Tag Archive: community

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.


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]


My friend Alexa recently [as in yesterday, that’s pretty recent don’t you think? me too] wrote this piece called ‘Are there more white people like you?’ where she starts with this:

‘I have been faced with the fact that as much as I am surrounded by amazing people, doing things to see communities shift and healed, that there is not enough contact between different (colour)people happening to make people realise that actually there are many(white)who are seeking this change. Who think that justice matters, who think that restitution matters.’

And gets to this question which was asked to her by two different people:

‘Are there more? Maybe there are more but we don’t see or hear them?’

And it spoke to a frustration that has been growing in me in terms of the conversations that i have tried to have on this blog hoping to be a catalyst for deeper conversations on race and reconciliation, on reparation and moving forwards in this, my beloved country… that every time there is a post or a story share or a challenge, it is the same people showing up, liking, sharing, getting excited, engaging and pushing back – Hi Sindile. Molo Nkosi. Hey Mike. Lexy! Dre, how goes it? Linda! Avuyile!

And that’s it. With occasional cameo roles from one or two others.

And with this blog i’ve realised two things:

[1] i start a LOT of paragraphs with the word ‘and’ – well today i do it seems.

[2] and [see!] when one person comments it usually means at least five people are reading, when three people share it usually means twelve people have been moved by it, when eight people like there is the likelihood that twenty people thought it was worthwhile and so on.

So maybe this is true. Maybe the voices and comments i see on these posts are representative of many more people who are quietly reading and looking on and silently cheering and nodding and having their own wrestlings and offline conversations.

Or the slightly more scarier option of maybe only 6 to 8 people are actually interested in engaging in these kinds of conversations in this particular way.

But i don’t believe that. i do believe that not as many people as i’d like to be interested are interested. But i also believe there are a lot more than i know. And my call to you today is to come out of the shadows. To put your hand up. To make yourselves known. It’s not even about reading or liking or commenting on or sharing my blog posts [and the posts of those who share their stories on my blog] although please keep doing that.

But just let us know that you’re out there. Please just let us know you care. Let us know that it’s not just the five to eight of us who are wondering around feeling completely rubbish at making any sort of significant difference with this. Or that it even matters.

Because it’s a bit of a lonely business advocating for change and daring to hope in a country where so many people are either so wrapped up in their homogenous bubbles of sameness or else completely negative and always complaining about the state of things in the country [often both] or just seemingly oblivious to the need for any change at all “cos didn’t that all happen in 1994 and now everything is just cool, right?”

A lot of my writing is directed towards christian types [because that’s a huge part of my tribe] and while this is in no way a christian issue [as in exclusively] i cannot in my mind perceive how anyone could view racial reconciliation and unity and togetherness as not an issue facing the church and quite possibly THE issue facing the church in South Africa right now [and Americaland, let’s be honest!] especially if you want to dive into Matthew 25 and redefine those considered ‘the least of these’ in the context of our country.

In the movie ‘A Bug’s Life’ a bunch of smaller bugs are being terrorised and bullied by a swarm of locusts until the very end of the movie where they realise they have the numbers. And the tables are turned.

i do so desperately want to believe we have the numbers in this fight against racial segregation and apartness, against poverty and crime, against the disparity between really rich and really poor and against the fear and hopelessness and hectic racism that still exists in so many people you will find lurking on comment boards in the safety of their homes.

i want to believe it. But i don’t feel it. i don’t see it. It feels like there are seven of us. Maybe a few more…

And so i want to ask if there is anyone else out there who cares about this stuff? You don’t have to feel like you know the answers [or even any of the answers] or have the strength to engage in radical ways even [sometimes the simplest ways can be the most radical] – just let us know you’re out there.

So i want to ask, if you’ve read this, and you are someone who sees the need for some work to be done between black and white and coloured and indian and refugee in this country, and that you want to be hopeful and part of the solution and hungry to see positive change in South Africa [even if you have no idea how and even if you are struggling to believe it’s even possible] to leave your name in the comment section of this blog and tell us you’re in.

i’m honestly anticipating no more than seven names, because that is sometimes all that it feels are engaging with this…

So please, i’m counting on you to prove me wrong.


