Calvin: What I learned

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Did you ever play that game when you were a kid, where you’d say three people you would want to have at your house for a dinner party?

Well my answer is this. I would love to share a four course meal (four course because dessert twice) with Brandon Stanton, Daniel Walker and Elie Wiesel

The reasons for my choices are in there millions, you probably have to know about each of these gentlemen to understand why I am hypothetically sharing a meal with them,  let me start there.

Brandon Stanton is the writer of Humans of New York, he has told the stories of diverse individuals in a dignified manner, he manifests acceptance, love and passion. His ministry as a human is storytelling and there is nothing more wonderful I would want to discuss.

Daniel Walker, is a New Zealander who upon working his whole life to become like the heroes he worshipped as a child found himself years later, bringing light into some of the darkest corners of the world. Following his ministry, which in a way is also storytelling – he told the stories of the women and children, who otherwise would’ve remained voiceless in the Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking industry. He is responsible, along with a team, for the rescue and rehabilitation of thousands.

Elie Wiesel lost his entire family at the hands of the Holocaust however years later, despite all the horrors he had seen he wrote books, accounting his journey and his horror, not to further such things but to show how he has remained someone who believes in goodness, despite experiencing evil. 

George Hoffman was a close contender in this meal, he too is a stunning human being. (He began Tearfund)

The common thread between all these people is this, they reached out to the diverse, to the oppressed, they wrote, they speak, the fight  on behalf of someone who needs it, for a better future and each of them put colour into shades of grey and maintained light in dark corners, they are people that understand what it means to be human. I realised to be human is to be merciful.

This is where Calvin comes in.. For the first time I went to youth group and to say it was one of the best things I ever did was an understatement because it was so beautiful there are no truer words, I loved it. One of the things I loved about it was seeing a young person speak about faith and God, I am aware that not all of you will share the same views and that is aces, but it doesn’t mean you cannot understand where I am coming from, to see a young person talking to young people about faith makes it so much more relatable and real. He said something, that really made me think and that was that faith, is about reaching. Reaching out to others, giving of yourself to be active in the kind of humanity you want to see flourish, this humanity we wish to see as Christians, is one of passionate youth who know that they are a vessel of christ, that might be different for you. But however or whatever you believe, what remains is that being human is about being merciful, and mercy is about keeping an open heart and reaching out to others. 


Listening to Calvin speak, was like a lightbulb went off in my head, because I had been writing an assignment about mercy, I talked about Daniel Walker and the mercy he has and continues to show in his work. But when Calvin spoke I understood what that really meant, for the first time I didn’t just think about being merciful as reaching out to others, I thought about mercy and what it means for the individuals who practice it. I realised in order for individuals to reach out they had to let go.

How would Daniel have felt in those situations, who was there when he needed solace, what happened if he was fearful, scared, tired, homesick. All of these things came rushing into my head.

How about Brandon what does he open himself up to in story telling, who does he effect, how is he effected, what do his stories do for individuals futures or how do they make or break pasts, does he choose at random who he writes of or is he guided? He is merciful because he reaches out and tells stories, without judgement, but what does this mean for him? What does he sacrifice, does he need his story told?

Elie, he wrote these beautiful books, showed mercy at its fullest to every individual that harmed him, but what did he go through to get there? Does he need someone now his family is gone? Everything was taken from him, to reach out in resilience he had to let go of his anger

In Calvin speaking I saw that to reach out also meant to let go. Because everyone who has ever reached out and helped someone, done something wonderful has had to make a sacrifice, I am reading Daniel Walkers book (which is seriously one of the best things I have ever read – full discussion coming in future post) he talked about him and his wife moving to the U.S in order for him to take up a new job, the job which would lead him to some of the darkest corners in the world, the sacrifice he made, the sacrifice his wife made to move across countries – meant that they could reach out to and be vessels of light in darkness.

To reach out you have to let go.

Thanks to Calvin I saw the importance of two things. These two things, we must understand before we reach out to others and in turn before we make a sacrifice and let go.

  1. Trust. At youth, I had someone pray over me which is one of the most beautiful things I have ever been subject too, again I respect if you don’t share the same view however in this prayer, he said that my life or our lives are like the start of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, where Lucy is traveling on the train and unsure where she’ll end up but it ends up an enchanted journey. That is reaching out, we may not always be sure if it is worth letting go to reach out, we may not want to move, change courses at university or do two gym sessions instead of one, but if these things are in the name of who we want to reach out too, then we have to trust that letting go and changing something, is so worth it. An enchanting journey.

So in a few years when you’re in Nepal building houses and you’re lifting planks of wood, you will think that second gym session is apart of the reason I am here and gives me that extra bit of strength I needed. I just had to trust that everything I let go of, was so I could reach out. 

2. Nobody is Fearless. Fear is how you know you’re doing something of true substance to you, being scared and trusting, being fearful and still prevailing, trying. Means you are truly reaching out and that is so wonderful. Fear is that thing, that we don’t want but we need, kind of like vegetables. Without it we wouldn’t grow strong, strong enough to keep moving through fear to find the light at the end of the tunnel. Nobody is fearless, Elie in his life and experiences, probably had more fear then would ever be deemed survivable, but he didn’t just survive he thrived and that should be your aim.

Your aim should be to reach out in mercy as a human who understands what it means to let go, but also trusts and thrives in spite of fear or worry. Because you can reach out and letting go, is so worth it.

When you look in the eyes of those you reach too, when you see the light that shines in their eyes, reflected back at you will be the sacrifices you made it is then you’ll know that everything was worth it.

Reach out don’t be afraid, to let go.


Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 

To Calvin and also to Andrew Van Asselt, thank you for reaching out both of you, your bravery to live authentically and be light, not darkness is something beautiful in it’s rarity. You drive us all in that same common goal.  


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