On the Lighthouse

Like many members of the “boomer” generation, I came of age in a time of social revolution and expanding economic opportunity: I was the beneficiary of the sweat and toil of my predecessors and a social movement that pushed against entrenched boundaries with the idea that change was both possible and imperative. That sense of hope in my generation was severely challenged by the turmoil, the reaction, mean spirited nature of politics and a growing celebration of me-ism that seemed to characterize the 80s and 90s. And into all of this, I, like many of my group, attempted to live my life, love, have children and make a way.

Children are a source of hope and terror: We hope that they embody the future and will transcend our limitations; at the same time we are terrified that we may fail them, and that our weaknesses will determine who they ultimately become. I have come to know that while these ideas are understandable, each is wrong in its own way. Children are more than a reflection of us as individuals—they are shaped (as was I) both by their parents and families and by the values reflected in the larger society. And yet in the stormy sea of contemporary life, the idea of values (as distinct from rigid morality) has sunk beneath the tumultuous waves of public scandal, duplicity, corruption and general malaise. It has then become ever more important to find a lighthouse—a source of light that helps guide the way.

Nearly a decade ago, I inadvertently stumbled upon my lighthouse when I brought my then four year old son to study martial arts with Master Henry Taejoon Lee. At the time my focus was on getting my son into a program that would train him physically and help him gain self-confidence and self-control. This is the standard promise of most martial arts programs. Yet, it was obvious from the beginning that what Master Lee offered was much more. And over time as I have weathered a divorce, aging parents, and the ups and downs of raising a child in what Master Lee has so aptly described as “an unforgiving world,” it is clear to me that what he has created is a lighthouse where basic human values—strength of character, honesty, humility, caring, collective responsibility, and determination—are front and center. This does not mean that everyone always succeeds in upholding these values. That is not the point. After all, the lighthouse does not prevent storms. But the light illuminating the way is always there. And for this I am forever grateful.

Cheryl I. Harris
Mother of Thebe Kgositsile