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The Clive in all of us

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Many years ago, while in the midst of a personal conundrum, I visited the Woodbrook home of Clive Pantin to seek his counsel.

The meeting took place during the month of August; my summer vacation was coming to an end and I was returning to university unsure of my academic future—whether to continue pursuing my current major or switch to history.

I had taken several courses in classical studies and thoroughly enjoyed the learning experience.

However, I was concerned with the employment opportunities that would await me after graduation; after all, teaching isn’t exactly a wealth-making endeavour.

My parents had already expressed their support in whatever decision I chose to make.

But it was my father, both a former student and teacher at Fatima College, who recommended that I visit Mr Pantin.

What impressed me the most about our conversation was his objectivity—he didn’t present an overly optimistic or pessimistic perspective on the teaching vocation.

But the point he emphasised was that while being an educator isn’t rewarding in a financial sense, it is indeed rewarding in other ways.

So he offered little in the way of advice, just his own impression on the responsibilities, as well as the sacrifices, that would be involved if I decided to follow this new path.

Ultimately, I did change my major, a decision that was in no small part due to my encounter with Mr Pantin.

Since his passing last week I’ve been thinking a lot about that fateful day and the wise words he shared with me. I’ve come to appreciate that he didn’t just view teaching as a public service, but that public service was the focal point of his entire life.

Anyone who knew Clive Pantin, be it personally, scholastically, or professionally, probably has a similar story to tell.

It should be no surprise that he touched so many lives in some meaningful way, especially with the extent and variation of his career.

Whatever motivated him to such heights of humanitarianism, be it his devout religious beliefs or his family upbringing, Mr Pantin was dedicated to putting others before himself.

And considering his humble lifestyle, he wouldn’t have wanted any honours heaped upon him; not in life and especially now in death.

At the very least, his memory should inspire the national community to follow his example. Unfortunately, this is a quality that many of us are sorely lacking.

For the most part, Trinbagonians are a generous people.

They wouldn’t hesitate to donate food or purchase the ubiquitous raffle or BBQ ticket for a worry cause.

But that’s usually where the goodwill stops, and getting their “hands dirty” in somebody else’s mess is an entirely different matter.

Even then, the before-mentioned generosity is one of the first things they hold back on during economically tough times, which is a harsh irony since that’s when it is needed most by those who are less fortunate.

The first instinct is always to look inwards, to make sure our needs are met before we see to helping others.

But in doing so we forget that even small acts of kindness can go a long way in making someone’s life better.

The passing of Clive Pantin is a tragedy for his family, and I join the nation in offering them my sincere condolences.

But it also represents something of a tragedy to our nation as well – it’s that individuals of his calibre are seldom found in our society. But we don’t all have to be humanitarian dynamos like he was.

There are small, manageable things that each and every one of us can do to effect some positive change in Trinidad and Tobago. Donating money and material is always welcomed, but giving of one’s time can be just as virtuous.

Mahatma Gandhi said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Hopefully there’s a bit of Clive Pantin to be found in all of us.

Ryan Hadeed


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