First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
My turn to write a column for DM168 always comes around sooner than I expected and when the editor reminded me it was my turn, I started mulling over all the topics at my disposal. In our country there is never a lack of topics to write about.
But as I write this on a Friday morning our news headlines are dominated by the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine to frontline healthcare workers around the country. It was a wonderful scene not only to see President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize step up to receive the first shots but also the joyous scenes of our heroic and exhausted health workers lining up.
Yet if you want a dose of rain-on-your-parade all you have to do is head to social media. Your joy will disappear like mist in the sun. “Why is she not wearing gloves! We are guinea pigs! Why is Cyril jumping the queue! That nurse should be wearing gloves! Where’s their PPE!” I could fill this column with quotes from social media keyboard cowboys, who know better and have all the answers. And fill our lives with negative thinking.
But I have already given them too much column space. I then thought of Oprah Winfrey’s gratitude journal. For years she has been advocating the power and pleasure of being grateful. She kept a gratitude journal for a full decade without fail – and urged many to do the same. Her ritual was to write down five things she was grateful for every day.
So, I thought I would give it a try and that this week my column would be a gratitude column, but with a twist. I wondered if South Africa were a human, what five things would she be grateful for? I know there are many more, but these are the ones that I feel grateful for on this Friday morning:
Women researchers, health experts and scientists who have been kicking ass and have been in the trenches, laying the groundwork over many years to make sure we get to a place where we get vaccines into bodies sooner rather than later. Women like Carolyn Williamson, Val Mizrahi, Anna-Lise Williamson, Glenda Gray, Linda-Gail Bekker, Helen Rees, Precious Matsoso, Koleka Mlisana, Lydia Cairncross, Tracey Naledi, Lynn Morris, Wendy Stevens … the list is long.
The many people who keep feeding schemes going – not only when Covid-19 hit, but long before. People who quietly fill soup bowls and hand out sandwiches, not needing praise. From beneath the high-rises of Gauteng to the rolling hills of the Eastern Cape, they are the people who give people dignity and a reason not to give up.
In a week in which journalism has taken a knock and we are rightfully forced to stop, reflect and self-correct, it is worth noting that there are many good, honourable, ethical journalists who have long continued to bring us the news, to tell the stories of our country and often to inspire us.
South Africa has a vibrant, creative, hardworking media; many are not there for the accolades and the awards, but draw inspiration and reward from the stories they write and the people they meet. Our incredibly beautiful nature. Drive in any direction. From where I sit, north to the vast Northern Cape, west to the cold Atlantic Ocean with its sea treasures, east to the Eastern Cape and so on. In the time of Covid-19, when we are all feeling claustrophobic, we are incredibly fortunate to have access to beautiful, open spaces. Our work is to make sure everyone who lives here can enjoy and access it.
South Africa’s people. Although social media can make us believe we are mostly a bunch of racist, petty, argumentative, hateful, opinionated, sexist, homophobic humans, we are so much more. If you open your heart, our people are forgiving, loving, generous, wise, playful, warm, compassionate and optimistic. Get to know your fellow humans; you will be pleasantly surprised.
Back to Oprah: “If you concentrate on what you have, you will always end up having more. If you focus on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
“Being grateful all the time isn’t easy. But it’s when you least feel thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you: perspective. Gratitude can transform any situation. It alters your vibration, moving you from negative energy to positive. It’s the quickest, easiest, most powerful way to effect change in your life”. DM168
Anso Thom is the managing editor of Maverick Citizen.
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.
"The past is always tense; the future perfect." ~ Zadie Smith