At the outset of this blog, it should be noted that I am in no way exploiting the vulnerability of the man named Sandile who came into my life on Tuesday 30 September 2015. For those who missed the story – you will find it here – Blog post. I have been astonished about the lessons that have opened up for me resulting with my encounter with this humble man.
I am also continually enthralled with the manner in which the Universe, God, Higher Power, or whatever force any one wants to call that energy that is greater than oneself engages, joins and brings about connections that in my hurried scurrying around in my world I would miss if I were not disciplined to align myself with this Power.
Two additional incidents occurred for me this week since my experience of and with Sandile, each of them contributing to joining the dots in the unfolding story of my own journey.
Firstly I was reading Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” and the pages that happened to cross my path referred to the story that she shared with the man in the yellow jumper who opened her studies up to the vulnerability experienced by men (You would need to read the book to experience the full story). Brene’s work was firstly aimed at shame, fear and vulnerability in women and in her words, she said that this fleeting encounter with this man forever changed her career, her work and her research. For over 14 years she has conducted research into and written about the things that people do not want to speak of – their shame, their guilt, their pain and their vulnerability. My connection with Sandile has been a “yellow jersey” moment, and one that has forever changed me and the way that I look at who I am, what I do and why I am here to serve the world and this beautiful country that I am so privileged to be a part of.
Shame is a national South African epidemic – it shows up everywhere – in lack of care for our fellow human beings; in corruption; in anger, hatred and racial intolerance and divide; in our crumbling social systems of health and education; of greed and one up man ship; the decay experienced in our parliament; lawlessness and lack of acceptance of consequence; of exertion of rights, apathy, entitlement and lack of responsibility and of my particular pet hate that phrase of previously disadvantaged. (More on this in another blog)
Don’t for one minute – for all of the militant previously disadvantaged people out there who are ready to crucify me – get me wrong – I am not subscribing to or affirming the wrongs that have been done to people, to places to things for centuries. I am not condoning the hurt, the betrayal, the fear and the shame that is worn by anyone who is a part of our reality. I have no knowledge of what it must have been like to grow up on the receiving side of that self-same intolerance and hatred that was imposed on people other than white in the apartheid era. I cannot begin to come close to understanding what the reality was in having families and cultural structures, stories and the very fabric of ways of life that had been around for centuries destroyed. If anything I have huge amounts of empathy and compassion and have a contribution to make in righting the wrongs of the past.
I grew up in a typical middle class English white home. I had the advantage of going to good government schools and then on to University. I have an Honours degree in Psychology and have worked as an adult educator for 30 years. And I have a responsibility. That responsibility is to be of service to the people of my country in passing on to others what I have learned, experienced and what I know. My work is different from the traditional learning and education models. I am a disruptor, I am a rebel, I am also a passionate South African with a belief in the power of our country and the magic of the rainbow nation.
We are at a period in our history where we can through our shame from our past continue to engage in the epidemic of disadvantaged victim based drama or we can consciously choose to reframe our suffering, our shame into strength, into the magic of what we as a nation have accomplished through the transition of our country from the bullying consciousness of apartheid with the birth of our democracy in 1994, to the unprecedented unification of our nation through sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup and the FIFA Soccer World Cup.
The second incident that occurred this week, was the arrival home of my daughter from a holiday to Singapore and Malaysia. Her experience of the friendliness, hospitality and pride of the Singaporeans and coming back into the energy of South Africa was vivid and harsh. She commented on the litter everywhere, the “slum-like nature” of the urban decay of parts of the city we drove through yesterday that is symptomatic of decay at a deeper level of consciousness. The anger, rudeness, disregard and lack of manners and care in driving on the roads anywhere in the city were all heightened by the contrast of the energy and hospitality of Singapore.
So how do these two incidents link back to my experience with Sandile? What do they have to do with him? Sandile may be mute, physically challenged, and a diabetic – however he embodied the essence of all that it takes to be human – his gratitude, the humility that shone from his eyes, his open hearted gracious acceptance, his faith that radiated out of his being all amplified everything that is good about who we could be as a nation.
We have become mute to the needs and cares of others. We do not speak out at the degree of dysfunction that is present for fear of reprisal. We are subjected to the same form of bullying that was a part of our history – all that has happened is that the bullies have taken on a different form. Life in South Africa today has for most become a means of how to survive in the drama triangle of the bully, the persecutor – the apartheid past and now the myopic edicts of the ruling party; the victim – the previously disadvantaged, and the current disadvantaged and the rescuer – the Unions, China, foreign aid, emigration and anything or anyone who would absolve us as a nation taking responsibility for ourselves.
We are diabetics on steroids – our “sugar” drops come from entitlement, from abdicating our responsibility to step up and take ownership of our own lives; from allowing the shame associated with our past to dictate and determine our future. Our physical disability shows up in the form of anger, hatred, road rage, racial intolerance, xenophobia.
And yet, we have hope – we have the perfect remedy – our insulin – the whole and openhearted teachings, philosophies and values consciousness contained in the fabric of African life, of Ubuntu that Archbishop Tutu has heralded as Africa’s gift to the world.
What if these beliefs, those of Nelson Mandela and the Elders that formed the foundation of the South African democracy as contained in our Constitution, became again the framework against which we all held ourselves accountable? What if Ubuntu and its teachings is the antidote to the collective shame we as a nation carry? What if living, breathing and being the teachings of Ubuntu is our roadmap back to being the wholehearted beings that Brene Brown speaks of? What if … understand, accept and have compassion for our brokenness. This is a vital step into healing who we have become, so that we can begin to shift into who we are meant to be – the gift of a humble, beautiful way of life in which there is enough for all, where there is pride of place in who we are and what we have to offer the world. This is the deeper meaning that I take away from my encounter with Sandile. To you, I am forever grateful for the beautiful reminder to be compassion, to be gentle, to be loving, kind and caring, to embrace whole-hearted living.
To Brene Brown – thank you for your courage to “Dare Greatly”, to forge a path through your research that allows me and so many of your readers to dare again, to embrace what it means to be wholehearted.
To this beautiful country of which I am a part – thank you for the timeless teachings that are so becoming a part of my consciousness. We each have a responsibility to ensure that this precious philosophy is valued, treasured and transmitted to those who follow on from us – this is the heritage that we are to pass on to our children and their children, that is our hope, our Light and the beacon to wholehearted living.
I am willing to play my part – are you?
©Align-Ed Network CC October 2015
Angela is an avid advocate for freedom and choice and her passion lies in transformation, facilitating processes as Storytelling and Experience Economy thinking that encourage people and organisations to access their strengths, talents and potential.