Changing The World.

by Patrick Liew on October 30, 2013

“So, why do you care?!”

That was the question that Professor Adlai Wertman posed to the class. He did it in his usual gentle but provocative tone.

Prior to that, he had put up a slide that showed the back of two African children. It was obvious that they were malnourished and were going through hard times.

All around them was a barren land, hot and arid and without any form of life. In front of them was a long and stony track leading towards the horizon.

In the minds of most of us, it was leading to nowhere. The track and everything in the picture captured a sense of helplessness, a state of hopelessness.

Professor Wertnam repeated the question and added, “Why do you care about these children? Should you even care about these children after all you’ve not met them and will probably never ever going to meet them in your entire life?”

He scanned the room, his eyes staring right through our minds and into our hearts. If he had any answers to his questions, it was clear that he was not going to tell us.

After awhile of uncomfortable silence, Rakin, a black American in my class spoke up. He probably thought that the class expected him to speak up for another black fellow human.

“I see myself in them. Somebody helped me in the past and I should do the same for another poor soul.

“You can call it giving back. It can also be a way to pay forward.

“The bottom line is, I should and must help them.”

The good Professor then pointed to Brenda. I was sure that she would be picked because she had been to different parts of Africa on social missions.

“I care because it is not their fault. I have been blessed and therefore, I’m obligated to reach out out to them.”

The student from Qatar who was sitting behind her raised his hands. He spoke in a calm and collected manner.

“I care because it makes me feel good. I feel happy when I help someone in need.”

In response, the Professor quipped, “Ah, that’s what we call a warm and ‘Fawzi’ feeling. The class laughed because that was his name.

Dulcie, my friend from Ghana continued the discussion. Her comment put the class through a sobering moment.

“I care because I ‘met’ them. I know how it feels to be  in need.

“I understand the pain when you can’t turn to anybody. The feelings of being alone in facing problems.

“All of us have ‘met’ them. I care because they are my brothers and sisters on the journey of life.”

A philosophical friend of mind, Leanne picked up from the last comment. Till this day, I am still not sure whether she was just putting up a counter-argument or giving her views about the subject matter.

“I care but I need to have a purpose for doing it. I can’t possibly care for them first.

“I need to look after my loved ones and the people around me. When I’m in a better position, then will I take action to care for these kids.”

The Professor smiled and he did it not so much because he accepted the answer. I believe he smiled because there were many worst reasons for caring but what does it matter as long as help was given to the needy.

All great religions taught us to do good to others. Many of them, including some  of the greatest wealth-creation gurus believed that giving back is an essential criteria to be successful.

Robert Allen, a world class trainer on achieving financial freedom once told me, “If you want to be rich and wealthy, you must practice tithing.

“Give a portion of your money and other resources every month. God will bless you.”

Kathryn, a quiet and thoughtful person was the next person to speak up. “I care because I can do something right now. I’m not sure if I can help the rest of the needy but at this moment, I can save two more fellow humans.”

The Professor responded by sharing with us about the Starfish story. In a nut shell, it was a story about how two friends found a beach full of starfish.

They were washed ashore after a tsunami and left to die under the hot afternoon sun. One of the boys started to pick up the  starfish. He picked them one after and another and threw it back to the sea.

His friend persuaded him to give up. He asked him, “How can you save all the starfish.”

The reply that came back fast and resolute was, “At least, I can save this one.” With that statement, he threw one more starfish  back into the water.

His friend and many others joined them. Shortly after, every starfish was saved. (1)

The Professor ended the story by saying, “Let’s go out there to help one more ‘starfish’ and then another…”

Mary, a priest who was attending my class shared passionately about her view. “I believe God created us to care. I care because He cares for me.

“I’m doing what He designed me to do. To me, it’s natural to care for the needy.”

Another person continued along the same vein. “I care because of the love and grace of God for my life. One of these two children could very well be me.

“How can I not help?”

Obviously, nobody in my class was about to respond to his rhetorical question.

Throughout the discussion, I was hoping the Professor would pick me to share my thoughts. Like a good Asian student, I kept silent and was listening intently to the others while trying to fine-tune my answer.

The Professor tried to swerve the discussion away from the religious slant. Many people would not indulge in a discourse about God and yet it was probably the most important area of our life.

He said, “There are scientists who believe that all of us have an altruistic gene. We are genetically wired to love and care for others.”

After making the comments, he started walking back to his computer. It seemed like he was ending the discussion.

“Hold it Prof!” I shot out to him. “You have not given us your views about it.”

I could see he was feeling very uneasy right before my eyes. I was putting him on the hot seat and somehow, that was not part of the script.

My friend told me later the script should only be written by the Professor. He was directing the drama and grading our participation in it.

For one fleeting moment I thought to myself, there goes my marks for this subject. I don’t mind losing marks except that I don’t have many to lose. Lol!

In any case, he replied and his existential response was brilliant.

“I care because I did.”

It was a brilliant answer at least to me because I could not understand him initially. Hopefully, he understood himself. Lol!

Fortunately, he  went on to explain himself. “I have been very blessed in my life. I was given all the right ingredients and conditions to be successful.

“They were literally served to me on a plate. All I had to do was to stir them with hard work.

“It’s not right that God bless me just so that I can have a good life.

“I need to do something good with my life and make something good out of it.”

He concluded by saying, “I believe the world should be fixed. I care and want to play my part in it.”

At the end of the class, the words spoken by different people kept stirring in my heart. I just could not delete them from my mind.

The discussion revolved around issues that were fundamentals to life and good living. My views about them and how I respond to them are capstones to help me live a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Why do I care?

I care because I feel for them. It’s a part of my heart and a vital part of my being.

When I deny it, I deny my God-given potential and talent. I gut the soul out of my life.

There are no other reasons for caring and none are needed except for one – God has beautifully crafted me. He wants me to make something beautiful out of my life.

This is one the bases why I have faith in Him. I can look to the future with hope. I should endeavor to love Him as well as every fellow human.

It begins with my heart. The heart of all problems is ultimately a problem of the heart.

As I have always said, the worst heart disease is not to have a heart for people and the environment.

Perhaps before changing the world, we need to change our hearts. We probably need a ‘heart transplant.’

So, why do you care?

What are you going to do about it?


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Visit my Inspiration blog at

For my opinions on social affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at

Please visit my website,

Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!

1. Story adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley (1907-1977)


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