"Do all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are." These are the words of Nkosi Johnson, a South African boy born with AIDS who died at the age of twelve with more wisdom than most of us accumulate in a much longer lifetime.
I heard Jim Wooten recite Nkosi’s mantra as I was driving home tonight. Wooten has written a book about Nkosi and the South African AIDS crisis, “We Are All the Same.” The title is how Nkosi ended his speech to an international AIDS conference.
I don’t know much about Nkosi Johnson. And I’m not one to get teary-eyed over emotional stories like those Wooten was relating on Oregon Public Broadcasting a few hours ago.
But when Wooten said that he wanted to end an interview with Nkosi because he thought the boy was tired, and Nkosi said, “No, you can’t. You haven’t asked me about dying yet”—that moved me.
As I’ve noted before, I don’t like to think about my own death. So I much admire the determination of young Nkosi, who knew that he was about to die, to tell those of us who would continue to live, how to live. Wooten said that Nkosi spoke about death for three or four minutes and advised…
"Do all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are."
There’s so much I want to say about these words, but I’m afraid that whatever I try to add to what Nkosi said will only detract from his simple wisdom.
So I’ll stop writing and go cook some tacos. Fully. Attentively. With meatless “meat,” lettuce, tomato, cheese, avocado, tortillas, oil. Should take about fifteen minutes. In the kitchen.
Thank you, Nkosi, for reminding me how to live each moment. For however many I have left.