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The other day i wrote a poem titled ‘to them who have ears’ and just thinking about it a little more today,  have dubbed it a choir poem – as in those who get what it’s about and who agree will totally be reading and nodding and cheering and liking and sharing… but those who don’t, are unlikely to even read it and if they somehow do, unlikely to understand the point trying to be made…

So i thought i would try this again in a more direct approach, realising that for the most part blog posts tend to go the way of metaphorical word pieces in that you tend to attract those who agree and distance those who disagree… which feels somewhat pointless in terms of how are you ever going to affect people who need to be affected and where will you find healthy debate from people who think differently from you who can help you challenge and test your own ideas… i guess there is the hope that there are some who think differently who are trying to challenge and check their own ideas as much as i am trying to with mine and so maybe we can meet somewhere in the middle…

The main point of the poem for me was to question why so many white people [and it has been largely white people because of the nature of the posts i have been sharing on race and reconciliation and privilege so has largely been addressed to us] disengage from the conversations around race/white privilege/restitution etc before seeming to really take a moment to listen and hear where the other person is coming from. My problem is not so much that there is disagreement, but that phrases like ‘white privilege’ seem to be like red cloths waved in front of a raging bull… and so excuses, denials, “But what about…”, “Reverse Racism”, “Not all white people…” and more are immediately thrown in, usually breaking up the conversation before it begins.

RESPONSE OVER REACTION

When it comes to conversations on race and other issues in South Africa, i would love to see people choosing to respond over simply reacting. The idea of a reaction is that it is usually a gut knee-jerk response [with the emphasis not on knee] whereas a response tends to include time for listening, thought, inner wrestling and composed feedback. This is something we could do a lot better as South Africans, or maybe just Facebookers and Bloggerists in general.

Take something like ‘White Privilege’ for example – i wrote some thoughts about this in a post titled ‘i’m not sure you’re against that thing you’re against’ simply because i believe the word has certain baggage which triggers a reaction, whereas if those who typically respond to seeing the words ‘white privilege’ by running/throwing/emoting could just take a deep breathe and listen and really hear what is being said/suggested, i think a lot more of them would agree. Take this picture for example:

equalityi imagine most people would agree with this, right? If you see this and disagree then i would love to know why. Unless of course you would label the whole thing as Injustice simply by the very fact of it depicting three people who are watching a game for free without buying tickets, but that is kinda missing the point.

The point of the picture is that the tall guy starts off with an advantage whereas the short guy starts off at a disadvantage. Which means that if they are all treated equally, the short guys still ends up disadvantaged.

Whereas if the one who was most disadvantaged, is given the biggest assistance, there is a way for them to all end up with a level playing field, enjoying the same advantage.

Anyone have a problem with that? Because as far as i understand it, that IS the explanation of White Privilege.

There are certain advantages we start off with in this world [For me being white has some, being male in a largely patriarchally influenced society has others, being heterosexual and right-handed and able-bodied even more so] which doesn’t mean that i have to feel guilty for any of those things i start off with, but it does mean, that for the world to be more fair and balanced and equal, that certain boxes, boosts, advantages will be needed to be given to people of colour, women etc to give them the same opportunities that i have.

You with me? This feels so easy when it is broken down like this.

So i am not talking about white guilt or about hating white people [i get that one a lot!]. i am talking about the need to listen to and really hear from anyone who does not start off with the advantages i have started off with, to find out how best we can together work so that the field is more level for them. Collaboration is key. There may be some sacrifice involved and some loss of comfort or actively working against some of the privilege i have [so BEE being an example of this, realising that at times it really hasn’t been done well and at times it really has been helpful]

How about it South Africa? You ready to slow things down a little and really start listening and engaging and working together on making this relationally the beautiful country it is naturally?

Let’s do this…

[For some thoughts and ideas from a variety of South Africans as to how we can move forward, click here]

So i was nominated for this Spread Love Challenge by TheFabLetters which is this super interesting blog i stumbled on a short while ago where two women write letters to each other which become the premise of the blog posts. Some really good stuff there.

The Rules:

Write ten four word sentences about what love means to you.
Share your favorite quote on love.
Nominate ten other bloggers for the same.

