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The appreciation effect…

Those who are close to me, can, in some way testify that I am a daddy’s girl to the core.  There are so many things I love about my father…he is a really great man. My dad is really funny and I think he is also the only person in this world who thinks I am perfect. I always enjoy calling my dad or him calling me, and you know he always answers the call with the following words “Hello my lovely daughter”. Sometimes I don’t even take those words into account because they have become such a part of our conversations.

But not too long ago, I was going through one of those moments in life where you just feel like you are all alone. Now don’t get me wrong, I know I have God, but I also fundamentally believe we were built for companionship. As I was in that moment of feeling down the words “my lovely daughter” came to mind and heart, I wish I could fully express how refreshing this was for my soul. It’s true when the proverb says “an anxious heart weighs a man down but a kind word cheers him up”…

We live in a world where we are surrounded by people constantly complaining. You know, I realised something that almost every day almost everywhere we find ourselves around people who are just complaining. If it’s not about the government; it’s about their jobs; or their families or the rising petrol price, the list is endless. Imagine what would happen if we complained less and just started creating an atmosphere of appreciation.

Of recent I met up for drinks with a very dear friend of mine. I looked deeply into his eyes as he deposited more and more nuggets of wisdom to my life. I started to think of how much he has impacted my life and how much he ignites a fire in me to fulfil purpose. He not only ignites it, but, he holds my hand through the entire process and ensures that it keeps burning.

I started thinking of all my close friends and how incredible they are in their own unique ways. I am humbled that in the pages of Makhosazane Bongeka Mhlongo’s life story, these heroes and sheroes feature significantly.

I started thinking about my mum & dad; my siblings; and some of my cousins and I was just in awe of God, that as he authored my life, he decided that these would be the characters that I would share the same DNA with.

In a simple definition, appreciation is “recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something”

My enjoy life tip is this: Can you find someone or something each day to just appreciate?

Becoming a Steward…

A friend of mine recently borrowed me something of theirs, and you could swear I had gold or a precious ruby stone. I was so amazed at how I took care of it and I actually laughed at myself, and wondered why I don’t always handle things in my own life that way.

I reflected on this and I began to think of how differently life would be if we had the mind-set of a steward. Now in our modern times, we don’t often understand what it means to be a steward because our society is highly individualistic. It is unlike the olden days; where stewardship was a part and parcel of the society. In a simple definition… Stewardship is: “…the position and duties of a steward, a person who acts as the surrogate of another or others, especially by managing property, financial affairs, an estate, etc.”

OR

 …”the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving.”  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/stewardship.

In a nutshell, Stewardship is recognizing that we are simply administrators or managers of everything before us, and actually God owns everything, we are just acting on his behalf.

Perhaps one of the reasons we falter in modern times, in terms of how we handle our gifts; skills; relationships; finances; businesses; careers; leadership roles; etc. is that we have not come to the understanding that, what we have is not really ours but it is “borrowed”.

I believe if we had the “stewardship consciousness” we will handle things a little bit better. People who have a mentality that they are simply vessels or servants never abuse power or resources.

My enjoy life tip is this: Think about your own life, are you living with a stewardship consciousness?

 

Interesting lessons from my travel diary…

My buddies and I recently viajou “travelled” to Mozambique to witness the marriage union of one of our dearest friend’s. The journey was so amazing that I had some really great moments of reflection based on the experiences I encountered. I thought it would be great to just express some of those amazing learnings below:

Number 1, Hospitality is such a great gift. Mozambique is a predominately Portuguese speaking country so majority of my friend’s family does not speak much English. But their hospitality was able to cut through and penetrate the language barrier. They were so hospitable that it felt like I was home away from home. I have been to many relatives houses and visited many people whom we speak the same language but some of them have never treated me like that family did. This left me yearning to be more hospitable in my own home.

Secondly, intolerance is the greatest enemy to seeing a united Africa. As tourists we decided to explore a bit of Maputo. As we were heading to one of the neighbouring beaches our taxi was stopped by some of the local policemen. They uttered something in Portuguese to our driver and next thing they asked two of my friend’s for their passports. Unfortunately my friends had left their passports at the house we were staying at. The policemen got really angry and demanded that my friends follow them to the police station. The rest of us pleaded with them and showed them our passports and begged that they don’t take them to the police station. We stepped out of the taxi and one of the policeman got so upset that he uttered in Portuguese that we should get back inside the taxi as this was not South Africa. The other policeman spoke a bit of broken Zulu and said that they were going to make life difficult for us because Mozambicans were being ill-treated in South Africa. We just went into prayer and all I can say is thank God a response came quick…but unfortunately the driver asked for money from us and had to bribe them not to take us to the police station. I came to a painful realisation of just how divided Africa really is.

Thirdly, what separate us are just languages and borders. As we entered Mozambique we were marvelled at how green the land was. I remember uttering words to my friend next to me and saying this feels just like another part of South Africa to me. She then went on to utter the words “my sister it’s just language and borders that separates us but at the end of the day we are all the same”…I really loved that statement and it’s so true, the earth/land in itself is the same everywhere but its human beings that have decided through certain world systems that we are different.

Fourthly, Gratitude is life giving. As we proceeded with the journey and I looked at the beautiful green landscape, I also saw some really saddening things. I saw houses which looked like match boxes and the most horrible dirt filled slums and was heart shattered at the idea that people lived in these conditions. I saw some really bad Infrastructure and bad roads and I realised that people are really poor out there. One of the things I really appreciate about travelling is that it opens up your eyes to the reality of the bigger world around you. It also leaves you full of gratitude knowing that there are so many things to be grateful for in your own country.

