It Is In Others That We Discover Ourselves

Holden Smith
Holden Smith

As the other group staying at St. Peter’s Place enters, a confused look overtakes their faces. We have placed four MMS kids at the six-person tables so that every table has a student. Our teacher Ward explains that he wants our two groups to mix. The awkward eye contact and conversation that ensues torture me. I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. When I return from a maze of hallways I find my classmates lined up to sing.
As we harmonize, “Shosholoza” transforms singers into friends: hooting, clapping, and embracing. I return to my seat and a man sits down next to me.

“Hello my name is Holden,” I say.

“I am Boi,” he responds.

A flicker of a happiness bursts into a smile and he asks me, “How did you learn those songs?”

“From our music teacher and the internet. What is this group here for?” I ask.

“For support. I am HIV positive.” His smile dims as his sincerity grows. “Thank you for the song. It was a gift. It helps me take my mind off it.”

Before I can say anything else he stands up and joins his group to sing for us. His openness shocks me; music opens a door that I didn’t know was closed. I feel a swell of emotion that I want so desperately to describe, but never destined for capture, the words elude me.

Boi, I don’t think you will ever know how that moment touched me. How in the brief interaction we shared, I realized something. It is in others that we discover ourselves; by their light we write our own stories. If we know no one else, if we do not hold a place in our hearts for strangers and invite them in, then we never will know ourselves. Thank you, Boi.


7 thoughts on “It Is In Others That We Discover Ourselves”

  1. This is beautiful Holden.Beautifully written, and made so by your deep and open experience and willingness to be changed by it. I’ll carry this story as I go to sleep tonight.

  2. So moving. So touching. So true. 🙂
    Thank you, Holden. Thank you, SN. Thank you, South Africa.

  3. “I feel a swell of emotion that I want so desperately to describe, but never destined for capture, the words elude me.” Profound insight into the limits of language to convey our most keenly felt feelings. I’m going to remember this sentence for a long while.

  4. Beautifully expressed Holden. Your writing is a gift. Thank you for sharing your wise words with those of us lucky enough to know and love you. You are a gift to me.

  5. Thank you for being a leader and inspiration to us all.
    Love you,

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