Thursday, September 22, 2011


I met a 23-year-old girl the other day. Indian. English Speaking. Studying Law.

After a few minutes of a very superficial conversation about the busyness of Johannesburg, career aspirations, place of residence and relationships the conversation gradually moved from general to specific. She explained to me a little of her struggles to prove herself amongst her friends and family as everyone she associates with is highly prosperous and influential. Her aim is to be the best at whatever she does. Yet, in an almost hushed tone, with a distinct gleam in her eyes… she vulnerably explained how she sometimes contemplates the ‘irresponsible idea’ of being a full-time artist. 
Determined. Driven. Sporadic dreamer.

I met a 54-year-old man the other day. African. Zulu speaking. Lecturer at Wits.

He interrupted me at till in Pick n Pay, advising me to close my handbag properly in public, as theft is rife and on the increase (of course) in this country. The teller had some problems with the card machine so while we waited we briefly discussed crime statistics and went on to discuss where some of the safer cities in South Africa are – specifically for raising children. As I turned to leave, we shook hands and he said to me in a stern tone but with a big smile on his face, 
“Nice meeting you, now don’t ever forget to close your handbag.” 
Protective. Fatherly. Consciously helpful.

I met an 8-year-old boy the other day. Portuguese. Wealthy. School going.

This young man was quiet but confident, well spoken but slightly careless, attentive but still a boy. I picked him up from school as part of my aupair work and he surprised me with his unusual questioning and interest in my life. He described to me his simple but honest desire to help people one day ‘when he is grown up’ as “there are too many sad people in the world”. He then begged to introduce me to playstation for simply half an hour. I gave in and gave way to being solidly beaten in “Call of Duty 4, Modern Duty Warfare”. His massive grin was enough of a reprise. 
Caring. Sensitive. Unashamedly competitive.

I met a white 84-year-old lady the other day. White. Retired. Lives in an old age home.

This lady was walking in my neighborhood, enjoying the sunshine. She smiled as she walked and stopped to greet me with genuine friendliness. No inhibition. Lines of wisdom stretching over her face. A depth of ancient beauty. A content expression of understanding. A brief and simplistic interaction with this lady left me contemplating my life’s goals and ambitions. My youthful arrogance seemingly obvious in the midst of someone who has walked a long road, someone who has experienced life to the fullest, someone who has loved and lost and come to a place of enviable satisfaction. 
Mature. Composed. Sophisticated aura.

Different ages. 
Different races. 
Different contexts. 
Different faces. 
Different stories. 
Different dreams. 
Different desires. 
Different challenges. 
Different emotions. 
Different struggles. 
Different names. 
Different perspectives. 
Different hopes. 
Different cultures.

One nation.

Heritage Day, 24 September, is a Public Holiday on which South Africans across the spectrum are encouraged to celebrate their cultural heritage and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all it’s people.

A celebration of life.

We have often heard the typical comments made by foreigners - on how friendly we are as a nation. The daily interactions we are accustomed to are seen as completely ‘suprising’ or ‘unusual’ to those from mostly European or First World countries. The greetings paid to you by strangers you walk past in the street, the conversation struck in an elevator, the smile in a shopping centre, the comments made in que’s, the complaints or encouragements shared...
Whether it’s about the weather or the latest political scandal there is a genuine openness and sharing-of-life we seem to carry wherever we go. The respect and appreciation of different cultures.

Madiba’s birthday was on the 18th July and on that day I read a tweet saying “Madiba's birthday a few hours away and it's difficult to celebrate. Every single thing that he stands for is being destroyed in SA. A shame.”

I guess there will always be a manner of viewing our nation in respect of the areas in which we lack and need improvement. There are always vast and open spaces in which we know need to change. 
However, commemorating heritage day is an opportunity to view what we DO have. 
Our cultural diversity and varying beliefs and traditions are what make us a rainbow nation. 
It is a rarity. 
Something unique and blatantly beautiful.

I recently went to the Nando’s comedy festival in Johannesburg and a gentleman named Ndumiso Lindi (The Rooster) brilliantly described our nation in a way I have never heard before. He painted such a rich picture of the cultural conglomeration of heritage that we hold within one nation. He highlighted our idiosyncrasies and encouraged our differences to the point a standing ovation was given. This was not simply because he is an obviously great African comedian… but because I am almost certain that every single one of the 1800 audience could feel the presence of celebratory unity. What we have in this country is intrinsically attractive.

Yet, beyond our diversity of cultures being celebrated on a single day, we hold something more essential than any other kind of recognized public holiday or person on this planet. 
We hold a truth within our hearts that motivates, stirs, encourages, moves and changes everything we live for. 
This truth has been proven true for centuries and has literally altered our existence on this planet, on this nation, in the cities we find ourselves. 

This truth is better than any unified heritage.

A Savior who created us.
A King who walked this earth as a man.
A Father who gave his life so that we could live.

May we never fail to live in celebration of this truth.

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