Written by Ilse Henning
My childhood was, by my standards, rather normal. I grew up in a typical Afrikaans home with two parents, two brothers, good schools, regular family holidays and an opportunity to study at university. We were never rich by worldly measures but, I had a comfortable life and I now know that I was privileged. My reason for saying this? I have come to realise that my normal life was the absolute abnormal for so many people living in the same country as me.
With understanding, accepting and acknowledgement of this – how do I make a contribution to rebuilding the country to be a home to all? I have this deep sense of urgency for people to fully appreciate that what we decide and do today, determines the direction and outcome of the next generation. We may not all be politicians advocating on a stage but we have much in common as humans and as South Africans. This gives us endless opportunities on a daily basis to show “unity starts with me”.
It is up to us to teach the next generation from the lessons learnt from our past. Division can only lead to political, emotional and economical destruction. Shouldn’t we rather consider how we as individuals can break the daily mold of routine and paint with a positive brush in our immediate circle of influence? How can we impact the lives of the people around us, in our families, neighbourhoods, schools, place of work, in traffic, in the shopping mall? How can we show and act with gratitude for what we have?
May I suggest that the change we seek lies within ourselves and how we choose to behave? There is a saying that goes “If you are searching for that one person that will change your life, take a look in the mirror”. Let’s awaken our inner being to be kind, respectful, compassionate and accepting towards our fellow South Africans. It can be a friendly word, a smile, a compliment or helpful hand that starts something significant. The accumulation of kind gestures from one human to another, at every possible opportunity, may just bring about the true unity we desire as a diverse nation.
The soles of my feet are South African. Like yours. Unity is the foundation of home to all of us. It starts with me and you.