Now normally i wouldn’t be down for this type of thing, but the opportunity of misdirecting with a classic Jack Handey quote:

loveAnd then writing some stuff on love and highlighting some bloggers i think you should check out [altho doubt i will come close to ten] makes it feel worthwhile…

TEN FOUR WORDS SENTENCES ON WHAT LOVE MEANS TO ME

Let’s be honest, that concept was clearly drawn up by someone in the bath reading a romance novel – can anyone come up with ten four word sentences that do love any justice at all?

i tried…

Love is messy. [Too few]

Love is a messy. [Too clunky]

Love requires work. [Too few]

Love is incredible. [Too few]

Love is really incredible. [Feels like the word ‘really’ got thrown in there just for word limit]

and so on…

The point being that you can’t adequately sum up love into sentences of four words or less. In this microwavic instant gratification culture and society most of us live in today, it is easy to be fooled by the idea that everything can be squeezed into 140 character or less Twitterial moments, but the truth is they can’t. Not adequately anyway. Which is the second time i have used the word ‘adequately’ in this paragraph, making it now three times too many…

Relationships cannot be jammed into tweets or even blog posts. They can’t be summed up in a song or even fully contained in a book. We can give hints and whiffs and ideas and metaphors and the audience can feel like they ‘get it’ but they never really do. Love has to be experienced and lived out and figured out and patched up and chased after and clung to and only those love-ing will ever really truly ‘get it’. Get it?

So we can make four words bumper stickers on the ‘Love is…’ theme but they will be completely and ridiculously inadequate.

‘Love is messy’, comes close but behind those three words lie ten thousand more. Experiences and moments and glances and sorrys and frustrations and make-ups and silences and ballads and bad movies and walks on the beach and sunsets and great meals and hard decisions and money issues and commitments and single tears and out of control laughter and… did i reach my word limit yet?

Jack Handey has it close enough. Love is liking someone a lot and choosing to do life with them in all its beautiful, painful and messy ways and not letting any of those categories be too much to continue on with the commitment you have made. Whether we are talking marriage or friendship or family. Love is saying, ‘i will see you again tomorrow.’

And so much more. [Ooh, ooh, four words]

There are a bunch of bloggers who i appreciate but the big ones like Sarah Bessey, Nate Pyle and Jamie the Very Worst Missionary are way too big and important to use their valuable time compiling Spread Love Challenge challenges…

But some lesser known types who i enjoy and would love to see tackle this [in a legitimate way, not in the cheatery way i did] are Bek Curtis whose blog Perfectly Flawed says it like it is… Lily Ellyn who, when she is not pushing out articles on Relevant magazine, has an eclectic collection of different thoughts and words called Such Small Hands… and of course my beautiful wife Val, aka tbV, who i would just love to see blog on anything as she is ridiculously talented, as you can see in On Afternoons and Coffeespoons, but rarely makes the time to do so… [there’s something worth starting a petition about] and also Candice Fourie and her most excellent Moments with a Mom is another one who writes powerfully but too infrequently…

i will finish this off with one of my favourite quotes about love in the guise of being a quote about being real and it is from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams:

real

[For a post titled ‘You Will Be Known by the Love’ click here]

[For a piece looking at Ten creative Ways to Love, click here]

This is a post Dimakatso posted on the Education Ambassador’s blog which you can find over here, but she gave me permission to post it in this section as well, sharing the story of someone who lost a best friend in Claire:

The 7th of April is fast approaching and I’m already feeling a wave of emotions that sometimes cannot be adequately explained. When I feel like this, I know prayer helps and another remedy would be to put my pen to paper or in this case, fingers to keyboard. You see, the 7th of April is not just an ordinary day. From the day my best friend Mangese ‘Claire’ Buthelezi and I met back in varsity, we made this day our “friendship’ day because we were both born on the same day.

claire

On the 16th of June 2014, Heaven got another angel, my friend Claire. She was more than a friend to me, she was like a sister. I still tear up like a little child every time I think of her. In fact, I’ve just realised that writing this blog post is not going to be easy. I know that almost everyone has lost someone, and that losing a parent or an aunt or a partner must be painful (I’ve lost my father and many others too) but losing the woman who taught you to be happy in tough times, convinced you it was OK to admit you’ve gained some weight, and made jokes about your ugly feet in front of the whole world is one painful experience. Claire’s death was the most shocking and painful thing I have ever gone through. A pain which I still don’t understand. Soon after she passed on, I couldn’t call her to tell her how mad I am about her leaving, about how I was feeling, because I would discuss these things with her.

Even when she was weak and going through the world’s most deepest pains, she would visit with a smile on her face and listen to whatever I had to say. She didn’t want to talk about her circumstances a lot, she wanted to focus on the bright and positive things of life. I had a beautiful friendship that I will cherish forever but I can’t deny the hole that has been left. I wake up and wish I could talk to her about how hard it is. But I can feel Jesus giving me the strength and reminding me of our love to carry on.

