The 16th of March passed us by. A date that I thought would remain scarred after last year. That Saturday afternoon when men leaned into our car with knives and screwdrivers, leaving with my phone, my friend’s bag and a toaster. That first taste of ‘South African crime’ 6 weeks after arriving and the scar left on my elbow.
For a while I was overly protective of the cut, nursing it, swaddling it. Then gradually it turned into a war wound, Paul laughed as I displayed it on Skype call after Skype call. It felt like we had been inducted into township life, and survived. Yet we knew that wasn’t true township life; good people welcomed us into the neighbourhood, folks working to provide the best lives they could for their families. They were equally appalled by the crime.
A couple of months ago I asked a friend on Skype ‘have you seen my scar?’ As I displayed it once again, I realised it had finally faded to pale pink, those stitch marks barely visible now.
We see the scars in this land too, faded yet still present. The fear of the other. The inequality in the education system. The corruption and mistrust in institutions. Our scars are a reminder of the past, but we cannot be consumed or held back by them. We learned from our ‘incident’ to lock our car doors, but also we learned how compassionate and caring our team, neighbours and community are. Our hope is that South Africa too can learn, move on, not be defined by the hurts, but be motivated by the scars of the past to push into new relationships, ventures and hopes.
As President Obama said following Nelson Mandela’s death, Madiba taught ‘that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth’.