Monday, December 27, 2021

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

 Desmond Tutu was small in stature but a giant of a man. Others have commented on his greatness in terms of being a moral leader, one who spoke truth to power, one who was fearless in the face of opposition and death threats, even pulling a man to safety from a mob.

But I want to concentrate on Tutu's generosity. He was first and foremost generous with the love of God. When starting a conversation he would often look at a person and say, 'God LOVES you!' as if it were the most wonderful, miraculous, surprising state of affairs, which of course it is. The love of God pouring out through him to others was the foundation of his being, his ministry, and the power that kept him alive for 90 years and able to relate to so many people. It allowed him to conduct the Truth and Reconciliation process at terrible cost to himself. 

Fortunately he also had his wonderful wife Leah and his children and was grounded by all the joys and sorrows of family and the love only a strong woman can bring.

He was generous in sharing himself. He was generous with laughter and joy. He made time for people, even if it meant disrupting carefully made plans. He loved children. He answered mail from the most unlikely correspondents. He could never say 'no' to someone who put demands on his time. He needed to have someone to help him pick and choose and to have enough rest enough to avoid a breakdown. He continued to travel and teach even when he had cancer. He shared himself with everyone the great and small, ordained and lay, the religious and non-religious, Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists. He gave Communion to the Dalai Lama. He understood and acted on the principle that there are no bounds to the eucharistic love of God.

He was generous in material things. He would send flowers at the drop of a hat. As he became wealthy he set up foundations. He would send money to friends in need. It should also be said that he was terrible with money and had to have friends to help him put on the brakes and run the foundations.

He was generous in gratitude. As far as I know he never failed to acknowledge a source, no matter how unfashionable, as can be seen in Michael Battle's biography. If someone helped him through a dark patch he remembered it for the rest of his life and acknowledged the person publicly if the opportunity arose. He understood the interdependence of humanity, that no matter how high one arises, there are hundreds if not thousands of people who helped one along the way. He championed the downtrodden and the marginalised, such as LBGTQ+. He supported unpopular causes among his peers, such as assisted dying.

It is true that he had faults. He had a temper, but some of it was holy anger. He was impulsive, although that could also be an asset. He could be rude, but it was often because he felt that the people who needed to listen would not listen otherwise. He could be autocratic.

Like many other people I can humbly say that I had the privilege and honour of knowing him personally. I grieve the loss for all of us, the whole of humanity, and grieve even more because there is no one of similar stature, however diminutive physically, to pick up his standard. This means that each of us in our own way must do more in promoting human rights.

But I also rejoice. He has fought the good fight, he has stars in his crown, and at last he is seeing the Face of the One he sought all his life and beheld.


Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you.

7:37 pm, December 28, 2021  
Blogger Dawn M said...

So moving to read this. Thank you 🙏🏾

9:21 pm, January 04, 2022  
Anonymous Ian Duncan said...

Thank you for this

7:37 pm, January 09, 2022  
Blogger Janet Atkins said...

So glad you posted this reflection—and happy you are still writing.
(aka Deacon Janet)

3:01 am, February 02, 2022  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:19 am, April 14, 2024  

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