In Cavanagh's thought-provoking assembly on 22 February ("Be Humble Day") Jess Austin, Head of Cavanagh, spoke to the school about Humility. This is what she had to say:
According to my homework diary, today is “Be Humble Day.” At first I wondered what Be Humble Day was, and then began to reflect on what it meant to be humble.
Ironically, the person responsible for Be Humble Day decided to take their humility to the next level, as nobody knows who came up with the idea of dedicating a day to being humble. Be Humble Day is about being humble and praising others for their achievements, and not seeking recognition for yours. Also, bragging about celebrating Be Humble Day would defeat the entire purpose of the day. So keep that in mind as you continue with the rest of your day.
To be humble means to have or show a modest estimate of one’s importance. In other words, it means not being proud or haughty, and think that you are better than others. Truly to be humble, you should accept your limitations and faults and be grateful for what you have. By doing this, you can serve others first and not brag or look down at others. But this does not mean reducing yourself to nothing. C. S. Lewis said: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” I think this is such an important sentiment that we should carry into our everyday lives and not just to focus on it on Be Humble Day. We should be humble every day. There is no need to discriminate or put somebody else down or put ourselves above others.
That being said, we all need a little pride or vanity. Thinking you look really beautiful one day and saying, “Wow. You look really nice today” is necessary. We still need self love. We still need to feel proud when we achieve a goal, when we do something that makes us feel good about ourselves. But we can do this without making others feel bad about themselves.
The negative definition of humble is to make someone feel less important about themselves with associations of humiliation, belittlement and degradation. So don’t say: "sit down, be humble!" to someone. You might find that you deeply hurt them. The idea of being humble is not telling others to be humble - that defeats the entire purpose. Each and every one of you need to decide whether or not you want to humble yourselves, and if you do decide to, you also need to make the commitment to not humiliating others. Rest assured, they will most likely follow suit.
I searched and searched for a story about being humble. And whilst you may find in this story that the wife is very proud, she is proud of her husband’s humility.
I had been working much too long on this job. I guess things could have been worse. I certainly wasn’t doing hard labor. But going door to door asking questions as a representative of the federal government wasn’t the most satisfying position either.
It was August. It was hot. I had to wear a tie.
“Hello. My name is Bob Perks and we are doing a survey in this neighborhood…”
“I’m not interested! Good bye!”…slam, lock.
You can’t imagine how many times I heard that. I finally caught on and began with “Before you slam the door, I am not selling anything and I just need to ask a few questions about yourself and the community.”
The young woman inside the doorway, paused for a moment, raised her eyebrows as she shrugged her shoulders confused by my rude introduction.
“Sure. Come on in. Don’t mind the mess. It’s tough keeping up with my kids.”
It was an older home in a section of the valley where people with meager income found affordable shelter. With the little they had, the home looked comfortable and welcoming.
“I just need to ask a few questions about yourself and family. Although this may sound personal I won’t need to use your names. This information will be used…”
She interrupted me. “Would you like a glass of cold water? You look like you’ve had a rough day.”
“Why yes!” I said eagerly.
Just as she returned with the water, a man came walking in the front door. It was her husband.
“Joe, this man is here to do a survey.” I stood and politely introduced myself.
Joe was tall and lean. His face was rough and aged looking although I figured he was in his early twenties. His hands were like leather. The kind of hands you get from working hard, not pushing pencils.
She leaned toward him and kissed him gently on the cheek. As they looked at each other you could see the love that held them together. She smiled and tilted her head, laying it on his shoulder. He touched her face with his hands and softly said “I love you!”
They may not have had material wealth, but these two were richer than most people I know. They had a powerful love. The kind of love that keeps your head up when things are looking down.
“Joe works for the city.” she said.
“What do you do?” I asked.
She jumped right in not letting him answer.
“Joe collects garbage. You know I’m so proud of him.”
“Honey, I’m sure the man doesn’t want to hear this.” said Joe.
“No, really I do.” I said.
“You see Bob, Joe is the best garbage man in the city. He can stack more garbage on the truck than anyone else. He gets so much in one truck that they don’t have to make as many runs.”, she said with such passion.
“In the long run,” Joe continues, “I save the city money. Man hours are down and the cost per truck is less.”
There was silence. I didn’t know what to say. I shook my head searching for the right words.
“That’s incredible! Most people would gripe about a job like that. It certainly is a difficult one. But your attitude about it is amazing.” I said.
She walked over to the shelf next to the couch. As she turned she held in her hand a small framed paper.
“When we had our third child Joe lost his job. We were on unemployment for a time and then eventually welfare. He couldn’t find work any where. Then one day he was sent on an interview here in this community. They offered him the job he now holds. He came home depressed and ashamed. Telling me this was the best he could do. It actually paid less than we got on welfare.”
She paused for a moment and walked toward Joe.
“I have always been proud of him and always will be. You see I don’t think the job makes the man. I believe the man makes the job!”
“We needed to live in the city in order to work here. So we rented this home.” Joe said.
“When we moved in, this quote was hanging on the wall just inside the front door. It has made all the difference to us, Bob. I knew that Joe was doing the right thing.” she said as she handed me the frame.
It said: If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep the streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King
“I love him for who he is. But what he does he does the best. I love my garbage man!”
Humility is closely linked with being respectful which as you should know by now, is one of the six core values of our school. So as we as Wynberg Girls’ aim to be guided by our core values, think about being guided by humility alongside those. You will become a much more sincere and appreciated person because of it. Something to guide you in how to be humble. Be:
Honest - and truthful
Understanding - as well as accepting and tolerant
Mature - be grown up in your actions, thoughts and behaviour.
Bona fide - genuine
Low key - laid back and easy going
Empathetic - and compassionate.
And let Mahatma Gandhi remind you, “It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom.”