September is Heritage month in South Africa and the 24th September is Heritage Day. A day when South Africans are encouraged to celebrate the diversity of our beliefs and traditions. To honour the
“Rainbow Nation” that we supposedly are. I’m always fascinated how, for brief moments, we can put aside our differences and embrace that diversity. Such as when South Africa hosted the 2010 Soccer World Cup. On that opening day the atmosphere everywhere was electric. A friend commented that she wished she could bottle the joy, the connection, the community spirit that was so prevalent. Or when a disaster strikes, such as the flash flooding in Gauteng in 2016, when complete strangers reached out to save others in danger of being swept away in raging waters on the highways, human chains formed irrespective of race, colour or creed. We CAN pull together as one, it’s just a pity we can’t do it all the time, that it takes special events or catastrophes to bring it out.
“A lot of different flowers make a bouquet” – says a quote of Muslim origin. All communities are filled with many different flowers (and yes, more than a few noxious weeds!) But it seems to me that we have become ever more intolerant of anything that is not “like us”. We are forgetting that the world is filled with diverse individuals, who think differently and do differently. We forget that each flower brings its own unique colour, style and fragrance and it’s not wrong, or right it’s just – different. We all do things differently, we all see the world differently, according to our upbringing, what our society teaches us, our traditions, our culture and our own personal preferences.
Sadly, the norm these days is the moment something crosses our path that is ‘different’, not up to our expectations or standards, we jump onto the criticise bandwagon. We immediately look for all the faults, all the reasons why it’s just wrong. We don’t hold back in the viciousness of our attacks, which fortunately are often only verbal, but pretty devastating nonetheless and continue to create even more division.
We constantly bemoan the state of our planet, the way the world is going, yet on the whole we are unwilling to do anything differently.
But what if we could see ourselves in all things and all people around us, to paraphrase an ancient Sanskrit teaching? What if we looked beyond the differences and celebrated the connections? If we focussed on the strength of our diversity?
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength” Maya Angelou. Nobody says we have to like what others may do, or think, but what if we could reach a space of simple acceptance?
What if indeed.
“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing and inclusion.” – Max De Pree – American Businessman and Writer
We could all heed Max’s advice. I know that’s a community I would love to be a part of and it is the way I chose to see my community, here in the home of my heart, White River.
How about you?