The last time we were together, I drove to Pretoria and as always, whenever I was in Pretoria she was the first to know. I went over to her place and she had wanted us to go watch a game of football between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs the next weekend but she suddenly got sick. This June will mark a year since Claire’s passing. And although the deep pain has altered to certain numbness, some days the grief paralyses me all over again. Claire will always be 26, the girl who loved clothes and looking good, who used to wash dishes after a fun and crazy night out (which I still don’t understand up to this day :-) ), who used to put up with me listening to Simphiwe Dana in her presence (our taste in music was sometimes different). What would she have been like at 30? Would we both have had our kids on the same day too (that would have been uber cool)? Would she still be into fun times and fashion? Would she have helped her little sister and nephew like she always wanted? Would I be the maid of honour at her wedding? Would she be the maid of honour at mine?

claire2

When someone close to you dies, everyone seems to understand. They want to hug you. They give you encouraging scriptures. They write you inspiring messages and they say things to you… “She’s in a better place”, “It’ll get better with time” “Celebrate her life and existence” etc. But I’ve realised that when dealing with death, whatever anyone says really doesn’t make sense. The pain is unbearable, distasteful and unpleasant. When you get these messages from your loved ones, the messages eventually stop coming in. Everyone starts to move on, but you. I’ve found it a little difficult to move on and I’m really thankful to God for the strength because I still don’t know how I could have dealt with all this without the strength from Jesus. Yes, sometimes it seems as if my grief only amplifies with time. Sometimes I would go to sleep thinking of her, dream about her, and then wake up only to be reminded that it had not been a dream. It had really happened, and she was gone.

I’m certain that a day will come when I won’t cry over her like I do now. But sometimes I’ll find myself listening to music and I’ll hear a song that we both loved by Rihanna “Life’s too short to be sittin’ round miserable, People gon’ talk whether you doing bad or good, yeah… Cheers to the freakin’ weekend, yeah-ah-ah-ah” and I’m once again singing along with her. And then I’m reminded that I am blessed; I have had my best friend for as long as I can remember.

I’m comforted by knowing that one day we will see each other again with Jesus by our side. I believe, mostly because I have to believe to keep standing, that Claire never doubted that she was my best friend, that I adored her, and that I would never have been half as awesome a person as I am without her influence. But I want to make sure that if I ever again lose someone, I can stand up under the weight of all the grief, knowing, at least that, that person never doubted my love. Even if it’s too late, there’s some comfort in knowing that I’ve learned a crucial lesson — about love, friendship, paying attention to what really matters, about letting petty disagreements go, about sharing my feelings. And also about washing dishes no matter what (lol).

Dimakatso and Claire

Dimakatso and Claire

I’ve also learnt that loss is survivable. It feels like suffocating, like drowning, like having something vital ripped out of your body without anaesthetic, but you live through it. Like many of us do, I had imagined loss. I had imagined what it would be like when I inevitably had to say good-bye to a loved one. But I had never imagined losing her.

I would like to dedicate this blog post to anyone who has lost a loved one to death. My advice to you is to never question God and to continue to show love to your loved ones. Remember that our time on earth is short, you have no clue when this ride will end. Never stop praying, stay present and live fearlessly.

” Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” – (Matthew 5:4 ASV)

[For more stories of people who have dealt with the grief of losing someone they love, click here]

These are some ideas that Melissa Hertz shared on her blog which you can find over here that she graciously allowed me to reblog for this series:

Motherhood has stretched me… stretched my skin, my womb, my patience and the way I think. Motherhood has made me grow and I have learned a few lessons along the way. Here are my most valuable lessons so far.

Mel1
1. I have learned that every child is completely unique. 

Unfortunately babies are not born with a manual strapped to their chest and each child, as small as they may be, has a unique personality, and has a unique life purpose and plan. What I do for my daughter does not necessarily work for my son. What you do for your son, may not work for my daughter.

It is my duty as a mother to learn who my children are and not try to conform them into who I want them to be. I need to encourage my children to know Him and discover their calling and dreams placed in their hearts by Him.

2. I have learned to trust my instincts.

I had my daughter when I was only 20 years old and had no family nearby to advise me on how to raise and look after this tiny little new born person. I had to learn quickly to trust my God given intuition and am so very glad that I did. Things that I instinctively did, like skin on skin contact, co sleeping, breast feeding and baby wearing all turned out to be very beneficial to my baby and to myself. I didn’t know it at the time and only found out later that these things that I had instinctively felt to do, had been scientifically proven to help my babys’ immune system, among many other neurological benefits.

