We can all remember that iconic moment from the Bruce Willis/Haley Joel Osment thriller ‘The Sixth Sense’ and if you have not seen it yet, then be warned of the biggest spoiler of all.
The face of Cole Sear peeking out from behind the safety of his blanket as he whispers the iconic, “I see dead people!”
i feel like that on a far-too-regular basis on The Facebook as i read statuses of people negative about South Africa as they share news story after news story of death, violence and destruction.
This week i was thrown a little by one of those negative statements coming from someone i expected to have more hope.
But this negativity has been playing around in my head and it continues to make me sad and angry and confused and sometimes all at once. Are the stories being shared of negativity false? Probably not. The truth is that there is a LOT of death, violence and destruction in South Africa at the moment. So then how do i have any right to feel differently and expect others to do the same?
IT’S ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW
i was speaking on a camp in Wortelgat [past Hermanus] this weekend and got some bad news about a friend back in Cape Town, who has cancer. The way i received the news led me to believe there was a possibility i would not see my friend again. And i got this about five minutes before i was due to start my first talk. i was gutted.
But immediately i walked outside and texted two family members and maybe five or six friends to ask them to pray. And i knew they would. [And there were easily ten or twenty more people i could have texted without even thinking about it]. i knew they had my back. And my friend’s. [Sunday night tbV and i got to hang out with him and his wife and it seems like the situation has stabilised for now.
i saw a post this week about my friend Ashley who has been teaching chess to some young children from disadvantaged backgrounds. They were proudly showing off their medals from a chess competition they had competed in on the weekend.
i think of Nicole/Francesco, Tyron/Cara-Leigh, Mike/Sarah, Troskie/Naomi and others who have adopted little babies and children from a different race or culture group than their own and my friends Alexa/Charles who are waiting in line to do the same.
i think of tbV and the work she is doing towards getting Common Change to be an active thing in South Africa – a way for groups of friends to combine their resources and share with those who they know who have a need, and of Barry Lewis who is pioneering the building of houses in underprivileged areas using a unique design involving sand bags as walls.
Our friends Pete and Sarah and others who are working with young guys trying to get out of gangsterism and off drugs in Mannenberg and also the Jou Ma se Kombuis coffee shop/restaurant they have set up there; of the Common Good non-profit that is part of Common Ground church and how their aim is to get every single member of the church involved in some form of social justice and action; of 13 families who moved into Salt River as a part of the Eden Project and the idea of crossing boundaries to seek community and reconciliation and more.
i think of Tim Tucker and the Message folks who are working in prisons to train leaders and then helping them find employment once they are outside prison. Of Jade and Siphe who are using the opportunity of Managing the Soft Serve Machine as an event business which is a huge part of them turning their lives about as they encourage and affect others around them.
i think of my mate Bruce Collins and the way he uses technology in the classroom to build into the next generation of young people and how his love for people moves beyond that into equipping and empowering other teachers across the land and maybe even the world. Of uThando leNkosi, the place of safety for kids that tbV sits on the board of trustees of who looks after children who have been taken out of rough situation and been given a chance of a more normal, more family-centered life.
i think of the men and women who run LEAD SA and how they look for stories of good and highlight different young people once a month who are making a difference in their communities. Of the folks who run U-Turn homeless ministry who give people a chance to buy vouchers so that you can give someone on the street an opportunity for a meal or some clothing or a place to sleep without having to worry about what they might do with money you hand out to them. i think of the Big Issue vendors who brave wind and rain and blank faces that pretend they don’t exist as they go about selling magazines at traffic lights to earn a salary to bring some change to their life and future.
And i could go on… individuals and organisations and friends who are making the hugest of differences or the smallest ways simply by the work they choose to be involved with, the decisions they make with their money or where they choose to live or how they spend their time. People who get crazily creative in terms of seeing opportunities for change. People who read the negative headlines but refuse to let them remain the headlines of the future. People investing in South Africa and South Africans.
People who refuse to see dead people.
And so my question to you today is which person are you? Maybe the reason i am surprised when i read about people losing all hope and moaning about South Africa and getting scared and more, is because i have chosen to align myself to people who are making such differences and so the predominant stories in and around my life tend instead to be ones of hope and life and the future. So the negative stories are still there and the pain and violence and desperation are all still real. But those stories are drowned out by the story of the wall of uThando leNkosi being painted or the next group of prisoners starting the training with the Message in prison or seeing a group of young people be challenged and changed by hearing stories of a God who loves them at the camp i was on this weekend or news that our friend has just invited someone to live with them for a couple of weeks while she finds her feet and gets work.
Negativity tends to breed negativity and so if you are feeling overwhelmed by the negative narrative in this country then i encourage you to maybe find some different friends, find some different places to get your stories, find an organisation you can volunteer with. Sign up with The Warehouse to receive their newsletter and start attending some of their conversations about practical change. Like Johan de Meyer so you can hear what his Un-Fence group is up to next. Follow @Lead_SA on the Twitterer to read about this month’s hero they are celebrating.
Or leave. Because really, if you are choosing to add to the negativity in South Africa then you really should go somewhere else. We don’t need more people adding to the hymn of the depressed or the tune of the tragic-minded. There is certainly enough of that. We need people who realise they need to start learning Xhosa, or who decide they need to pay their domestic a living wage instead of just getting away with what your neighbour is paying theirs; people who will have a first-name and story knowledge of their immediate neighbours and who will jump in and offer to babysit their friend’s children so they can have a much-needed date night off; we need people who will give their time for chess lesson and others who will simply click and share the positive story ahead of the negative one.
We need people to choose to be a part of the change. And to invite others they know to do the same alongside them.
Which one are you? What is one story you can share in the comments of someone or some group doing something that would easily be added to this list here? Please share it with us.