Being lost is something we all try to avoid. Apprehension, despair, confusion, and hopelessness are a handful of the emotions a lost person experiences. Many of the Athlos Performance Character traits are employed when overcoming these distressing elements of being lost. The Athlos Academies staff recently read the book What is the What by Dave Eggers, which is a story of the Lost Boys of Sudan and how one of these young men, Valentino Achak Deng, exemplifies optimism, initiative, and grit in the face of unfathomable circumstances.
Reading the story was powerful for many of us. Russ Criddle commented, “This book has increased my gratitude for all that I enjoy in life.” Dave Jeppson was overwhelmed by Valentino’s optimism and thankfulness. Wendy Kalina was impressed by the resiliency we each possess and the fact that if we “dig deep within” we can do so much! Caitlyn Scales and Cameron Arial appreciated the cultural and historical insights.
The book was indeed powerful, but perhaps what solidified our appreciation for Valentino’s story was a visit to our book club by a local Lost Boy, Mr. Benson Anthony. Benson, from South Sudan, fled from his small village when only 13 years old. He escaped the destruction and killings, making his way first to Ethiopia and later to a Kenyan refugee camp—some 900 miles of walking. After seven years of being severed from his family, he finally found out that his mother and several sisters survived, as well. In 2001, after living in the refugee camp for over ten years, Benson came to the United States and settled in Kansas City. After six years in Kansas City, Benson made his way to Boise, where he has lived for the past eight years with his wife (who comes from Uganda) and their two young children. He works as a taxi driver.
Benson’s calm demeanor and frequent smile put us all at ease, even though his story (similar to Valentino’s) is anything but pleasant. When he was asked by our group how he did it, how was he able to overcome so much his casual reply was, “I wanted to survive, I took everything day by day, I had hope.”
When asked what advice he had for young people today, he said, “Have good education, have good life.”
Benson offered us all a measure of what Wendy described as our “human capacity.” Exemplifying the refugee spirit of resilience, initiative, and optimism, Mr. Benson Anthony brought the book What is the What alive for all of us, and for that we are grateful and inspired.