I have learned to question everything, read up and research everything, question doctors and teachers, coaches and anyone else around my children, because although God is the only one who knows what is best for my children, my husband and I know our child better than anyone.

3. I have learned not to judge other mothers.

I have a confession to make. Before I had children I used to judge the way that other parents raise their children. Before I had children I knew so much about how to be a parent and a disciplinarian. I had all these perfect ideas of what it was like to be a mother, and then I became a mother and somehow knew less than I did before. I learned very quickly that motherhood is not a Pampers nappy television advert with perfect smiles and a clean perfect house and a child that is happy 24/7.

I have learned to give other mothers lots and lots of grace, because that is what I need.

4. I have learned that love really is the greatest gift of all.

Yes that sounds super cheesy. But also super true. Holding and meeting my children for the first time was one of the greatest gifts in this life time that I will always treasure. These guys are my treasures here on earth and I have discovered a love so deep and a bond so unbreakable and yet, I will never be able to fully grasp the concept of Gods’ unfailing love for me. But being a mother has given me just a teeny tiny teensy taste of how much God loves me. I love my children with every part of me and all that I am. And yet no matter how much I love my children, God loves me so much more. Mind blowing.


“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” John 3:16
5. I have learned to laugh at myself and not take myself so seriously.

Motherhood is a serious job and if I mess up my child I have to stand before God someday and please explain. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t have fun. I have been vomited on, peed on, I have had my children blurt out the most embarrassing questions and remark in public, and I have had moments that are so ridiculous that I have had to just laugh out loud or I would burst into tears. To gain perspective I have often had to ask myself the very important question; “What will matter more in five years?”

mel2

6. Motherhood has stretched me and taught me to be brave and strong even when I don’t feel it. 

There have been moments where I have been completely freaked out by this enormous task and responsibility of being a mother. Questions like, “What if my teenagers run away from home” or “What if we can’t afford to send them university” have crossed my mind. But in moments like that I need to control my thoughts and be brave and trust myself and trust God that it will all work out.

I don’t always know what I’m doing but God created these children for me, and created me for these children, so He will give me what I need when I need it. All I can do is take one day at a time, one step at a time, with lots and lots of grace from God.

                     Be brave butterfly….

7. I have learned to grow a thick skin. To hold onto the good stuff and exhale the bad stuff.  I have learned to let go of what people think because it really doesn’t matter in the bigger scheme of things. I have learned to fly against the wind and resistance and not always go with what society says I should do.

                      Be bold butterfly….

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” John 17:16 

mel38. I have learned that it is such a short season of sacrifice. 
My daughter is turning eight next month and it feels like yesterday that she was moving inside of my big pregnant belly. I have sacrificed many things for these children, but I actually can’t even name them because it is irrelevant. They are just so worth it. Soon these days of standing on Lego at 3 am and reading bedtime stories will be over for me. I need to treasure and embrace this season because I will miss it so very much…

9. I have been so completely humbled. 
I really can’t do this motherhood thing on my own. I am seriously desperate for Jesus to guide me and show me and protect my family. I seriously don’t even know how people who don’t have Jesus in their lives do it… It is too much stress, too much noise and too much mess to actually cope alone…

Cant.
Cope.
Without.
Him.

10. I have learned that although I am the one who is meant to teach them, the irony is that they teach me… about life, about love and about myself. 

When I gave birth to them they really gave birth to me. They are showing me one day at a time who I need to be, who I am meant to be and who I want to be. And life is so beautiful because they are mine for this short time here on earth…

Yes motherhood has stretched me… stretched my arms so that I can embrace the little arms around my neck, and my heart wider so that I can be filled with love that children seem to naturally bring with them when they are born into this world.

I have stretch marks on my heart and a few on my body too, best of all I have me these amazing two little people who call me “Mommy”.

And the stretch marks, well they don’t really matter anyway do they?

mel4

[For more from Melissa, take a look at her blog ‘Arise. Butterfly. Glorify’ over here]

[For more tips on parenting from some other parents who are doing their best to do it well, click here]

You know how this works. We write LOL, but we barely ever really mean it… but Jack Handey is one of the guys who i know have made people LOL best and for real… so take a look at these offerings and see if any of them do it for you:

lol1

‘It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.’ [Jack Handey]

lol2

‘I guess of all my uncles I liked Uncle Cave Man the best. We called him Uncle Cave Man because he lived in a cave and because sometimes he’d eat one of us. Later on we found out he was a bear.’ [Jack Handey]

lol3

‘It’s too bad that whole families have to be torn apart by something as simple as wild dogs.’ [Jack Handey]

lol4

‘I bet the main reason the police keep people away from a plane crash is they don’t want anybody walking in and lying down in the crash stuff, then when somebody comes up act like they just woke up and go, “What was THAT?”‘ [Jack Handey]

lol5

‘One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to a burnt down warehouse. “Oh no,” I said, “Disneyland burned down.” He cried and cried, but I think that deep down, he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.’ [Jack Handey]

