There is that old joke that goes, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.’
i know, it’s NOT funny. please stop eating elephants. But the point it makes is pretty valid. i don’t know about you but when i think about my home country of South Africa and everything that needs i change i can feel completely overwhelmed and usually simply just paralysed. What can i do to make any difference? Ah, well there you have the answer – all the difference is ridiculous and crazy and impossible and you can’t do it. But any difference? All you have to do is start, and here are ten ideas you can get started on [To not add to your overwhelm’ment, why not start with one? And also what might really help is getting a mate to do this with you. Who comes to mind? Great, let’s get going]:
CHOOSE WHAT STORIES TO SHARE
Let’s be honest, the more bad stories we hear [and there are lots] the more depressed and helpless it makes us feel, One thing you can do to start affecting the atmosphere of this country is to choose to be intentional about the stories you share. Just this week i shared an interview i did with two ex prisoners who have totally turned their lives around and are involved in a business where they sell ice-cream at events. Start with that. i also ran a whole series of posts of people who give other people hope in South Africa so feel free to share those until you find stories of your own.
It doesn’t mean completely pretend the bad stuff is not happening, but there is SO MUCH GOOD happening as well that we need to be more excited about sharing those. The folks at LEADSA are doing an excellent job at unearthing a new positive story every week so head over there for great suggestions as well.
FIND A LOCAL PROJECT TO GET INVOLVED IN
Mandela Day is one of those bitter sweet moments that comes around as so many people get involved for that moment. And then stop. Doing 67 minutes of goodness is all good and well, but if you want to have a lasting effect on the country, you need to try and find a project, a group of people or an opportunity that you can get involved in more regularly. Try and find something nearby that is doing good in the community around you – maybe it’s volunteering at a local school or old age home or getting involved with literacy lessons at the local library. You do not have to look too far to find something to get involved in. And while you can’t solve all the problems in the country [please don’t try], committing your time and energy and skills for an hour or two a week with the same group of people and all the relationship that comes with it can have such a long-term positive effect.
LEARN AN AFRICAN LANGUAGE
In two weeks time, tbV and myself [and four of five others we convinced to jump in with us] are going to be starting to learn Xhosa. There are eleven official languages in South Africa and it is a huge [long overdue] area of bridge-building to learn the language of someone else who their whole life has been expected to speak in your home language. This is huge and i am embarrassed it has taken me so long to get there. But if you are honestly wanting to build this country, then learning the predominant African language in the area you live in makes a whole lot of sense. It is a bit of an expense [in nerves alone] but i can’t think of anything we have invested in better [including Pick n Pay Stikeez] that has been as worth it and i cannot wait.
USE YOUR VOICE
This is something we all should be doing, but the more of us that dive in, the easier it becomes for everyone.
Any time you hear someone say something blatantly or even overtly racist, speak up. When your friend tells a ‘bit of a racist joke’ at the dinner table, politely intervene. When someone of the older generation refers to the person cleaning their garden as ‘boy’ or the the woman who cleans their house as ‘girl’, let them know lovingly but firmly that, ‘We don’t talk that way any more.’ Sexism, homophobia, anti-religion, whatever it is. There are so many areas of broken relationship within our country and the walls that are built between different groups and people are often strengthened by the unknowing comments, the sly remarks, the semi-racist cartoons we share and so on.
i don’t know many people that actively enjoy confrontation, but this is an area where all of us together really need to get out THIS STOPS NOW voices on and refuse to let what is essentially hate speech continue.
This includes sharing pictures/jokes that denigrade women or humour that pulls apart marriage. This definitely includes jokes and inappropriate comments about rape or ideas that suggest that the victim was responsible.
I’m not talking about picking fights, but i am talking about drawing a serious line. Deleting inappropriate posts on your walls, refusing to forward popular links everyone else is jumping on and taking gentle but firm action when it is live and happening in front of you.
LOOK AFTER THOSE WHO LOOK AFTER YOU
This will not apply to everyone, but if you have someone who cleans your house or looks after your yard or your children, make sure that you are treating them well. Think about what you’re paying them – is it closer to minimum wage or a living wage? if you’re not sure, do the maths of what the one day you use them translates to for a whole month and then see if that feels loving. i imagine some people will be too scared to work those kind of things out. If you are not paying them enough then do something about it – maybe even taking away one of your luxuries or entertainments so that you can ensure they are being decently looked after.
Also look at the way you treat them. Imagine for a second that was your sister or brother, or more likely even your mom or your grandfather. Would you still speak to them the same way? Do you give them food on a cracked plate or your best china? Do you know their name? Do you know their family members names? Have you taken time to find out their story and if they have to leave home at 4am so they can get to you in time and their children are often left on their own so they can look after yours, maybe a rethink needs to happen there as well.
For a deeper dive into how my friend Nigel Branken sees minimum wage vs living wage, click here.
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There you go – 5 very practical ways, some much easier than others, but at least one within everyone’s reach, and let’s be honest, if we are truly wanting to turn this country around, then everyone is going to have to be prepared to stretch a bit, so try and go beyond what is simply comfortable and let’s start addressing these things…