Do you know your roots?

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Do unto others…

I just had a moment. The lifts in our building are pretty temperamental, and sure enough, just as my brother wanted to help me take 5 really big mirrors down to the car, the lift decided to stay put on fourth floor. Pausing with the last of the five mirrors on the first floor landing, a man and a lady struggled to get a trolley filled with tools down the stairs. The man climbed down backwards, carrying the weight in front, with the lady holding onto the railing for dear life to not be pulled over by the downward force. My brother came up the stairs, saw the struggle and took over from the woman. I couldn’t help the water in my eyes at his gesture. There was only half a flight left, but the gratitude on the lady’s face was clear.

Why did this move me to tears? I can’t explain. I mean, if he didn’t do it, I would’ve probably been upset with him. Our Afrikaans culture expects of a young white boy to be galant and helpful in situations like those. Even when it is a person from a different colour or culture?

Moving past today…I’ve been feeling a need to make a difference for some time now. My excuses for not doing anything yet? Shortage of money, too little time, lack of opportunities… won’t we always have excuses? Monday is Madiba’s birthday. The initiative is to encourage each and every individual to spend 67 minutes on 18 July to do something good. This is to honor the 67 years that Mandela gave to change in South Africa. The calculations are that if 49 million people spend 67 minutes of good, we will achieve:

3 283 000 000 minutes = 54 716 666.67 hours = 2279861.11 days = 6246 years of GOOD!

And that simply by everyone giving one hour, doing something, anything, towards a good cause.  (Visit www.mandeladay.co.za for ideas and more information).

Another thought that crept up on me the other day: it was a cold day, and a cold weekend predicted. “The only thing you can do in this weather is stay inside and stay warm,” someone commented. What about the people who don’t have something to stay in, or whose dwellings are in such a state that the cold creeps through every crack and broken window? What about those without blankets, heaters, electricity? A cold day is horrible, but a cold dark day is worse. We layer the blankets, put the electric blanket on, boil the kettle for coffee, warm soup in the microwave, or bake pancakes on the stove. We snuggle under blankets, watching TV with the gas heater going.

I don’t mean to make you feel guilty – I do all this as well. But what if… what if cold weather wasn’t perfect to stay in, but was perfect to go out? Not out to the movies, or friends with under-floor heating and a fireplace. Perfect to go out and help other keep warm. For some it is not about keeping warm, it is about surviving.

I’ve written a lot – way more than the suggested length of a good blog. I don’t know who of you will read all the way, and if it will touch you. I will share my plan of action with you. I hope you find it in your heart to start making a difference – not only on Monday, but every day. One hour can make a lifetime’s difference.

– Join www.forgood.co.za: it is a South African social networking based website where you can create/join groups, create/join activities and even earn points toward a gift which you can donate to a charity of your choice.

– Clothes: my cupboard is way too full, and I am much too sentimental about earthly things. So if I haven’t worn something in a while (you decide whether it’s a month or a year), I donate it. No matter the size, colour or state of the garment – to someone it might be another layer of protection.

– Involve others: It’s so much more fun doing things you care about with people you care about. Which is why I’m inviting everyone to the Harvest Aid Charity Breakfast on 23 July 2011 with me (http://www.forgood.co.za/Create/Pages/ActivityInfo.aspx?activityid=271) It is a free breakfast, simply to explain their cause and the opportunities for you to become involved.

– What you can: You don’t need to work at a shelter for abused children if you know you are not emotionally ready. You don’t need to help the SPCA bath dogs if you have no love for dogs. Use sites such as ForGood to find activities you have an interest in. Firstly, if it is something you find difficult or don’t like, you won’t be motivated to keep it up – you are under no obligation to make a difference, you need to act on your personal need to do so. Secondly, doing something you love will not only help those you are giving yourself to, but also contribute to your quality of life.

So, help someone carry something heavy, or throw out some of those old clothes.. Even if you do nothing at all, be grateful for what you have, and spare a prayer for those less fortunate. As Ghandi said – be the change you want to see in the world.

 

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These Boots Are Made For Walking

A look of disgust creeps over her face but she quickly looks away and try to hide it. I smile sweetly and continue past the stranger. The source of her concern – my Uggs. Not even proper labelled Uggs. Fake look-alikes we bought somewhere (I think B&H?) when the second winter in Ellesmereport got the better of us.

