Monday, May 18, 2009

We are all created equal in the eyes of our higher power… but do we treat all equally?

Every day miracles happen in Johannesburg and Soweto. Some are small- others quite large.  In 1994 South Africa celebrated the end of an awful era in its country’s history- the end of apartheid. Only 15 years old, there is much to celebrate already.  When visiting patients in the Houghton area of Johannesburg I witnessed two such miracles.  Roxie and I spent the day with Annette Bruns, a nursing sister from the Houghton office.  Annette took us to visit Frieda, an elderly white woman and her husband Marco.  Along with many other ailments, Frieda was losing her eyesight and required much assistance with her activities of daily living.  Frieda and Marco had live in help, a young black African woman.  Unable to have their own children, Frieda and Marco have been quite generous to their assistant.  After their domestic had a child, Frieda and Marco welcomed this baby into their home.  The child is even Frieda’s namesake, and carries the name, Frieda.  I marveled watching Marco lovingly hold this black African baby, cooing to her, and acting in all ways as the baby’s grandfather.  What a miracle to see this blending of a white and black family in a country that only 15 years ago imprisoned black Africans for something as small as not having a correct passbook to move from one township to another. 


Tiny (the patient’s name- not the size of the miracle) is the second miracle Roxie and I witnessed.  Tiny was the longtime domestic for a white family.  She lived with the family for over 40 years, helping to raise the family’s children.  Over the last few years, both of the elderly caretakers died.  One of the caretaker’s adult daughters moved into the home and insisted that Tiny stay in the only home she’s known for over 40 of her 67 years of life.  Tiny helps to keep the home clean as best she can, often doing things because she wants to- not because the family expects her to.  As we visited with Tiny I couldn’t help but notice on the shelf behind the table we sat dozens of family pictures- all of them of white people.  Equally comfortable in this setting was small but mighty Tiny- an equal family member for over 40 years, living the rest of her life in the only loving home she’s known since she was an adult. 


I couldn’t help but thinking as I visited with these two families… how many of us in America have opened our homes and lives to someone who is different than us (in whatever way we see differences)?  Are we able to see the humanness and sameness of each of all? And, would or could we have done this so soon after the birth of our own civil rights movement?  Every day in South African people risked their lives to support the anti apartheid movement.  Today miracles occur each and every day.  May we learn to embrace these every day miracles and make them happen in our own community.


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