So the other nite i was sitting on my step sipping coffee out of my uber cool Marvin the Martian mug and i had some life epiphany thoughts on things that make Jesus sad and then took it a step further by standing in front of the metaphorical mirror and asking what makes Jesus sad in my life with one of the simplest conclusions being that me not knowing the guy’s name who greets me by my name every time he sees me and who lives in the apartment beneath us… and i made some form of commitment to change that.

And i just got back into our apartment after what must have been close to an hour long conversation with Will – that’s right, his name is Will – and his beautiful daughter’s name is Suri [just like Tom Cruise’s daughter but with  little more street cred] and heard a whole bunch of his story and invited him and his family to come and have a meal with us sometime.

i know – awkward and embarrassed face – it was THAT easy.

i think it’s largely about Intentionality which i wrote about recently as being one of my favourite words not just because of how cool it sounds [come on – say it out loud, no-one’s looking, well they are but do it anyway] when you add the ‘ality’ part on to the ‘intentional’ part but because of the meaning and the action it promotes.

bee2so that’s just one step but it has lifted my spirits no end and will affect my relationship with Will and our relationship with his family from now on because I now know what he does and what his wife does and that is 14 year old son is in grade 10 and that when i went outside he was using tbV’s flower pots to teach Suri a little lesson about pollination…

[and that he has been the mystery waterer of the plants looking out for them and not watering them in the heat of the day because, like us, he knows it can burn them when the sun reflects off the water] and i know how he feels about the neighborhood and gangs and drugs and so on…

i hope these posts encouraged some of you to go and dig out your metaphorical mirror and see how you’re doing in the living-out-what-you-believe department, and that like me, if you noticed a bit of maggotry [it’s a word… now] that you will find something small and simple to get you on the way to aligning those things again…

it is tremendously life-giving and suddenly Jesus feels that tiny little bit less sadder… who knows, He may even be smiling down at me a little bit.

last time on ‘What makes Jesus sadder?’:

‘but it’s me. i mean that’s the answer right? the only person i can really change is myself, brett fish anderson [where fish seems to be proved more and more to be something i’m desperately aiming at as opposed to anything i hit regularly enough] and so that is really where i have to look.

and i do and i have and i am and a lot of it just leaves me with questions that i am struggling to answer.’

This is the picture of the exact mug i have.

This is the picture of the exact mug i have.

so i was sitting on my step the other nite sipping coffee out of my Marvin the Martian mug and thinking about life [which i definitely don’t do enough – i really do enjoy the times when i can slow it all down and just ponder great things… so maybe the start is to be more intentional about creating those times when i just move away from the busyness and distraction it’s so easy to fall into slash facebook] and i had a couple of thought [thinking will do that to you]…

the one which has been plaguing me for a while kind of fits into that category of ‘I’ll do that when…’ which so many of us have been taken down by i think – the idea that at the next stage of life or season of living or pay increase or whatever, that somehow miraculously the thing you aren’t doing now is going to happen. and for the most part it’s a lie.

and i imagine that often it is linked to following Jesus. I’ll get really committed when I’m done with exams… when my kids are at school… when my kids are out the house… when this project is done… when i have my own car… when i’ve finished paying off my studies… and so on…


it’s a lie. if you’re not doing it now then it is unlikely to miraculously happen. something significant has to change for your current behaviour not to be your future behaviour.

i suspect that often it’s AS EASY [and AS DIFFICULT] as just getting off your ass and doing it.

for me, sitting on the step, it was the awful truth of me just not knowing any of my neighbours. like not really. and not cos i don’t want to [well maybe the ones next door who are so inappropriately loud and who scream at their kids most of the time, i don’t really have great desires in myself to know them] but just cos it hasn’t happened and it might be for a hundred different reasons but it still bums me out.

