I have a daughter who is retarded. A combination of Downes Syndrome and Autism has made her different. She is beautiful, but can be unpredictable and hardly ever talks. We love her, plain and simple.

She lives for three weeks a month, in a private home in Vredenburg that cares for 52 other children [read: fully grown but retarded adults].

[Just a complete aside, it always interests me that we now have our daughter in a private facility. Many of us have private health care/security/creches/schools/hospitals/road accident insurance etc but to have a non-government subsidized, private home for the mentally challenged is quite new to me. This train of thought makes me wonder when Curro will launch its first private university. It currently has pre-primary, primary, secondary and A-levels so why wouldn’t it build a university? Monash from Melbourne, situated in Roodepoort, is fully private already so the idea is not new. And with some donor funds, Curro could do the unthinkable and house want-to-go-offshore university staff in a practically non-profit organisation. Very interesting thought even if I say so myself J]

Back to the train of thought…..

In her village is a man called Martin. He and I have got to talk and I must say, after leaving there, you realise Martin could be doing work anywhere and qualifying as “disadvantaged” from a BBBEE point of view. He is handsome, mature and smart but probably has a less obvious mental challenge somewhere. His Mom made an arrangement with the owner that she would build on a wing that she and her family would bequeath to the owner of the property upon their deaths. She has passed away already and left Martin to help care for his badly mentally and physically retarded sister who is wheelchair bound. Martin does that with care and concern, dedicated to seeing that his sister is clean and well fed every day. The story deepens as you look through his collages of photographs on the cupboards and walls of his bedroom. His Mom, sister and himself in happier times; his uncle, a Professor of things technological in Vancouver, Canada of whom he speaks with high praise and admiration; pets who have joined their journey from time to time. And little sayings…… of which, on an old, worn plaque, that really caught my eye:

I may not be perfect but Jesus thinks I’m to die for!

If it resonates with your theology, mentalize it for future use. We all need encouragement sometimes. If it is contrary to your theology or absence thereof, please just bear with me so that I may make some points.

My first one is this: So what’s your problem? Martin doesn’t even see his situation as regrettable. He’s just too busy honoring the memory of his Mother by caring for his sister. And that mother, spare a thought for her – two children and both challenged. Her only consolation is that she could spend her last days in their home with them. Wow, how blessed are we to not be her! – so, what’s your problem? A little fat roll here or there, a tough business environment where Business Confidence has just dropped to its lowest in 30 years [1986 or thereabouts would have been the famous Rubicon Speech era], sales slowing, banks tightening, aches and pains of older age? What is it that so easily besets you and I? Martin has a view that in his imperfection he still has a higher cause, a reason to be and a job to do and I can tell you, he just does it unmurmuringly every time I see him. I marvel at him frankly, and he is certainly no spring chicken himself any more.

My second one: I unashamedly watch America’s Got Talent. Every season, every show, as much as I can. I see the epitome of human achievement. Like art, some of it I find unappealing but, also like art, some of it appeals to me in no uncertain terms. As a coach, I love to experience those, who in the beginning of the show, really believe “they have it” but really don’t. Old wrinkled people who feel stardom as the judges sensitively allow them their place in the sun, braggers who just try to be stars and quickly dim into ignominy. Then there’re those who start small and learn amazingly quickly, growing themselves into potential winners. One of them is Jon Dorenbos, the ex-NFL player now turned magician, who shared a little of his journey one night last week as he held me spellbound on up-close TV making cards rise out of a pack – I mean, HOW does he do it??. He has obviously bravely survived Adversity and found solace and strength in his ability. He said something I have taken to heart: Don’t listen to yourself; talk to yourself. Man that’s powerful! I’ve had the chance to watch some footage of the student protests [which probably gave rise to my Curro University idea[?]] and listened to my thoughts ie in my own head. No need to tell you what I was thinking about the abuse of my alma mater and other centres of tertiary learning. But then in came my son talking on WhatsApp with such sense and sensibility that I listened to a different narrative – indeed, a narrative of someone who seems to understand the long-view, who loves his country, wants to stay here to see it prosper and have his children here. Note, not because he has to, but because he wants to. You see, what he talks to himself is radically different to what I listened to in myself. Get my drift? Martin doesn’t even take the time to listen to negativity and neither does Mark – one challenged and the other completely normal; it makes no difference. The question is only: Are you listening to yourself or talking to yourself?

My third one: How would you feel if you were Pravin Gordhan? On 4 October, FIN24 quoted the Minister of Finance as saying to Bloomberg TV in New York, “ the police investigation against him is nothing but political mischief and will be resolved soon. Yesterday he gets informed on public TV, by the Director: NPA, that he is being charged with other co-accused for Fraud. In hearing it, he tells a Breakfast Meeting he can’t understand why this happens just before a most important mini-Budget.

Bravado? Challenging of the NPA? Or, simply the truth as best he wishes to understand it?

I’m reading a book in which CS Lewis is quoted as saying: Reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Premised in his thinking is that stories can align reason with imagination and mind with emotions. If I’ve lost you, please forgive me but here is what I’m saying. As you think and give reason to matters and issues, you create truth which is your own truth. But that narrative in your head, does not become meaningful unless you begin to imagine it. You’re walking down an alley in the dark and suddenly, you hear a noise [Reason gives Truth]. Someone is following you, goose-flesh rises on your skin as your heart races and Adrenalin injects into action [Reason intersects Imagination]. You know you’re being followed and consider fight or flight [Imagination results in Emotion]……..and then the cat appears from the rubbish bin……….and you go on your way, sheepishly.

What is the narrative that is becoming your Reason? And how is your Reason fueling your Imagination? Is your imagination tending to Catastrophe? The psychologists have a term for this: Catastrophization [read: the tendency to believe and always express the very worst outcome from a particular set of circumstances]. You see, my son has the ability, even better than my own to be very honest, to not allow his Reason to develop a truth which leads his Imagination to drive his emotions; he’s not insensitive, just reasonably less emotional. You could say, he has high Emotional Intelligence in many areas. And what about Martin?

How’s yours today? If you were Pravin Gordhan in front of cameras, would you be sweating or just referring to what even moves the Rand, as “political mischief”. In doing so, would you have eased the tensions of thousands of Investors in SA Inc? What “mischief” is playing with your mind as you make it “your truth”, perhaps, in complete error?

There are so many stories you and I could tell. Stories of great courage in the face of insurmountable odds. Stories of people, teams, animals, and businesses, all of which have survived against the odds because of impeccable leadership, sometimes, your own leadership. You see, leaders “trade in Hope”. They reason their truth, imagine it through and despite that edge of goose-flesh, begin to lead with hope, care and confidence. More times than not, they overcome and live to tell the tale. Self-leadership is the genesis of all leadership so become and be the leader you wish to see in your circumstances. Nothing can take away your dignity; it is and will always only be yours to give away.

Homeloan Junction may not always get it right. But to the best of our ability, we commit ourselves to overcoming any odds, talking instead of listening to ourselves, and controlling our reasoned truth with a good dose of emotional maturity.

So, I ask in conclusion, what’s your problem? Lift your head and your eyes will follow to Hope.

Yours in Property.

Jack Trevena
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