I know they are not sleek, stylish or even remotely attractive. Which is why I don’t blame the lady in the mall for frowning upon them. But they are my England boots, and they were made for walking – which is what we did.

They were my running shoes on cold days, mopping floors in the restaurant, dashing in the isles at Costco, Booker and Morissons to get stock for the day, floating between tables in the busy restaurant during service, and dragging tired feet to the shop during lunch break for a Cherry Coke and Peperami.

These boots carried my through small streets and big cities, shops and malls and castles and gardens. We walked on the town wall of Conway in North Wales, strolled down the beach of Llanelli in South Wales, and browsed the shops of Chester. In these boots I first set feet on London city ground, enjoying the sights, taking in the sounds, becoming part of the crowds. These boots saw Lion King with me, and these boots rode the London Eye with me. I slipped on snow a few time in these boots, and had to dry them in front of the heaters after rain a couple of times.

I took them off in Doha on my way back to South Africa the day I came back. I knew we had some way to go still, me and my boots. We’ve crunched the snow in Clarens, kicked a rugby ball at the Cheetah stadium in Bloemfontein, and gone on a game drive. Just Saturday we lay down on train tracks to take some photos.

When I got up the clouds were hanging thick and the cold was visible outside. So I put on my ugly Uggs. They keep my feet warm. And they were made for walking. You may frown upon my style, but you cannot touch the memories these boots carried me through. And until they start falling apart, we’ve still got some exploring to do.

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Tea Time

I smile at myself as I put the kettle on just now. I don’t drink tea. There’s something about the hot sweetness which is, as comforting to some, not to my liking. But today, right now, I need a cup of tea.

Tea is England to me. I sit back with the warm mug clasped in my freezing hands, and as I sip my tea, I am transported in time. 11 o’clock was tea time. If the kitchen didn’t have their tea by 11:00, you could know lunch was going to be chaos. It might be all in the mind, but when you’re 1000’s of km’s away from home, it’s cold and you are prepping ingredients or mopping floors and setting tables, you need to strengthen yourself for the day ahead…and the tea saw us through.

Which is why I started having tea as well. There is something comforting about feeling the warm fluids making their way to your tummy, with the gloomy gray lurking outside. And when I got back to the restaurant after grocery shopping, soaking wet (for some reason undercover parking is not a priority for them) and chilled to the bone, a mug of tea somehow got life in all the limbs again before service started.

It became a ceremony of some kind. We started working at ten. It was a race to finish enough of the duties before eleven. Then the front staff made the tea, and we all lounged around in the kitchen, enjoying the moment. Sometimes we clubbed in for a box of Ouma Rusks from the shop upstairs, and other days I would bring a treat from Morrison’s. During the slow weeks the tips were used sparingly and we settled for just tea.

It seldom lasted more than 5 minutes, our little tea time. But the memories surrounding it lasts forever. My cup is cold now. I won’t have another. I still don’t like tea very much. But I love my trips down memory lane. And a cup of tea helps sweeten them up.

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The Bigger Picture

I’ve been carrying this thought for a while. I’ve shared it with some. I’m holding tight to it tonight. I suspect some of you could use it as well.  So here goes…

I looked around my life one day – kinda as if I was a character in a movie, being able to view my life around me. I was lost. I couldn’t understand anything. It was a mess, a blob, a blurry jumble of feelings and dreams and reality. Something like this:

I was confused. How did it end up like this? I had everything so neatly planned. I’ve prayed about every step I take, I’ve seek God’s will with every decision – I really though by now I would be starting to reap the fruits of all that. I was a bit upset as well. God, what’s happened to me? Why is my life a mess?

“My child, you are blinded by what is immediately before you. I don’t blame you, because I only gave you the ability to see that which surrounds you. But do not fear, for I see the bigger picture. And this blob, this mess you see as your life, is really only a tiny part, a crucial part, in what I see as your life.” – God

We are so zoomed in, so focused on the immediate situations we are in, that our vision becomes blurry. But whatever situation you are in, is just a pixel in God’s picture of your life. Just do your bit to provide quality pixels all the way!

