2017 is just around the corner…
A lot of people agree that 2016 wasn’t a super great year…
David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Ronnie Corbett, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, Kenny Baker [R2D2], Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughn, Andrew Sachs [Manuel from Fawlty Towers], John Glenn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael. Those are just some of the names of famous people we know who died this year and maybe this felt like a particularly hard-hitting year in that regard cos some of them were just such classic figures…
We saw Brexit and Trumpit and together with some other countries around the world felt a little less stand-outish as far as our own leadership was concerned.
Terrorist attacks, military coups, Zika virus, natural disasters [earthquakes, storm of the century, hurricanes, floodings, tsunami…], Isis, bombings, and the list could go on.
Locally we had the highs and lows of the ongoing #FeesMustFall student protests.
This has not been an easy year.
i think even personally it’s been one of the toughest years which started with us spending six months trying to find a place to rent and continued our tendency to regular transitions and all the upheaval that comes with that.
It was the first year without my best friend Rob [died of cancer at the end of 2015] around as a beacon of strength to help keep me honest, passionate, focused and accountable… and i definitely felt a huge gap. Faith struggles, online conflict, race engagements… a lot of good here, but not all that easy.
However, with all the overall feeling that 2016 was not an easy one, as i look back it was still very much a good one. There was a lot of great stuff that happened and a lot i am very grateful for:
We found a place to stay [that we can hopefully beat our 18 month record at] and i found a community of crazy fun dedicated people at St Johns Anglican church to hang out with and be inspired by; i wrote a devotional book with Scripture Union [Khula60] that will hopefully be used to encourage and inspire young people to follow God well in 2017 and beyond, i had the opportunity to spend a bit of time on the University campuses with the amazing people from the Peace Justice Witness teams, being an observing and hopefully de-escalating presence and to understand what is going on with our young people a little bit better.
We made some really good new friends and got to spend time with some people who we really enjoy. i am very excited about some of the people we met and started hanging out with this year and am looking forward to collaborating with some of them in exciting ways in 2017. One of them is a legend called Mahlatse and it was only made 1000 times better on Christmas Day Eve when we discovered that we also happen to be birthday twins.
ONWARD TO 2017
So ja, no matter how bad or tough or whatever a year has been, there is always good. And for us i think a lot of good this year – Val working hard on what is going to be an incredible Justice conference in March 2017 and me starting work on a second book which is looking to address race vibes and white people in particular. Some good things to look forward to next year.
One way of determining how good or bad 2016 was, is to look back at the year through the lens of some of these things:
TIME, MONEY, ENGAGEMENT, STUFF, ENERGY
TIME: Did i spend my time in a way that built into the lives of other people and things, that helped me to grow as a person?
i think Time is probably my biggest Achilles Heel in terms of tending towards things that waste my time. But having said that, my decision to [for the most part] wake up at 5 in the am generally gives me two or three hours on a lot of other people and so i do have some more time at my disposal. Frequently i need to look at how i spend my time and cut out some things that are time wasters and get more focused in doing the things i want to do.
Social Media has pros and cons because i think i do a lot of good on there, but it also can be one of the rabbit holes that sucks up my time and keeps me from doing more significant things. i am largely okay with how i handled this in 2016 but there is always room for improvement. i find what helps me a lot is if i write a list at the start of the week planning all of the things i am hoping to get done during the week – that helps me stay focused and generally get more done.
Two things i feel good about as far as 2016 is concerned is the time spent with PJW teams on campuses – it is hard to know exactly what kind of impact we had there, but just showing up feels like it was a good thing. The church being present at the place of conflict [and not always in safe or comfortable spaces] was a win. The second was a little bit of volunteering i did at our church after school once a week. With all the stuff i do on social media it feels absolutely critical to be doing things offline and in the flesh and those were two good examples.
MONEY: Did we use our money well in terms of other people and projects, and things that helped us to grow?
Money is a tricky one and feels completely relative. One person’s cheaper option might be another person’s lavish. So tbV and i largely try and figure this out together within our context and i think that for the most part we do pretty well. We have a few people who have chosen to help us out with money every month and we have a few people and projects that we contribute to. i definitely tend towards wanting to give money to people i know or projects linked to people i know because of the sense of accountability and i-know-where-this-is-going’ness that comes with that.
We have made some money choices in terms of what kind of food/cleaning products we buy which in some cases mean we spend a little more but have chosen organic or locally produced or free range and so there is a toss up there and we are satisfied with the choices we have made in that regard. Love that a lot of our food comes from a local co-op which supports local farms.
