have I understood?

Nobody’s perfect.

We have good days and bad.

If someone is nasty

It’s cause inside they’re sad.

Be kind to this person

Cause they could be you

And you’re never quite sure

What some have been through

Look through the anger

And the mean words.

Ask, Are you OK?

It’s not so absurd. ©

Here’s another story of altruism in which a a poorly performing school in the U.K was totally transformed because of one person’s wish to make this school a happier place. It wasn’t easy but he had a vision of a better, kinder way. In this short YouTube video you’ll see what Richard Gerver, then principal of Grange Primary School in the U.K., did to transform a school and a community by making school into a meaningful, thriving little community. It’s astounding and heart-warming:

Those African kids I referred to at the beginning of this blog knew something that it’s taken me over a life time to fully appreciate. The lesson is altruism. The author, C.S. Lewis knew it and I think I am starting to understand it now too. He said:

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less.”

Take care



2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page