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Let us Pray…

“I’ll pray with you”…or it sounds even better in Afrikaans – “Ek bid saam met jou!”.  A promise we as Christians so easily make.  I can’t help but wonder, is it a promise we keep?

You see, usually this phrase is used when we talk to someone, and they have some pressing matter on the heart.  Maybe it’s a relationship problem, or they could be looking out for a new job.  Perhaps they got bad news regarding their health, or they are simply hoping to get through the month financially.  “Don’t worry my friend, I’ll pray with you.”

It’s easy to say.  Very often we don’t know what else to say.  How do you respond when a good friend tell you her mom has cancer?  Or what do you reply when a colleague lets you know they won’t be at work, their child was in an accident?  We use it to comfort.  We throw it as a lifeline.  We dangle it as hope.  But do we pray?

I know God knows our hearts, and He knows our thoughts, but He wouldn’t have taught us to pray through His Son, if He didn’t want us to spell out our thoughts, our wants, our needs, our concerns to Him.  The words, “I’ll pray for you” is not a prayer, it is a promise.  A promise to make time in your day to really tell God about the people you made the promise to.  It is a promise to stand before God and beg of Him a miracle, or grace, or mercy, or help, or healing, or reassurance, as if you are begging it for yourself.

Do unto others as you would have done to yourself.  When someone assures you “I’ll pray with you”, you trust that they will call upon the Lord on your behalf, really trust Him for your sake.  They would like the same from you.  Let’s really start praying, and stop promising.  For God’s promise stands true:

Psalm 50:15
Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.

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Forever Badplaas

If you know that Badplaas was once an Aventura Resort, you’re giving away your age. The new Forever Resorts group consisting of family resorts in popular towns like Warmbaths, Loskopdam, Tshipise and Pletternberg Bay, also includes Badplaas, in Mpumalanga. We only got away after 19h00 on Friday, but with my dad driving I could spread out on the backseat. At least we had no traffic and arrived just before 22h00 at the gates of Forever Badplaas, where Reception welcomes you 24hours. We were visiting thanks to a weekend I’ve won with a photo, and we were treated to a Privé Challet as well as all-access Club Privé armbands. Our chalet consisted of two bedrooms, one with a double bed and one with two single beds, a bathroom with bath and shower, seperate toilet and fully-equipped kitchen, at the edge of the mountain.

We woke to the peaceful sound of nature outside, and the difference in temperature was noticeable.  After a cold and rainy week in Gauteng, we were glad to don our heavy jackets and soak up a bit of sunshine.  I went mad with the camera, capturing a small doe grazing close to the chalet, admiring the abundant birdlife and just absorbing the beauty of the mountains around us.  Refreshed after a shower and breakfast we head for the pool area.  I am the only one brave enough for the Rinkhals’ 10°C water.  With frozen limbs we head to the other supertube were the parents joined in the fun.  After a few slides we relaxed in the heated outdoor pool, the sun smiling down on us.  There is ample grassed areas to relax around the pools, and a games room, kiosk, bar, foefie slide, go carts and quad bikes ensure more than enough to do for the whole family.  We head back to the chalet for an afternoon nap, and finished the braai in time to watch the Bulls defeat the Stormers with a lamb chop in hand.  Although we planned to try out the hydro pool, we couldn’t move ourselves there and retreated early.

After another peaceful night we had to pack up.  On our way to the gate we explored the rest of the resort: the caravan park is beautiful on the edge of the mountain cliffs, although you have to choose between unspoilt view or closer to ablution blocks.  The pool-area is also a bit far from most of the resort, and the cobble-stone paving leading there makes walking and cycling quite difficult.  There is still a game farm, horse rides, quad rides, tennis courts, putt-putt and loads more we didn’t try out.  The main centre houses a Spur, a butchery, pharmacist and hairdressers as well as a shop with the necessities, as this is basically the only shops Badplaas as a town has.

All in all it was a lovely weekend, quiet and relaxing although I imagine the resort gets much busier over peak times.  The facilities are in excellent condition and if you’ve got a bunch of children to keep entertained, it is definitely an excellent choice.

Thank you Forever Resorts and Badplaas for the great prize and a wonderful weekend!

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