Last night I was fuming. I had smoke coming out of my ears. My child had been bitten by a dog at the neighbor’s who live on the same property and I hadn’t been informed. This, in combination with some other less savory things happening due to dysfunctional structures in South Africa left me in a foul mood. I’d been happy all day. All week, actually, as I’ve been applying a lot of the things I’ve been blogging about and felt freer and happier than I have in years. But, some things have rattled my nerves lately. Such as not having electricity. Such as people working for me stealing from my home. And this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
I’d made plans to go out last night to attend an event — to view the Legacy Collection by Chermaine Taylor. She creates jewelry and art using pieces from the fence found on Robben Island. Robben Island was home to the prison where Nelson Mandela stayed. In short, she makes art out of the very fence that used to keep Nelson Mandela a prisoner.
I didn’t feel like going after getting angry. So I figured, there was a reason I really needed to go. You know Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey? The threshold guardian. The more important something is, the bigger the threshold. Besides, I’d promised a friend to go, so off I went.
I loved the collection. Not that I’d necessarily be comfortable wearing a piece made from the fence though. I’ve been through a lot in South Africa. I’ve seen the pain and suffering. I have it on my doorstep. In fact, I’m raising its offspring. And that’s my passion: raising those kids and working with the kids and youth in the township. That’s what I love in South Africa. But through my passion I’ve come to live through events and circumstance that, according to my business partner, would “land someone in a mental hospital for ten years.”
So wearing a piece of a fence that brought so much suffering, didn’t feel right to me. In fact, it made me panic. Especially, as I often think about Mandela when I encounter struggles; think about what he lived through and how he went onto becoming one of the world’s most honorable and inspirational people. How he chose to become the Captain of his Soul, instead of letting himself get destroyed by events. He kept his spirits high.
I got talking to a lady that works for Chermaine as a sales rep. She was showing myself and my friend the jewelry (which really was very nice — I tried on a ring). I decided to ask her about the idea of carrying the fence on your person though — how she felt about it. And she opened up and told us about her nephew, whom she’d raised, had ended up in prison. He’d been released earlier in the year and was now doing well, but she was still holding her breath.
She talked about how she’d raised him since she was still in school. How she’d sometimes asked her teacher to let her go home early when it rained. Once she’d found him outside, on the steps, in the rain.
He’d been a good boy who’d gotten involved with bad people. I recognize the story. I’ve had the same battle with the girl I help raise. If you can’t keep them away from the township, you can’t keep them away from bad influence. It’s scary. Very scary.
The woman also told me about her aunt who runs a crèche in Khayelitsha (a big township in Cape Town). This aunt had recently become the foster mom of three children — the youngest the biological mother had tried to abort by her own means and given birth to in a toilet.
She said that her uncle, who used to drink a lot, had become so enamored by this girl that he’d turned his life around. The little girl wouldn’t go to sleep without him there. And her aunt had recently been nominated for a woman of the year award.
Liezl, who started and runs Little Angels, the not-for-profit I’m involved with and where I met the kids I help raise, have many similar stories and is raising other family member’s children too. Family members who have fallen foul to addiction.
I spoke to the lady about how hard it can be to live in South Africa and how stories like this is what moves one’s heart. What keeps one going. What inspires one to get out of bed in the morning. That and a very energetic toddler who likes pulling my nose and kissing me good morning.
Meeting this woman really made my evening — she inspired me. She made me remember my passion.
South Africa is filled with incredible stories. Stories about overcoming drugs, abuse, violence, alcoholism, corruption, dysfunctionality, gangsterism and poverty. It’s a country filled with brave souls who fight the odds and adversities.
As always, focus creates reality. You have to choose where you put the attention — on the people who are incredible beings, or the ones who aren’t. If you get caught in the pain, you’ll never enjoy the beauty. The joy. The love.
Maybe the jewelry truly is a celebration of overcoming adversity — the fence has been broken down, after all. And Mandela was released to become one of the world’s most influential leaders.
Focus creates reality. Life is a piece of creation — you create who you are and your life. Every day. You are a creator. You are also your very own piece of art. As is your life — an artwork. With a multitude of paint strokes from those around you. Hopefully, very beautiful paint strokes.