Our country is burning.

With anger and fear mostly. Not with the power of our convictions or with a passion to do good or with passion for things we care about but burning with pure anger and fear.  And its contagious. It’s a new pandemic of panic which is fueled by fear and anger combined. It is a potent and lethal combination and it stirs up other emotions such as hatred, intolerance, vengeance and so the divide between people becomes stronger.

Our differences, opposing opinions and prejudices become more important than the things that unite us.

What we see, hear and read are inundated and flooded with the negative. Our physiological bodies, which include our brain and neuron pathways are being flooded with negatives. Negative images of things burning and with emotions of fear and anger. Our systems are overloaded and being reprogrammed by all the negatives. Dr. Caroline Leaf has done amazing research into the subject and she and other scientists will confirm that this negative overload is reprogramming our brains, which is detrimental to healthy functioning. 

Dr. Bessel van der Colff confirms this in his book ‘The body keeps the score’.  Our bodies cannot cope with what we are feeding it and what it is exposed to.  Compounded trauma is caused collectively by the fear and uncertainty of the Covid pandemic and secondly by the socio-economic stressors related thereto are being captured in our bodies.  The frustrations and feelings of powerlessness cause our lids to flip. It builds up to the point where we snap or break or explode.

So, the questions remain: how do I cope, what do I do, how do I deal with this, what can I do, how do I make things better, how do I react to all of this madness? And I don’t have the answers but I do look at the leaders of times past for wisdom. To Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Albert Einstein and Jesus.

And I make certain decisions and I start doing things. Because I cannot change the violence or the attitudes of people around me but I can change myself. My attitude, my conduct, my life.  I choose my values and my principles and I try to live by them.  I choose what I read and watch and who I surround myself with. I choose who and what I believe. I choose the words that come out of my mouth.  I choose to make my corner of the world a better place.

I choose to see the good in people. I choose to be involved in the lives of orphaned children, who are raped and abused. Because I still believe that I have the opportunity to do good and to make a difference. I choose to experience joy and love. I choose to pray and live a life of love and compassion instead of spreading negativity and further fuel fear. I choose to stand for my beliefs of hope and a future in our beautiful country.

I choose to train social service professionals instead of complaining about bad service delivery and to live by the ethos of making a difference. July is the month in which we celebrate Nelson Mandela and on the 18th of July we are all challenged to participate in 67 minutes of doing good.

Image left and below: Catherine Robson Children’s Home

I want to challenge you on two levels today. Firstly to start thinking about what you are spreading. We are all contageous to some level. We either spread more fear and negativity or we spread hope, love or positivity.  I am a pragmatist and definitely not blind or ignorant about the world and all that is happening in these times. But the choice about how we react still belongs to you and me individually as as Victor Frankl in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ pointed out so powerfully. This 1946 book chronicles his horrific experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps duiring World War II.

The message is very clear: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

I challenge you to choose your responses to what is going on around you and to what is happening to you wisely.

And secondly I am challenging you to find out what you are passionate about. Think about what you care about and do something this month to change someone else’s life, do good for someone other than yourself. Someone or something with a greater need than just your own.  Give your time, your money or your resources to a cause greater than your own life. Become involved, put action to your words and start making a difference in your own corner of the world.

Written by: Melanie van Aswegen (B.Iuris, LLB).

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