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Op-eds

South Africa needs an open day

  • Howard Feldman 2018
This past Sunday was the Yeshiva College campus open day. With 3.5 of our five children (thankfully) already through the school system, we are no longer considered to be active in this market.
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Sep 05, 2019

We are in the home stretch, and have been worn down by the responsibility of it all. So much so, that my wife and I often find ourselves flipping a coin to see who will attend parent-teacher meetings. And sometimes remembering that we forgot to open one of the children’s report cards way into the next academic year.

That minor issue aside, we decided to attend the day in any event, as did many of the parents of children already at Yeshiva College.

It was a wonderful day that showcased the academic offering, ethos, camaraderie, atmosphere, and spirituality of the school. It reminded us why we had chosen the school in the first place.

Whereas this is by no means a punt for the school, it’s a punt for the concept. Because sometimes the negativity and complaining is so loud, it drowns out the positivity and the praise.

If ever South Africa needed an open day it’s now, what with xenophobic violence and criminal looting out of control in the Johannesburg CBD this past week, and in Pretoria the week prior, and gang deaths in Cape Town reaching historical proportions. Add to that the rape and murder of a University of Cape Town student, and the kidnapping of a Grade R child. Then you have the state capture inquiry dragging on without arrest, with talk of national health insurance and the economy struggling, South Africans have a lot to complain about.

These are not small things, but they also tell only one part of the story. The other is what we would see if we were to be invited to Open Day South Africa. There, we would view a country where the majority of the people are kind, caring, and helpful, and who will do anything to help each other. We would see the immense economic opportunity that can always be found in difficulty.

We would see that all religions are valued, and that whether we are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Hindu, South Africans respect each other. We would see the sunshine and music, and we would laugh with each other, because South Africans are funny.

We would showcase the magnificent coastline of the Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, and then move inland to the spectacular Karoo and Kruger, and other places we had no idea existed in this breathtaking country. We would see the largest road system on the entire continent, and commercial centres that many would be envious of. We would see South Africans who genuinely want the best for each other.

I read an amazing idea in Benjamin Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility. He speaks about the value of accepting the situation for what it is, and not fighting reality. Once you have done so, possibilities and pathways open up. So, for example, we decide to go to Cape Town on holiday. When we get there, it’s raining. If we send a friend a message to say, “I’m in Cape Town on holiday, but it’s raining,” we are clearly fighting the weather, G-d, and everything else that has resulted in us being there.

If we change the message to, “I’m in Cape Town and it’s raining,” we suddenly have all sorts of options like going for a walk in the rain, going to see the rivers and waterfalls, and so on.

No one suggests that we shouldn’t push back against the many issues that plague this country. What I’m suggesting we do is have an “open day” in our minds that accepts the situation as it is. And then, once we are clear what we have and what we want to have, we become active citizens in a country that is home to our children.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Shirley Bricker 09 Sep
    Thanks Howard I really loved this! Please keep reminding us if all the positives

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