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Ingrid Wolfaardt

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Graceland

Listened to Paul Simon’s upbeat but melancholy longing on the radio this week of wanting to go down to Graceland and this is something I have a need for too, to find the proverbial Grace-place and hang out there for a while.I suspect that we all have a longing for some Graceland, time-out in this country. Perhaps more so today than ever before because we’ve had a taste of it this past fortnight, me finding myself responding from the gut to other’s eloquence, other’s mourning, others praise, identifying myself with written and visual portraits of fellow, South Africans, embracing, hugging, consoling, reaching out across divides that day to day living brings in our topsy turvy world we call home.

The night Mandela died, I arrived in South Africa from a visit to New Zealand. With such a visit, one is prompted to articulate and sometimes defends one’s choice to live here and to defend the very nature of our country. And the country’s response to his death, was my most perfect answer.
We somehow have the best and the worst of human nature in us. We can rise and fly like no other and we can grovel in the dirt like the best. We are a nation and a country and a community of people that makes better people, better and more beautiful than any other nation and we have a society that can break and destroy and wound in ways that no words can describe the horror of it.
We are passionate, emotional, rebellious, highly independent, courageous, sacrificial, opinionated, bossy and difficult, it is in our blood and in our shared history. I suspect we love like no other and hate like no other too. We are a nation of Sea Biscuits, race horses, highly strung and brave at the same time. And I absolutely love and adore this of us. If we could make the best of ourselves count each day across the country, if we could hug, console, feed the hungry, reach out and love daily, the whole caboodle of us, we would become this shining light in a dark world, not for a fortnight but for an infinite time. We would not need to defend, explain our choices, we would be ministering to others, teaching, showing how brokenness can become mended, how wounds can be be healed. And we have it in us all. It’s in our genetics, in our bones and blood and mixed heritages. I saw this displayed so bountifully this week. We can do this thing. We can make our own Graceland happen right here from Josie’s to Cape Point. From Durbs to the Vrystaat.

Confirming this, was Reconciliation day, celebrated on a farm, just outside Riebeeck West, a tangible demonstration of our ability to sustain the loving, the giving, the sacrifice and commitment to the above. We’ve got the character to hang in there and not lose hope or faith in our collective future. Hundreds upon hundreds of rural children from all over the Wes-Kaap came together in apple green T shirts with a Mandela quote on their backs and brightly colored bandanas on the heads as a display of youthful unity. The Goedgedacht program has been running quietly for many years, making a difference in the lives of children, so often regarded as being on the periphery of mainstream society. Empowering children week in and week out, year in and year out until they reach adulthood is the vision of the program. To my mind, it’s the only way to go to creating Graceland. Not by a flash of sympathy, or a passing moment of empathy but by daily, weekly, monthly, yearly interventions. And we can all play our part, some greater than others, Mandela showed it’s only a few who are truly called to that level of leadership but we can use our daily lives for acts of random kindness, daily affirmations and encouragement, daily choices not to slip into cynicism and hardheartedness but to keep faith, daily, for our beautiful country and it’s people.
It’s quite simple.
Daily grace will lead us to the promised land.

 

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