April 2008 – the results of the Zimbabwe election had been released and the actual winner was not permitted to take office. When it was declared a crisis, President Thabo Mbeki famously commented, “Crisis? What crisis?” These days in South Africa it seems that many can similarly say, ‘Blessings? What blessings?’ Reading this week’s Sunday Tribune, one could easily think that we have none. The front page has a detailed story of an attack on a couple in Kloof and on page 4 there are 6 stories of others in that area who have suffered robberies and attacks in recent months.
Last October, friends visited us from Illinois, USA for and I had so much fun surfing the net, discovering so many places to see and enjoy in Durban and KZN. Initially, when they said they were coming for 3 weeks, we all thought that it would be such a long time together but there was so much to do that we hardly had a quiet moment. We, having lived in Durban all our lives, saw places we had never visited and some we had not known existed. Stunning views, beautiful fauna and flora, fascinating people and most interesting history were all out there waiting for us. Our friends were absolutely amazed at the beauty of our land and how clean they found it to be. They had only heard of Africa being poor, hungry and undeveloped. I was so proud to be a South Africa at that moment.
Last week I attended a breakfast addressed by an amazing woman who, quite literally, came from having nothing to being named Business Woman of the Year in 2012. She is now a millionaire and has homes in the US, London and South Africa but is still willing to work really hard and do things for those who have very little. She and her husband have a farm in KZN and, on a regular basis, take young children who live in flats and shacks to enjoy the farm, to feel grass under their feet and to see a real cow and horse. She has been asked why, having travelled the world and having homes in the UK & USA, she still lives in SA. Her answer is that it is such a wonderful country. It has so much to offer everyone and so much love flows in it.
This weekend, friends from the UK who last visited Durban about 30 years ago, asked us to chauffeur them around while they had a day in Durban. They were blown over by how beautiful the city is and how well it has been developed. Granted we showed them the new beachfront and the Moses Mabhida Stadium but we also visited the city centre and friends in different places in Durban and they were just truly impressed. They had heard so much about the crime and grime and expected to see a city in deep decline. Apparently many passengers were worried about getting off the ship and going on the arranged tours as South Africa is such a dangerous place. It was a joy for us to see our ‘home’ through the eyes of others.
Both the US and UK friends told us of how their countries are suffering with the recession, how food banks are sprouting up everywhere and how towns are falling into disrepair; especially the smaller ones. They told of how they are experiencing levels of crime never seen before and much of this is due to the recession and the increase in the number of teenage thugs, gangs, alchol and drug abuse. We were told of a young man in Canada who says that he has to be extremely fit to carry out his work as a social worker due to many attacks on him.
We do have many problems and lots of things could be done a lot better but it took others to show me what is beautiful about what we have.
So let us COUNT OUR BLESSINGS, those of us fortunate enough to have a home, a bed and food on the table. We have hundreds in our own country who do not have this and many will tell you how happy they are. The grass is not really greener on the other side. As Mark Twain said, ‘The greenest grass is around the … sewage pit.’