Monday, June 7, 2010

Solomon Dawit: “To Know Him is to Love Him”

There’s a reason why those who have known Solomon Dawit line up to support the Solomon Dawit Foundation. The mission of the Foundation embodies the dreams, the very character, of the man in whose honour it’s been established.

Indeed, one of the defining things about him was how his dreams reflected who he really was. He was the best father possible to his two daughters and the most caring uncle possible to everyone else. He combined patriotic loyalty to Canada, his adopted home, with an enduring love for Ethiopia, the land of his birth.

Listen to Solomon’s father’s friend and fellow diplomat who knew Solomon both as a child and as a young man. Solomon, he said, was a good father to his two daughters, Behtel and Tamara, and a good husband to his wife Bersabel Ephrem.

Or listen to the voice of the youth. Solomon, one of them says, was always respectful to the youth. He treated them like grown-ups, said another. He bridged the gap between youth and adults, and was never judgmental. “I was always listening to his life stories,” says a third. “He was like a close uncle.” He was, said yet another, “like a kid in an adult’s body.”

Another young man said that, unlike most Ethiopian men, Solomon was not shy about showing love to his wife both in public and in private. And listen to the testimony of the sister of this young man. If she were to choose parents to emulate, she says, she would choose Solomon and Bersabel.

Then hear the voices of his employees. “He was,” says one ex-employee, “more a brother than a boss.” He would, she continued, never let the demands of his business get in the way of her interests as a student.

And now listen to his friends, those with whom he shared his dreams to make a better world. Solomon, says one, was a fountain of ideas. Not ideas to earn wealth for himself. No, ideas to defeat poverty facing many Ethiopians.

Solomon’s project ideas, his friends say, found resonance in the way he lived his life. His hatred of women’s working in the kitchen while men sat and chatted led him to help wash dishes when invited to dine at friends’ homes. His advocacy of microcredit was mirrored in his giving to youths selling a few cigarettes on Ethiopian streets money so they could sell other items and make a better living. His belief in helping Ethiopian immigrants to Canada to build their self-esteem led to his insistence that a young man, who had never worked, find something worthwhile from his life experience to put in a resume before he would offer that young man what became the first job in his entire life.

This was the kind of person Solomon Dawit was. This is why those who knew best him admired him most. In the words of a once popular song, “to know, know, know him is to love, love, love him.” Those engaged in the establishment of the Foundation express that love by helping Solomon to complete in death what he would have completed in life if the end had not come so soon. Their hope is that you, too, would come to know Solomon, to love him, and to help him finish his work.

{Written by Frank A. Campbell, Ottawa, Ontario, May 28, 2010}