Originally Published: Friday, 26 October 2001 Author: Derrick H. Lewis
Published to: opinion_articles/opinion Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

Gifts and Responsibilities

To end the run, so to speak, Linux.com has chosen this short but heartfelt opinion article by volunteer staff member, Derrick H. Lewis. Lewis' descriptions of the nature of his Linux.com volunteerism and other lessons learned after caring for his mother during a recent serious illness are quite fluid and genuine. We find this short but powerful statement of love for Linux and the open source movements to be an appropriate end to this particular week. Derrick H. Lewis writes from a high school in the USA.

A mother turns as her twin children step lightly into the room. She repositions herself in bed. One of the children hangs back, looking at the bed. His mother is lying in a light hospital gown, her arms laden with tubes, veins clearly visible. Both twins look over to their father, seeking permission to move. He nods, watches them move slowly toward the bed beside her. One of them bends down to kiss her; the other hugs her tightly. After she kisses both sons, she asks them how school was. "Did you win your game on Monday?" she asks. Both laugh, as an air of relief enters the room.

My mother was hospitalized for surgery that, while dangerous, was the only thing that could save her life. She was afflicted with a disease called ulcerative colitis, an illness that caused inflammation and ulceration of the lining of her large intestine. Her illness, surgery, and recovery taught me many things about my own life and my responsibilities.


Entering high school was an immense cultural change for me. Coming from a school where I was one of two thousand students in my grade, I was not prepared for the personal attention that I received in my far-smaller high school classes. The heavier high school workload led to late nights of studying, as I focused on completing my work as diligently as possible. I was not able to do this without my mother's initial help with my homework and my studies. As I struggled through my first year, I noticed that her appearance began to change. She had been eating less, and because of this, she was becoming noticeably slimmer. We all took notice of these changes as she began to stop eating breakfast and dinner.

One day, I arrived home late from school, and my mother told me that she had to go to the hospital for a couple of days. "It's only to do some tests," she said. I knew that going into the hospital probably meant that something was wrong. My aunt told me that my mother had ulcerative colitis. I did not understand what that condition was, so I had to do some research of my own. I began to learn more about the disease, and became knowledgeable about its implications.


When my mother arrived back at home from her surgery, I noticed that she could not perform the household tasks that she had done before. Seeing a person that I love and look up to in this kind of situation brought home my sense of responsibility. My daily chores now included helping her out of the bed so that she could get around the apartment, helping her to cook, and all the while trying to get her to eat more, to repair her body. Slowly but surely, her strength began to return, and soon, she was nearly back to her old form.

From this experience, I learned that the dedication it took to assist my mother in her step-by-step recovery also reinforced my ability to apply myself to challenges in my own life. I use this in my volunteer work for Linux.com, an Open Source community project. Linux.com is a site dedicated to the Linux operating system community. As a volunteer for the past year and a half, I have had the opportunity to gain knowledge about technologies that I never knew existed. Being able to take part in a project that will completely alter how computers are run in the future is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am making the most of it.


At Linux.com, I have written articles about all aspects of the Linux community, especially the security aspect. As part of the Linux.com Live! Project, I have had the opportunity to conduct interviews and panel discussions with those individuals who have pioneered the development of secure solutions with Linux. Such individuals are: Pat Lynch, Systems administrator for the SourceForge.Net project (part of the OSDN.Net family of websites), David Ford, Network Security Specialist for Talon Technologies and Systems Administrator for Linux.Com, and Dave Wreski, Lead Systems Engineer for LinuxSecurity.Com, the "Linux Community's Center for Security". As a young investigator in this field, I am able to work with the pioneers whose work I will be studying in college, a rare opportunity indeed.

Being able to obtain these skills and interests, I have also been able to teach others, including my family members, who are not familiar with Linux, and who want to learn more about a field that will revolutionize computer technology for years to come. In sharing this knowledge, I am helping to spread the word about Open Source computing, making this technology accessible to people who otherwise might not get involved. My mother's illness showed me that my responsibilities as a son go far beyond merely obeying directions and taking out the trash. It includes making the most of the gifts that I've been given and striving for excellence whenever I can. This excellence is what I have brought to my commitment to learning about technology and life. But the lesson that was closest to my heart was discovering a responsibility to take care of those who have taken care of me.