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Tonight I want to write about an amazing young woman. Her name is S. I met her at Columbia University when she came to me after I gave  a keynote for the 2010 Africa Conference there.

I will never forget about the first sight of her as she was simply stunning: tall, svelte, gracious, fashionable, and grave, in one word she was regal! What attracted me most to her was this feeling of seriousness and determined will that emanated from her . Her whole aura was exuding PURPOSE! But purpose for what? I became very intrigued.  Because of her bearing, she stood out among all of those who had gathered around me.

She joined a conversation I was already engaged in. I don’t remember what we talked about. The day after that talk, I fell ill, completely overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response I had received from fellow Afropolitans. It was wonderful, but so scary at the same time!

In any case, few months later, I saw her again as I attended the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival for  a documentary  featuring the genocide.  At the end, she found her way to me. There again we talked, but everything was so busy we did not get a chance to speak in-depth. But at least that night, I got to know that she was from Rwanda, and in a very strange way  I “felt” what she was all about in my bones. The documentary, the presence of all of this history and her presence in the middle of all of that gave me the clues. I finally grasped why this young woman felt so grave. And I developed a huge sense of admiration and care for her. She has gone to the place of no return: she had gone and tasted the world of Purpose! Eventually we had to go to another gathering that night, and I left full of wonders and wanting to know more .

Little did I know that God would give me that opportunity. Indeed few months later M & I went to visit  Rwanda . There we met her at a function.

Few days later, we had dinner in Kigali and that is when my heart finally translated what was going on to my mind. S lives and breathes JUSTICE. She wanted to devote her life to tracking those responsible for the genocide in her country and those who committed heinous crimes. And while I thought it was a tremendously laudable goal, I also had the sad feeling inside that this bright star of life might get her soul and heart crushed in the process of tracking down former genocidaires. I insisted that there was another way to see her country move forward, one that would not demand for her soul to be sacrificed in the process. I could see a solution in which she could use her skills, youth, person and beautiful aura to focus on the present to build the future she wanted for her country rather than chase demons of the past.

After that dinner and as we flew back to NYC, I did not see her for some time and soon stopped hearing from her as well. I feared that maybe I had been too focused on my work to maintain a real relationship. But I am so passionate about my work that it could not have been otherwise. I thought of her often wondering how and where she was and hoping she would find peace.

Well last week, and more than a year later, I got an email. It’s from S. And she is telling me that she actually took my advice and left behind the past.  She then began focusing on the present and the future.  I very much look forward to seeing her happier as a result of her decision to focus on building a better future.