At her graduation ceremony, Verda Tetteh learned that she’d received a $40,000 scholarship.
Ten minutes later she walked back to the podium, apologized for interrupting the ceremony, then shocked and surprised the Fitchburg, Massachusetts, audience with this announcement.
“I am so very grateful for this, but I also know that I am not the one who needs this the most,” Ms. Tetteh said, her voice trembling. “I would be so very grateful if the administration would consider giving the General Excellence scholarship to someone who is going into community college.”
Multiple news outlets reported this generous gesture by Tetteh who’s already been accepted to Harvard, which had already offered her scholarships that would pay her room, board, and tuition. Additionally, she had qualified for other scholarships that would cover college expenses.
Robert Jokela, the district superintendent, was in awe of Tetteh’s announcement. “What we just witnessed,” he said, “was the ultimate in generosity.”
The Ghana-born student, who came to the United States when she was 8-years-old, was chosen by her fellow seniors to be the class speaker at graduation.
“Some of us were born with the odds stacked against us, that we may not make it to today,” Ms. Tetteh said. “I have gotten to know so many of you these past four years and there is so much potential in our class.”
She added, crying: “To every immigrant child, you can make it. To every dreamer, you can make it.”
The school principal, Jeremy Roche, indicated sacrificing her scholarship was “overwhelming, but not shocking…“I was not surprised that she did that because that’s who she is.”
“She was always thinking about how to make our school a better place, how do we make our community a better place,” Roche added.
In a world too often filled with selfish goals, conspicuous consumption, and is a blatant disregard for the needs of others, Verda Tetteh’s unselfish gift is a refreshing and heartwarming story.
While I have no idea what Ms. Tetteh’s religious affiliation is, her attitude and actions are the embodiment of Biblical precepts and principles.
In his letter to the Philippian brethren, Paul penned, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4)
Looking out for the needs of others is the essence of the second great commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39), and the golden rule, “treat others like you want to be treated” (Matt. 7:12).
Selfish ambition drives us to be greedy. To be stingy. And tightfisted. Conceit spawns an arrogance and egotism that causes us to smugly ignore the problems and plight of others. It’s an attitude that boastfully says, “What’s mine is mine, and I’ll keep it.”
Being other-oriented opens our eyes to ways in which we can do good, share our prosperity and be a blessing to those less fortunate. It sees the needs, wants, and desires of others. It truly touches our hearts to minister “to the least of these” (Matt 25:40).
The Bible issues this exhortation to those who are wealthy, which is basically most of us in upper-middle-class America.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
To all Christians we are challenged “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10)
The hymn, “Others,” by Charles Meigs, reminds us that our mission and ministry in life is to be other-oriented.
Lord, let me live from day to day,
In such a self-forgetful way,
That even when I kneel to pray,
My pray’r shall be for OTHERS.
Yes, others, Lord, yes, others,
Let this my motto be;
Help me to live for others,
That I may live like Thee.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman