Varsity College students were on the streets this morning collecting for the SPCA. Coffeeberry provided coffee for workers who are working on the wetlands/river system in the area. I spent time at Shuter and Shooter participating in their Mandela Day activities, which this year involved some introspection and the singing of the National Anthem – an uplifting experience. Short of sports matches, ordinary citizens have little opportunity to sing the Anthem.
There is an atmosphere of comradery around in the air this day. One can smile at strangers and greet them with a ‘happy Mandela Day’ and receive a warm smile of recognition in return. One senses a spring in the step and a willingness to engage in activities that require one to go the extra mile for no reward.
There will be those cynics who (every year) tell us that Mandela Day activities are a conscience-suppressor – as long as we do our 67 minutes we are good for another year. But these activities do continue throughout the year in many parts of the community. The focus on a particular day brings them into the open and adds others that we may not have thought of otherwise.
Just as important, however, Mandela Day brings down the psychological and socio-economic barriers we create around us. We are reminded that we are all South Africans and that we are all in this together. We are reminded that our future does not lie in the hands of politicians and business leaders, but in our own. We create a better future as we reach across our self-made barriers, share our stories and work side by side – as we discover that the neighbours we have eyed with suspicion share the same ideals and hopes and dreams we share.
We are also reminded that we South Africans have a hero – not a saint, but a hero who rose above his own struggles, put aside his own comfort and set out to create a future of which we can all be proud. We salute him and the many others who shared his struggle and committed to his values.
The question for each of us this day is, how can I live out those ideals between now and 18 July 2017 for the good of all South Africans and the future we dream of?