Today, we celebrate Heritage Day in South Africa. It’s a day to both honour the rich cultural diversity of our nation, and to consider and celebrate the family and societal influences that have shaped us as individuals.
Many of my fellow South Africans speak of it as “Braai-Day”, a braai (or barbeque) being a common culinary event in our warm, outdoor lifestyle, and a big part of our shared cultural heritage (a township style braai is called a shisanyama, the word literally meaning ‘hot meat’).
But I chose to make today about more than just ‘pap, chops and wors’. I used it as a time for reflection. I looked backwards at the heritage passed down to me as a child of immigrants from the Netherlands. I also looked forwards, reflecting on the heritage I hope to leave my children and grandchildren. Then I dreamed bigger still, and envisioned the legacy I hope we South Africans can collectively leave to the generations that follow us.
Our world has been plagued by the Covid-19 virus for 5 months, and my country South Africa has been in lockdown for 2 of those. It’s a time where we’ve all come to realise the power of words. We’re bombarded with news and interviews, opinions and statements from world leaders. Our phones ping with messages that warn or threaten or seek to inform us. We’re constantly trying to discern words that are real from those that are fake.
And, although I’ve always known it, it’s never struck me more that the words we speak or write have power. Power of life or power of death. No wonder the writer of Proverbs said:
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (Prov. 15:4)
One day in the distant future I will be napping in a chair, book on my lap and reading glasses perched at the tip of my nose. One of my (hopefully many) grandchildren will sidle up to me and say, “JoJo*, what was it like to live through the pandemic of 2020?” My memory—already a somewhat redundant asset in my late-40’s—will be even hazier then and I might struggle to mutter more than, “a difficult time, my dear…yes, yes, very difficult indeed.” Which is why I have decided to write my grandchildren a letter now … in 2020, the actual time they will one day ask me about.
And this is what I want them to know: Continue reading
There was a time when quoting Nelson Mandela could lead to a prison sentence. Under the Apartheid regime, the quoting of banned or imprisoned people was a criminal offense. Yet today, Mandela is one of the most quoted people in the world. His words are wise, compassionate and often funny. Reading them, one gets a sense of his respect for all people, his humility and his deep love for South Africa.
So today—as our beloved Madiba faces the last great hurdle of his life—I want to share just some of his words of inspiration and insight, maybe even a warning or two. His words, just as his life, are a legacy to us all. Continue reading