Each year, we’re encouraged to spend 67 minutes doing something significant for our fellow South Africans in honour of Nelson Mandela, to show our commitment to our country, and to building it into the nation that we believe he dreamed of while he was imprisoned on Robben Island. It’s a great idea, and one that deserves our commitment and support.
But what do we do on the other 364 days of the year? The problems that we give our 67 minutes of time to around the middle of July each year, are there for the rest of the year too. And, without sounding like the voice of doom and gloom, sometimes swooping in and doing good things for an hour and a bit, and then leaving, does more damage than good: read here and here for some extreme examples.
So – am I exhorting you to stay home on the 18th of July, and just look after your own?
No, not at all.
What I would love to see is South Africans making a 365-day-a-year commitment to making this fantastic country an even better place.
Instead of arriving at a school to paint the classroom, and then leaving, how about actually talking to the principal to find out what the school needs – and then commit to visiting it every so often to see how you can help, constructively.
Instead of planting a tree where trees they are clearly not going to survive, how about talking to local communities and finding out where a vegetable garden would work. Then don’t just plant it, keep on visiting, to make sure that the plants are doing well, and to restock with seedlings as plants mature.
I guess what I’m asking is that we don’t rush in, wave a magic wand of goodness, and then leave, for one day each year. What I would love to see is people working on relationships all year round. It’s strong relationships with people that we care for that are going to change the negative tides in our country, in my opinion. If you care for someone, you’re going to do everything that you can to make the world a better place for them. If you care for your fellow South Africans, whether it’s with something as simple as a smile when you pass them in the street, or as committed as an ongoing partnership, this country will truly become the place that Madiba dreamed of, I reckon.