Which of those came closest for you? Or do you have a favourite Jack Handey? Share with us in the comments section and we’ll see if it makes it into the next episode of Chasing LOL… 

[For more Jack Handey LOL chasingments, click here]

to the ones who feel like they’re constantly defending

please won’t you stop for a second

and help me on this

shine some clarity on the situation

because i really don’t understand

what it is about this that makes you not want to listen

please help me recognise

what it is that keeps you from engaging in this conversation

as if taking some time to lend me your ears

will result in a group of us encircling you

and viciously stabbing you repeatedly in the back?

 

et

to, the ones who feel so defensive

if you just take the time to hear and really hear

the story of the other

the one who sits in front of your screen with fresh scars held upwards

reaching out to you

wanting to simply share silently the screams of their silenced stance

what harm could it possibly cause you

to have an empathetic escape

from all of the assumptions,

assertions

aggravations

that you bring to the table and simply give them a chance to speak

not believing for a second that you have to agree with any or all of what you hear

but believing for a second that hearing another side to your well-tuned story might in fact

give you pause to consider that maybe the one that you know to be true

might not be all the true that could be available to you?

 

to the ones who are so dismissive

insistently inciting

consistently fighting

unfriending,

crescendoing statements into argumentative tirades

question threads into metaphorical verbal poo-flinging stockades

to you who move things so quickly from 0 to 100

without even bothering to shift gear

who are already halfway through compiling your response

before the statement you’re ‘replying to’ has even made it

out of the fingers of the person on the other side

the other person on the other other side

just stop!

you are not helping here

 

shooting down conversations

misdirectional missives

name-calling

blame-calling

article-citing

video-linking

screen-blinking

at the pace at which words are being shot out over the airwaves

like shells dropped from a bomber over the headquarters of the enemy

i hope that you don’t hit a school

 

do you see the futility of it all?

the engagement, estrangement

back and forthness

tik tik tik on the computer keyboard

like some kind of addictive drug

coarsing through your veins

when what is needed

perhaps what just might be good for us all right here

is to be the one who simply stops

 

just stops…

stop.

 

that’s it.

now breathe for a second…

deep in and deep out

listen to the sound of the air

filling up and evacuating your lungs

 

focus on that for a while

and just listen

really listen

hear words

try to understand meaning

put yourself on the other side of the screen

what do you hear now?

what do you mean?

what emotions are bursting through your skin

wanting to splat themselves against the screen?

what history has caused you to be in this exact place?

what opportunity might have been denied to you because of your race?

what can i possibly understand about the person whose life i have taken no time to create silence for?

 

is this a lesson in futility?

as i can surely never know

or truly understand

or ever hope to feel

 

but. i. can. listen!

 

i can take time to hear

i can turn down my personal volume

i can be slower to answer

more hesitant to turn to anger

more open to the possibility that the story might be bigger than mine

and that in this other i may even see something of myself

if i look deep enough

or maybe just if i look at all

 

dare i risk looking at all

dare you?

My friend Avuyile, wrote a response to my poem, ‘i not me’, that i posted earlier today and i felt that it deserved it’s own space here on the blog and Avuyile gave me permission. i hope each one of us will take time to really listen to these words…Avuyile

I am meek, for in my meekness I am forced to tolerate you imposing your ideas into my system.
I suffer in silence for my cries echo an uncomfortable feeling on your back side thus the words “move away from the past”.
I die daily at your sight, a sight that not invokes feelings of hatred rather anger and resentment for you have for a long time disregarded my humanity and my ideas.

I have sacrificed so much for your benefit yet still my efforts and my energy seem to have gone down the drain. How long should I continue in this vain? For in my sanity you regard me as insane. Take a moment to listen to my heart beat, feel the motion, it is a motion of sorrow, a motion of pain of the many sufferings I have endured at your hands.

To see your gay abandon each day awakes feelings of disdain, for it is the utter carelessness and ignorance to my hunger and my yearning. The very desire to live and pursue what makes me who I am, the many things I have missed out on my kids, wife, cousin, and my community.
I am forced into servitude not with a whip rather the brutal wrenching of my dignity.

[To read the original poem that inspired these words, click here]

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