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Another Sunday in South Africa




On Monday night, I was due to speak at an event. My topic was, “Remaining positive in South Africa in 2020.” It wouldn’t be easy, given how I was feeling.

The same Sunday, the same son had also woken up with a terrible tooth ache. It was clear that his wisdom teeth were coming through, and would have to be removed. I messaged a friend, and within an hour, he had made an appointment for my son to see the surgeon on Monday. The social network did not let me down.

The South African narrative is a complex one.

Given the difficulty of the day, it would have been natural to focus on the crime. My son was traumatised, my card had been stolen, and I was poorer, financially, than I had been when I woke up. I was frustrated and disappointed, and felt personally affronted. But to do so would be to focus on one part of the day alone. The other aspect was equally important, and if I was to look at life in South Africa objectively, I couldn’t ignore it.

When South Africans consider leaving the country, it’s natural to focus on the things that are wrong or the things that upset us. Negative emotions are often more dominant – and for good reason. Especially when it has an impact on our children.

But it’s equally true that we live in a country where our community and our friends are kind, and are willing to help. Our networks are designed to lend a hand when we need it, and provided that we are prepared to make ourselves vulnerable by asking for help, there is more than likely someone who will put their hand up and offer to assist.

This was the case not only in terms of the wisdom-tooth scenario, but in regard to solving my banking crisis. Calls were made. Calls received. And the situation resolved and restored. Whereas it might be true that had it not been for the crime committed, this would have not been required, the fact that we have networks to reach out to makes days like Sunday tolerable.

The challenge that we all face is to be able to see the entire picture. To ignore either aspect of the day is to tell half the story. And if there is any skill that we need to acquire through our lifetime, it’s the ability to be able not only to see nuance, but to appreciate it. Failure to do so has real consequences, which makes it all the more imperative that we guard against it.

Sunday wasn’t a good day. But it was a day that proved to me once again that life in South Africa is complicated, painful, and magnificent.

All at the same time.

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