While in South Africa for the recent 20th Anniversary celebration of the Public Relations Global Network, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the young democratic country – its constitution is just 18 years’ old – and spent a lot of time talking with the locals.
One thing I found is that there is hope – no matter what the past has dealt.
While at Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge, a safari lodge outside of Johannesburg, I began chatting with a young woman who joined our group for a game expedition. It was her day off. She’s a college student with aspirations of a career in the hospitality industry. Born in Zimbabwe, a country rife with political corruption and tremendous economic challenges, she had moved to South Africa to take an internship at Kwa Maritane. When she found out that some in our party lived in places that had harsh, snowy winters, she was enamored. She has never seen snow! And she hopes to be selected for another internship in Switzerland. She’s polished, enthusiastic and teaming with optimism. There’s no doubt she’ll have a tremendous career.
Then, while in a large city, I began talking with a man who didn’t want me to share his name or any specifics about him – nothing about his former or current occupation. But I can tell you this: he fled an African country due to genocide, with warring factions having already killed more than 1 million people because of their ethnicity. He is married to a woman from another tribe, one warring with his. His wife was raped, beaten and left for dead. On the night he was going to be forced to kill her, they fled. His brothers and sisters were also forced to run for their lives – solely because they were related to him. This man did not have children in his previous country because they would have been killed. His words were: “They say a snake has a snake.” Yet he’s optimistic. He has hope that he, his wife and son will live a long and happy life in their new city.
Hope can shine so bright that it might help one forget the past.