The need is to just do it already.

The need is to just do it already.

tbV and i live in  four apartment complex [two upstairs, two downstairs] and a lot of it maybe has something to do with timing as we don’t often see the people. it may be because we are white and everyone else is black/African American and so there is not a natural cultural connection. it may be a stage of life thing as there are young children in i think each of the other apartments. and it may be because, apart from the one guy, our neighbors haven’t seemed particularly friendly but then maybe they are thinking or feeling the same thing about us.

but the one that bums me out the most is ‘African American guy’. you see what happened there? that is the part where his name was meant to go, but i don’t know it. and the main problem is that he knows my name. he learnt it the first time he met me and has greeted me with, ‘Hi Brett, how are you doing?’ ever since [and ‘Hey man’ feels more and more pathetic every time i mumble it back to him in the friendliest way possible]. The first time it was, ‘Oh no, I don’t know his name’ which quickly became, ‘Oh man, he knows my name and has called me Brett three times now’ to where we now stand at, ‘He has called me Brett 90 times and so it feels worse and worse to get my brain around the idea that i have to go to him and confess my panic [and just ridiculously bad manners] in that area.

do you know what the worst thing is? he looks really cool. he’s an older black man and i really want to get to know him and hear some of his story and hopefully we can be friends.

what sucks is that i feel like i have a strong heart for community and Val and i talk openly about how great it was in Potter street [at the Simple Way] where we knew everyone and life happened on the streets and we’d be in each others houses and so this all feels like an epic fail to me.


and i don’t think i’m being too hard on myself. possibly not enough. there are definitely some reasons why it has been harder to stamp on my pride and just go and confess and put it right [the biggest being time – we don’t see him often and it’s usually between his car and the door and there are other family members around and stuff] but this last week i think i have come to the conclusion that this is something that i want and i will probably look for a chance while Val is away at the Wild Goose festival [she leaves tonite] to try and get that opportunity and put it right. so it feels definitely on the cards. and it actually not the biggest deal for me to have to go and make that confession and try and put it right. just a bummer that it has taken so long.

when i was sitting on the step though, the biggest question i faced in myself was the question of what is different between what i believe, or what i say i believe or preach/write that i believe and that which i am living out. and what am i going to do about it? and when?

the biggest problem, perhaps, is that the answers are not so simple. they are complicated. it is not as easy as it is with ‘African American man’ where i know what i have to do and just need to do it – there are a bunch of areas of ‘well i don’t know how to get from where i am to where i want to be?’ There might be a bunch of fears of ‘what if i try and it doesn’t work or happen the way i expect?’ and there are also some disappointments of things i have already tried or hoped for that didn’t turn out the way i was hoping for. where i did do the thing i needed to do but the person on the other end didn’t respond or not as i hoped. and so what now?

one small example of that is that there is a young girl in the house where ‘African American man’ lives and i don’t know if it’s his daughter or grandkid or anything but on the occasions i have walked past and she has been at the door and i’ve tried to be friendly to her [connecting with people in Philly was done largely by befriending and looking after their children] i’ve got the strong feeling that her mom is not super amped. she feels a lot suspicious of this dreadlocked white guy from upstairs. so that makes it a little harder cos i definitely want to respect the mom and so generally just try to be friendly to them when they’re out together and hopefully in time something will shift. or maybe i just need to bake something and take it around. that might be a plan.

the conclusion of all this for me is that the thinking part is so important. the noticing of ‘hey the reality i’m living doesn’t match up exactly with what i’m speaking or even what i’m hoping for’ and it’s insane to me to think that i will have amazing community in the next place i live if i haven’t even properly tried to reach out to those around me here [or remember one name! sigh].

but then it HAS to move to the action point. and soon. we don’t know how long we’re going to be here and if  want it to be easier to find it in the next place then the best way is stepping out here and even if things don’t go according to plan, at least i will know i’ve tried.

