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The value of counting red cars

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It might sound like the start of a joke, but it’s not. What do red cars, front row seats, and lumberjacks have in common? The answer is pretty much nothing. Other than they are the subject of three stories I heard over the past few weeks that had an impact on me.

If you arrive at the office – or anywhere – and I asked you how many red cars you saw on the way in, you probably wouldn’t be able to say.

But if I told you that I would give you R200 for every red car that you saw, you would know exactly how many you had encountered.

Opportunities, luck, and positive experiences are like this as well. If we don’t look out for them, we won’t see them. But if we recognise the great value they hold, we might appreciate each experience.

South Africans often forget to spot the red cars.

Then there’s the story of the lumberjacks. Two lumberjacks started and ended work at the same time every day. The only difference was that while one of them worked pretty much non-stop, one went home for an hour for lunch.

At the end of the month, when the product was tallied, it became clear that the lumberjack who went home each day had produced more.

“How is this possible?” asked the lumberjack who had produced less. “The only difference between us is that you go home every day for an hour. What do you in that time?”

“Simple,” was the answer, “I go home to sharpen my axe.”

How we do that will probably be different for each of us. Which is why it’s important to consider what that might be.

Especially in the stressful times we’re living through.

And finally, there’s the idea of front row seats. In the theatre of life, there’s limited space in the front row. Which means that we need to choose carefully who we give the space to. Do we want someone who watches us on stage with criticism and negativity? Or should our front row be populated with those who want us to succeed? The theatre has other places, and it might be a good idea to seat those whom we might have to allow into the auditorium for social, family, or work reasons in the nose-bleed section where we won’t be impacted by their negativity. And criticism.

In South Africa, we’re blessed to have many red cars driving through our neighbourhoods. The recent publication of crime statistics in South Africa is one of them. Not because they have improved, but because if we live in a CAP area, it has little direct impact on us. The same could be said for Hatzolah, for our Jewish schools, and for all the incredible community organisations. Indeed, we live in a community of red cars. We just need to recognise them.

Sharpening our axes will be different for each of us. But I believe that contribution and commitment to causes is the best way to keep the metal productive.

And finally, in terms of who we invite into the front row of our lives, it’s important to note that just because someone makes a lot of noise, it doesn’t mean that they are deserving. The African National Congress, for example, might seem to be an important participant in our theatre, but the truth is that it needs to be seated where its impact on us is limited. And where we need to strain to hear it.

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