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FAMILY FUSION: Barbados, you’ve made it

Reverend Haynesley Griffith, [email protected]

FAMILY FUSION: Barbados, you’ve made it

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Let them give glory to the Lord and declare his praise in the islands and coastlands. – Isaiah 42:12

BARBADOS, YOU’VE MADE IT. Happy Birthday. Congratulations on reaching 50 years as a nation today. Your citizens deserve to celebrate. Under successive governments your loyal sons and daughters for these five decades fought valiantly against several odds, and though humbled by many trials were also heartened by numerous triumphs. 

Today is a noteworthy occasion as many across the globe join Barbadians everywhere with hearts of gratitude to commemorate a remarkable milestone that was made possible through the sweat and tears of several known and unknown heroes and heroines.   

With dogged determination, these men and women contributed significantly to this country’s growth and development. Let us all rejoice. I believe as the curtain comes down on this extraordinary moment of jubilation, every committed Barbadian must seriously contemplate the country’s future.

As Nelson Mandela so skilfully put it: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

With the many sterling accomplishments made over the last 50 years as a country, we cannot set up monuments and bow down to them every day but must seek workable ways and means of effectively moving our country forward. One of the very essential keys therefore to meaningfully improving any nation rests in the hands of the leaders of its principal institutions: the home, school, church, parliament and judiciary.


Leaders have the capability to influence people to become focused followers. If the leaders in these institutions to which I made reference fulfil their assigned role with sharpness of vision, strength of character and with an intact integrity that can stoutly and successfully stand up to the toughest of opposition, Barbados can rise to admirable heights far beyond 50 years of Independence.

The late President Harry S. Truman made a remarkable statement that hits into the heart of what I mean: “In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” A profound statement! Beyond sound leadership, Barbados after 50 must pay close attention to its most vulnerable citizens.

Attend to the vulnerable

Children are one of the most vulnerable assets any country owns.  Too many of them unfortunately are sentenced very early to emotionally painful prisons created by uncaring adults. As a society we are not always sensitive to the fact that every day we make deposits in the memory bank of children and as psychologist Haim Ginott reiterated: “Children are like wet cement – whatever falls on them makes an impression.”

Beyond 50 as citizens of this fair land we must treat our young ones with dignity because many of them are constantly searching for role models. Insightful author Idowu Kovenikan put it this way: “Show me the heroes that the youth of your country look up to, and I will tell you the future of your country.”     Like children, the elderly are another of a country’s valuable prize possession and therefore must be viewed in a positive light and not shifted away from the centre of the nation’s radar.

The elderly are the country’s deep reservoirs of wisdom, knowledge and common sense. 

Summing up the way that some people may be viewing the elderly today was a man who sadly said: “When I was young, I despised old people. I was provincial and narrow-minded. It’s the reason I stayed stupid so long. If you only get involved with young people you don’t learn anything about the world.”  

Someone remarked: “The best people are the good old wrinkled people with a sparkle in their eye, a wink when you walk by or a toothless smile saying you are doing just fine . . . .”

I do not think anyone could have put it better than Nobel Prize winner, journalist and civil rights activist Pearl S. Buck who, with strong conviction warned that: “Society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilisation is the way that it cares for its helpless members.” 

Pearl Buck’s statement should guide our actions as a nation.

We should also understand that the disabled among us are people too and must be given a high level of treatment that is in keeping with a society that boasts of its kindness.

The disabled to my mind are sometimes more able than those who perceive themselves to be “able”. Teri Garr got it right when she said: “When you hear the word ‘disabled’, people immediately think about people who can’t walk or talk or do everything that other people take for granted. Now, I take nothing for granted. But I find the real disability is people who can’t find joy in life and are bitter.” Well put.

Robert Michael Hensel, who was born with a spinal defect and was forced to use a wheelchair, is the Guinness World Records holder for the longest non-stop wheelie in a wheelchair. He is a great inspiration and an excellent example of what a disabled person can accomplish.

In his own words he said: “Placing one foot in front of the other, I’ve climbed to higher lengths. Reaching beyond my own limitations to show my inner strength. No obstacle too hard for this warrior to overcome. I’m just a man on a mission to prove my disability hasn’t won.”

Powerful. It is unfortunate that some of our insensitive citizens are still not treating our disabled with the kind of dignity and decency they deserve. A higher level of acceptance and treatment must be meted out to our disabled as Barbados moves beyond its 50th birthday of Independence.

Fellow countrymen and women: “Your pride for your country should not come after your country becomes great; your country becomes great because of your pride in it.”

• Haynesley Griffith is a marriage and family life consultant. Email: [email protected]