so i imagine Jesus gets sad when we just get caught up in living lives that are self-absorbed and focused and miss out on the opportunities He may have been prodding us towards

i imagine Jesus gets bummed when we say and think one thing and live a completely or even somewhat different thing [He may have calmly mentioned that to the Pharisees that one time]

i imagine Jesus is a little disappointed if i get stuck in the thinking phase and never step out of the boat He has called me to step out of and take a bit of a risk

this is not condemnation [which leaves you in a loud and stinky mess on the floor, paralysed and unable to change] – this is conviction [which inspires you and directs you to change]

oh and something about God putting His Holy Spirit in me so i should be alright in the empowered-to-do-this-whole-thing department.

you might not be cool enough to have a Marvin the Martian coffee mug, but i would still recommend grabbing some form of beverage and a step and taking some moments on how your life is looking right now… let’s do this thing. for real.

This might be comedy if it wasn't so tragedy.

This might be comedy if it wasn’t so tragedy.

car and car and car and car and another car

well, not really, but i think the permanent ADT guard who lives in a little wooden hut across from my buddy Dunc’s house where i stay may be suspecting that’s what i do…

purely for the number of different cars of all shapes and sizes that he has seen me drive into 2 Smithers Road over the last two months…

i am always friendly and i always wave at him [or hims, because i think there are a bunch of them] which is probably what they look for in terms of suspicious people trying to look unsuspiciousful…

from Val’s folks to my friend Linda, from my buddy Ross to Beth’s mom, and then of course both Dunc and Megs cars [who i live with, Dunc and Megs i mean, the cars stay outside!] and a lift from my mom and my buddy Rob and Reegs and Mandy  and i imagine i have possibly left someone out, it has been insanely beautiful to see and experience the generosity of friends and family.

[thank you all so very deeply!]

i call it the church being the church – some people see church as that meeting that happens at that place on that day… i tend to see it as a friend saying, “I’m going overseas for three weeks, please feel free to use my car” or as two separate friends buying tickets to the cricket for tbV and me, or my buddy refusing to let me pay for a movie, or countless drinks and meals and one friend lending me his hockey stick and another friend giving me his Meltz voucher so i can buy a hoodie…

i do also see church as that meeting which can happen at that place on that day [and am grateful for some amazing experiences of church and especially worship i got to have while i was here] but it can never stay there. if what happens in that place never spills out into everyday life, then it’s a joke and a mockery and a fake [and pretty much a spitting into the face of God]

but one of the highlights of being home has been reconnecting with people who really ‘get’ what this church thing is about [or more importantly who] and meeting some new inspiring people that are on the verge of doing amazing incredible practical things for the gospel which are often the surest sign of the Love of God…

i am so hopeful for church. God’s people doing God’s stuff lavishly… keep on church… keep on!


this is also my 800th blog post altho that is completely irrelevant but a nice round number nonetheless…

so if you are reading this, then by now you know that myself and tbV are heading to Oakland, California to work with Common Change, and you also probably have some idea of what our specific roles with CC look like, and so the last thing i want to comment on is the support aspect.

Val and i have different opinions on the raising support aspect of the work we are about to do altho neither of us are particular fans and if there was another way of doing this particular next part of our life journey, then we would have probably jumped at it. But there wasn’t and so it quickly became a reality that if we were going to do this it would require that and so we breathed deeply and went ahead with it.

How it is going to work is that Common Change is going to be covering our accommodation costs and so we had to take care of our flights [done, thankx to an uberly generous gift from a good friend] and our month to month expenses which we have estimated [food, transport etc] as roughly $1000 per month [or close to R9000]. So that is the monthly support we have been seeking from friends to cover the 18 months we will be working with Common Change starting in March. The one aspect of the support raising that we were both happy with is that it is for a set time – so we have asked people to get involved for 18 months and then it is done.