ENGAGEMENT: Was time spent with people significant and did it have an impact on them and us?
Are we spending time with people in a way that will build into them? Are we actively mentoring or walking alongside people or couples? Are we engaging with people who will grow and challenge and inspire and better us? i think we have a healthy balance there. For 2017 we have named some people/couples we intentionally want to walk alongside and i really think it is helpful to have some names of people in mind [and even establish verbal contracts with them so everyone knows what the expectation is] as opposed to just hoping this is something that will happen by itself.
i am happy with a lot of my online engagement and am involved in various communities where there has been opportunity to challenge and inspire and wrestle and grow together. We tend to use meals or board games to engage with people offline and that is something i think we generally do pretty well.
The Deep Dive Conversations Dinners took a bit of a back seat as we were looking for a place to stay but it was amazing to have our first one with people from St Johns and we will be looking to up those in 2017. We will also look to host more of those in our home next year.
STUFF: Are we loose handed with our stuff and things? Do we use our stuff to help others?
This is probably an area where we have gained more than given. Although this morning we lent out a few games to a friend, and that and books seem to be our primary offering in this regard. But from vacuum cleaners to tents to mattresses to cars, we are definitely part of a wider community of people that are super generous with their things. We want to see and be more of that in 2017.
ENERGY: Am i using my energy well in terms of serving/helping others, building things and community?
i think Energy probably goes closely hand in hand with Time and so there will be huge overlaps here. i had some really cool opportunities this year which included helping out once with an amazing group of people who do extra maths lessons in Athlone and doing some primary school lifeskills talks and Q and A sessions which were challenging but good. And may have on occasion included some entries from a list of 174 synonyms for the word penis.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
So how did you do in those areas in 2016? If there is one or more that you feel didn’t go so well or could have been better, don’t beat yourself up. But choose to do better in 2017. With a few days before we get there, make a time to sit with each of those headings and make some decisions about how you can start 2017 well.
One of the big focus points of my life right now is race conversations which are linked to justice and poverty in South Africa. How do i do better when it comes to race in 2017? And these are some of the things i have committed to doing next year to hopefully see significant change in that area, both in myself and others… are any of these things you might want to engage in?
To that end, i will be working at getting my next book out [in a nutshell Racism for White People for Dummies but with a much snappier title] and hoping to find a publisher who might be interested in helping with that. The main focus is to help white people who are close to the start line or race awareness and engagement to get there and jump over it and start running.
i will be officially launching my series of hopefully weekly videos, titled ‘Race with me’ as i discuss different aspects of race, many of which i have blogged about, again with a white audience in mind as we look to reach more people with ideas such as privilege, #BlackLivesMatter, allyship, restitution and living wages. i have two big You Tube mates who are hopefully going to help me make the production better so that the message can become more effective.
i will be looking to co-ordinate a whole lot more Deep Dive Dinner Conversations with a focus on Race and hopefully helping put together a resource so that more people around the country can start hosting them.
i will be continuing to read people who don’t sound or look like me and with a specific focus on South Africa both then and now, to increase my knowledge and understanding of the story so far and now.
i will be trying to listen more and better and longer, to people on all sides of the conversation, to try and understand where to go from here. Not listening to respond, but listening to learn/hear/understand/empathise.
i will be upping my isiXhosa game. tbV and i are hoping to do the level 2 course at XhosaFundis. i need to get back regularly on Memrise, to up my vocab and i need to find some people i can chat to more regularly so that i really start to grow in it.
i will continue to call people to a #NotOnOurWatch lifestyle, where we refuse to allow racist words, actions and mindsets happen in front of us, especially at the family table, or in the workplace, but also in shopping centres and restaurants. The hope is that as more and more people start getting intentional about this, we will create such a positive peer pressure mass that people with racist tendencies will feel uncomfortable expressing their hate speech out loud.
i will be more intentional about deepening my friendships with people who don’t look like me. 2016 has been a great year in terms of expanding the hue of my and Val’s friendship circles so to speak and we are so stoked with some of the people who we are starting to get to know on a deeper level.
2017 is going to be the year of seeking Interdependence. The true meaning of the statement, ‘Together we can do so much better’. As a family, but also as a nation and a church.
i feel very hopeful about 2017. Especially in South Africa i really hope we will see great strides in terms of listening to and really starting to hear each other, stepping towards each other and working together, and getting creative in solutions to the huge problems we face all around us.
Bring it on.