We will make greater progress in 2014 and beyond if we citizens are prepared to get involved, says Justin Foxton.
Durban - Imagine the scene: “Do you want the good news or the bad news? Well, the good news is that you have just won a million rand. The bad news is that your house has just burnt to the ground.”
This year was one of those years when the “woohoo” was not even out of my mouth before the “ah jeez” was forced to make an appearance. There were some really big highlights, but it is a year I certainly won’t be heartbroken to see the back of.
Bring on 2014 – that’s what I say. I am not in any way superstitious, but 2014 even sounds better than 2013.
To help get us into the swing of things I thought I would throw out some suggestions that will hopefully help 2014 be better than 2013. They are based on stuff I learnt last year – stuff I wish I had done more of.
I don’t want to call them my New Year’s resolutions because resolutions are just dull and next year is going to be high-kicking, foot-stomping fabulous. I shall call them my Old Year’s Revelations because I can. Here goes:
* Replace grumbling with gratitude. It has been scientifically proven that gratitude is good for your health. Why is it then that we spend so much of our time complaining?
Whatever happens, good or bad – 2014 will be a better year if we consciously and intentionally thank one another, ourselves, and the God we worship for what we have. Whatever your circumstances, find something to be thankful for. This shouldn’t be difficult, given the extraordinary beauty of the country we live in.
* Give generously. The human response to increases in the cost of living and a slowing economy is to tighten one’s belt. However, as I have mentioned before in this column, research has shown that generosity leads to significantly increased le-vels of happiness.
There is obviously a balance here, but a personal or family embargo on giving will create emotional and spiritual claustrophobia; a tightening of the chest; a lowering of one’s spirits. Pick your cause or outlet and give generously of your time, energy and, yes – your money.
As an aside, I was so inspired by one of our Baby House carers who recently went to a local orphanage near her home in Hammarsdale to volunteer on her days off. You won’t be surprised to learn that she is one of the happiest people I know.
* Do something that is “not your job”. Again, I was recently enormously inspired by a friend and colleague of ours, Sheila Collins, who runs the Baby House in La Lucia with her husband, Skip. We had a tricky situation which resulted in our night duty carer not being able to work her shift.
With half a dozen needy infants in need of love and care, this is potentially a nightmare situation. Without hesitation, Sheila volunteered to do the night shift on her own.
This was a brave act because, without giving a lady’s age away, Sheila is the wrong side of 50. Apart from that, it was her birthday. She gave up a special evening – not to mention a good night’s sleep – for our babies and for our team.
But here’s the thing: Sheila will tell you that the benefit was all hers; she will tell you that she learnt more from that one night than from months of running the place. In addition to what the sacrifice did for her, it inadvertently garnered her even greater respect from our team of staff – and the babies had a great night too.
Pick something and do it; get your hands dirty with your staff, collect litter on your street, hand out flyers for a local charity.
The rewards to you and others will be enormous.
* Forgive those who have wronged you and apologise to those you have hurt. Don’t get bent out of shape if they don’t forgive you immediately – just do your bit. 2014 will be better right off the bat if we get rid of grudges and guilt.
* Participate actively in the life of our country. This might involve joining your local Rotary club or helping to drive upgrades or improvements in your community with your local ward counsellor.
It might be as simple as adjusting your attitude and behaviour towards people of other races. 2014 is an election year, so it would certainly involve voting.
Whatever you do – do something. We will make greater progress in 2014 and beyond if we citizens are prepared to get involved.
I wish you all a wonderful 2014.
* Justin Foxton is founder of The Peace Agency. This column is dedicated to the memory of 17-year-old Anene Booysens: gang-raped, mutilated and murdered.