This morning I came across the 1907 George Bernard Shaw quote ‘The greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty’. While I have read it on numerous occasions, this coupled with reflections of resent occurrences has struck a particular chord with me.
South Africa this year has hosted a highly successful 2010 Football World Cup. It did me proud sitting in Soccer City and Loftus stadiums observing in awe that this is indeed within driving distance from my home. Walking in the streets of Melville and Sandton City could have easily been mistaken for walking down the streets of London’s cosmopolitan Trafalgar Square. A few of my pro-poor activist friends were angry as they believe it contributed to the demise of the poor as once again a few elite would benefit from this spectacular event. My counter argument has been that the World Cup has supported the country in turning a curve in terms of social cohesion and with confidence in the nation to host a world class event, there will surely be benefits for all resulting from repeat tourism.
I am no economist so do not hold substantive knowledge on any of the above, but have my doubts as to whether we have reached a tipping point that would result in a wave of collective positive change. My thoughts wonder to the conditions that create a positive society. How do we convert interest and positive dialogue to a change of behaviour and action? I park my cynicism for a moment and dare to hope as I see the faces of the New Ideas for Africa participants; Heartlines forgood platform the Primedia LeadSA initiative and slow but sure development of Hub Johannesburg.
I stood behind a man in the queue at my local Spar the other day. He was counting out his coins carefully to pay for a packet of candles. I looked in my basket and realized that I had selected five items to purchase instead of the original two intended. In a split second I realized that I have come a long way in my personal journey, but I also realized these past few months I have been caught up in the meta-level of ‘doing’ the work while the intention behind it was severely lagging behind. While I appreciate my strengthened skills set acquired this year, being able to talk the language of society’s influentials could so easily be a distraction from focusing on the people I feel called to serve.
When facilitating a GIBS Spirit of Youth event yesterday, a soon-to-be school lever asked my opinion on South Africa’s economy, the media, how we’re perceived in the world and the subjects she should take to support her role as a young passionate white South African. Thinking back to fifteen years when I had similar conversations with people I admired; I knew that my response would shape her thinking. I only hope that I responded in a way that would inspire her to find and pursue her own purpose. What she did for me is help me remember mine.