At the point of this going to [word] press [yes, i did that!] we are sitting at about 50% of what we need and the idea was that we would wait til we hit 60% before i book my flight and trust for the rest to come in after that. We did have a proviso that if the 60% doesn’t come in before the 20 March that Val would fly home and we’d start looking at a plan B as neither of us were particularly amped about being on different continents for too much longer.

So the money side of things is a practical need, but the support part that Val and i are both super excited about is the idea of people journeying with us on this mission. So we are building up a support base ranging from people who want to receive the monthly newsletter we will be putting out, to those who are committing to keep us in prayer for this time and then those who are committing financially to the journey. At the moment we have over 50 people who have stuck their hands up and said “We want to be part of this with you!” And that feels like a really good thing.

The idea behind Relational Tithe and Common change feels like a really great one and we have seen it work really well in a number of peoples lives and so the connectedness with people from back home in South Africa also means that there is opportunity for the idea to take root in different wants here and start affecting our country more directly. I have already had one person who has expressed interest in starting something like that or being part of a group here and we are excited about the potential of a group of people trying it out in the South African context [there is a Caribbean cluster that meets in Cuba and has been a very successful part of RT so we believe it can work!]

So there you have it – a deeper glimpse into the journey that Brett and Val are about to start [officially in two days time, Val from Oakland and me from here til i get there!] and if you would like to be a part of that journey in any of the three ways mentioned then please drop me an email at brettfish@hotmail.com and i can add you to the newsletter list.

so this is the last of the ten ways to Love and it might be good to mention again that i got these on a list and just expounded on them – this was originally number 4 but i bumped it to the end, not because it is any less important but because the others were more relevant to everyone whereas this one is specific to people of faith…

Colossians 1.9 reads, ‘For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…’

in my experience relationships are never easy. or never always easy. some seem easier than others and usually when you are looking at someone else’s dating or marriage relationship, you are exposed to the public side of it and so it will usually look movie-like and if you have ever had a strong difference of opinion with the person you Love and are in relationship with, then you may quickly find at that moment that the genre shifts from romantic comedy somewhat.

and so for this reason [and others] it makes a lot of sense not to do relationships alone and i am thinking specifically of marriage here but to differing degrees it can be relevant to friendships and dating as well. the colossians verse above starts with the phrase “since we heard… we have not stopped praying” and so this last way to Love could perhaps as significantly be titled ‘be an active part of community’ [whether church or small group or strong group of friends or combinations thereof] because the knowledge that people are praying for you is a powerful thing.

when i got married [to the beautiful Val] it felt like God took relationships and marriage in particular and placed them heavily on my heart – the growing statistics of divorce [as equal among christians as non-christians apparently] break my heart in terms of the statement it makes loudly that ‘We don’t do relationships well!’ and i wanted [and want] to be used wherever i can be to speak life and hope and perseverance and longevity into them, and hopefully model healthy relationships too.

and i am hoping it will make my Taboo Topic list someday altho finding anyone brave enough to share might be tough but ‘People who struggle in marriage’ is a topic that is never spoken about [until suddenly a separation or divorce is announced and often hits a lot of friends and family by surprise as everything looked great on the outside] but is really real and my desire is for married people to find safe people that they can share their struggles with in a way that brings them and their person closer together and provides outside prayer and assistance.

but also within the relationship it is good to have it centered on God and people do that differently whether praying together or praying individually but for each other or combinations of both. one of the strongest times for our marriage has been lying in bed together late at night having God-filled conversation about life or people or situations we find ourselves in and as we talk those out, they become like prayers to God as well [as prayer is as simple as conversing with God] and so it is incredibly important to find those places and times to really invite God into the midst of your stuff.

i will finish off with the rest of the passage that initial verse comes from as i think it is a powerful piece to meditate on:

‘For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.’ [Colossians 1.9-14]

as i seek to bring the concept of praying without ceasing into my own marriage, may i also be reminded to constantly be praying for the relationships of those around me, that they will be built on the Love of God that always hopes, always protects, always perseveres.

to head back to the start of this series in case you missed any of them, go here.

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