Finally, the selfie revolution has taken over! I was so shocked and amused as I gazed at the world around me from South Africa to Mozambique. I noticed pockets of people posing in front of the camera in both countries. There was a particular group that stood out for me; they were dressed in a church uniform and both the men and the women gathered together. One particular gentleman even went to the extent of lifting his 2 litre coca cola bottle and posing with it as if the audiences who would be looking at this picture would admire it as they would if he was posing next to a Bentley, I couldn’t help but just laugh so much at this sight…

After these five main reflections, I now understand when Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”.

Put your own mask first!

If you fly as often as I do you can sometimes take the pre-flight safety briefing for granted. You often think to yourself, argh!  I have heard this thing so many times and somehow your mind subconsciously just locks out of listening. I was on a flight to Cape Town last week and I just thought, “Bongeka if something were to happen on this flight would you really know what to do in an emergency”. I realised that my survival could hang between what I know or don’t know. So I decided you know what let me just listen to the safety briefing.

As the briefing proceeded I listened attentively, and one of the things they said really really stood out for me. They said “If there is a loss of cabin pressure, the panels above your seat will open, and oxygen masks will drop down. If this happens, place the mask over your nose and mouth, and adjust it as necessary. Be sure to adjust your own mask before helping others.”

You know I often hear this over and over but for the first time in my life this sentence was life changing. I began to ask myself, why would the instruction require us to do this? I realised that the answer lies in a very simple principle. You see my friend I often echo that one can never give off what they not full off. The principle here is simple, it’s not about selfishness, but it is about understanding that unless you have something to offer you cannot be of value to anybody.

Let’s use the example of being in a plane; say you travelling with small children or you sitting next to an elderly person and all of a sudden you are required to put your oxygen masks on. Your first reaction could be reaching out and helping the children or the elderly person but as you attempt to do that, you slip into unconsciousness. Imagine how detrimental that would be because then the children and the elderly person could also slip into unconsciousness and if this happens all of you may suffer brain damage.

Right now in Africa we have a serious crisis of leadership. This leadership crisis translates itself in vast inequalities in various factions of our society. In Africa we have a lot of potential and natural resources that could help better the lives of our people, but because our politicians graduated from being freedom fighters to being heads of states we face some serious challenges.

A large majority of them are not “clothed” with the necessary knowledge and expertise. We expect politicians to lead us yet some of them have never even studied political science or law. I have realised that most things stand and fall on leadership. After the US election results today; I express this plea to all those in power- please “put your own mask first”. Leaders need to thoroughly look deep inside them to see if they have the right wisdom; insight; knowledge; passion and most importantly love to lead people the right way.

You simply cannot help someone if you are inadequate, how do you give food if you don’t have any? How do you convince people to live a victorious life in God unless you also live that life? How does a person provide medical care unless they have medical expertise? How do you teach something unless you know it?

My question-is your own mask on?

What’s your trademark?

I open with these words “while revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas”.

Those cutting edge words were uttered by an African leader whom I was introduced to for the first time on Sunday night.

I was shocked that never in my life have I come across this name. Is it that his life is not popularly referred to by historians? Or is it just simply my own ignorance?

Without wanting to assume that he is a well-known figure, please allow me to share a very brief biography about this great son of the African soil.

My brother had set a reminder for the documentary and he insisted that he had watched an amazing documentary and he knew I would benefit tremendously from watching it and trust me he was not exaggerating.

I was cosy on my couch after a great Sunday afternoon chill session with friends and then I got introduced to this man called Thomas Sankara. Thomas Sankara is/was the Ex-president of Burkina Faso. During his reign he renamed the country Burkina Faso, meaning “the land of the upright people”

Many historians and political commentators have called him a great revolutionist. In my own words he was simply “light”. I say this because he really shook the global stage by his leadership example and his “selfless” passion for his country and its people.

His government’s main goals were geared towards fighting corruption, replantation, preventing famine and he made education and health real priorities.  Whilst watching the documentary, I really loved the way he completely revolutionised the way women were looked at in West Africa. Under his reign women were promoted to government positions and he banned female circumcision and condemned polygamy (http://www.africansuccess.org). Some of these ideas were not too popular in the 1980s in that part of the world. I also really loved the way he addressed the western world when he was speaking at United Nations conferences. He spoke as a man convinced that the western so called structures meant to “aid” Africa were in fact crippling it. He called for a renaissance within the continent.

But his life was soon cut short when his best friend organised a coup against him and he was murdered. You know after watching that documentary I had mixed feelings, one part of me was so excited about gaining knowledge about this legendary leader. Another part of me was sad and hurt that Africa had been robbed of such a great thinker.

I felt like I was exposed to an African president who was really distinct. And as I sat there for some odd reason this thought came into my mind “until there is a death threat for one’s life, we cannot claim revolutionary status”. Its quiet overwhelming I know but the more I was reflecting on what I had just watched, I started thinking of the many others who also lost their lives for stirring up society transforming revolutions.  I think of JF Kennedy, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Ruth First…and many others.

These great leaders were in fact “trade markers”. I thought to myself “wow Bongeka this man may have died but his ideas live on in many forms both in his country and many parts of the world”…I began to ask myself what is my trademark? In a more researched term a trademark is “a brand name, a slogan or a logo. It identifies the services or goods of one person and distinguishes it from the goods and services of another.” (http://www.cipc.co.za).

I would like to offer this simple definition: a trademark is an idea, a dream, a purpose that will out-live and out-last you! I know mine…what is yours?

 
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