South Africa lies close to my heart. I enjoyed three incredible weeks there some years ago. One of my closest friends from adolescence in Canada was murdered while living in Johannesburg. An important person in my family’s life is from Durban. And long before I had ever visited the country, while I was still living in Mexico, tears of joy coursed down my cheeks as I saw the release of Nelson Mandela and the eventual end of Apartheid.
"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of it? We must have perseverance and above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained." Madam Marie Curie
I recently watched an excellent BBC interview of Desmond Tutu of South Africa by Fern Britton. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has spent a lifetime fighting injustice in South Africa and other parts of the world. It won him a Nobel Peace Prize.
But his intention as a child was not to enter the church … he wanted to be a physician. For a black child from the townships during Apartheid, that was an impossible dream due to the cost the education would imply. So he decided he wanted to be a teacher. Even that turned out to be impossible, because laws were passed that closed that door to black men. And so he entered the clergy. The rest is history.
But what compels me about this story is something else. Here we have a human being who had a dream. He was barred from it. Then he had another dream. He was also barred from that. So he chose one of the few things left to him barring work in some trade or working as a labourer.
There is a wonderful lesson here. Doesn’t this tell us that even when we are forced down a road that is not of our initial choosing, we are still capable of making a difference by making the choice to do so? Of living a life well worth living?
Who knows Tutu’s thoughts when he finally chose the clergy. Who knows what he did with his shelved dreams. What we do know is what his life now symbolizes, not only in South Africa, but in the world. He gave his best. He gave to others. And he made a difference. He attained, as in Madame Curie’s words above, at great cost, the thing he was gifted for.