It’s felt like a really long week. Friday has finally arrived and the cold air bristled my face as I shuffled to the bus stop this morning. Ascending the stairs a lone pound coin on an empty seat blinked at me and I picked it up as I sat. I feel awkward picking up lost money since it seems like lazy theft, but this wasn’t the £20 I found once, it was just a coin. I slipped it into my bag and considered luck as I rolled closer to work. I don’t believe in signs but the concept is rather charming.
If a Rugby World Cup win can be a plaster for my home country then maybe this coin can signify something shiny on my own horizon. The Springboks taking the trophy last week may have broken English hearts, but its unifying symbolism is so powerful for South Africans. Unemployment, lack of opportunity, failure of basic services, corruption and divisive politics has all been put aside and the population has one good thing they can all share.
Seeing videos of hundreds of supporters of all races and ages gathered at O.R. Tambo airport to greet the champions upon their homecoming was so moving. The crowd were wearing Bok jerseys, waving flags, dancing and singing the national anthem as well as a mine workers song ‘Shosholoza’ which was popularised during the 1995 World Cup. The scene and those of other celebrations of the win brought me to tears. A new beginning has been engineered where the nation starts to work together and not against one another.
The messages from captain Siya Kolisi of coming together were hopeful but also important in highlighting our personal responsibility in not perpetuating the ideas that seek to divide us. I didn’t realise how much I needed to hear this message.
On this side of the world the situation is feeling dire. Following that ill-advised referendum and three years of bickering we’ve arrived at chaos. The politics of division are working so well, we’re at each other’s throats with a chasm between ‘us’ and ‘them’ literally tearing the country apart. This continuous state of confusion and outrage has raised my own levels of daily anxiety, adding to work stresses, depression, grief and the repeated false fire alarms in my building which my neighbours seem completely inept in silencing or reporting. The final straw.
Quite a rabbit hole to fall down first thing in the morning. This little orphaned pound coin though, could signify a choice. While I can’t buy much with it, I can choose to see the bright side, relinquish any fixation on things I cannot control and remember the joy that surrounds me. I cannot force myself to feel better, and must of course honour the process when it comes to my mental health and circumstances, but I can choose how I continue to approach my day. I actually made a silly bet on this coin with a colleague when I got into the office and won, in its own way loosely proving that luck can multiply when its shared.
The day I found £20 in the street was not a good day. I had just returned from a trip visiting my family which is always tough to adjust from. My bank account wasn’t healthy, my fridge was even emptier and I was trudging to a supermarket after a long haul flight contemplating what items my budget would allow for. I saw the note lying on the pavement, initially thinking it was litter, but upon realising its worth I picked it up. I looked around to see if anyone was close by who may have dropped it, and kept an eye out for anyone seeming to return to the spot but I didn’t cross paths with a single person. I did feel guilty since nobody intentionally leaves money in the street, but maybe I could put it to good use.
The thought of the universe being generous insulated me against the cold I was still adjusting to, and reminded me that although I was far away from my family I had built a life all my own from scratch. It suits me and I love it and I must remember how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to take on such an adventure at all.
External forces seem to be collectively keep us in a perpetual state of fear, and I’m choosing to resist. It’s easy to get bogged down by mundanity, feel overwhelmed by constant negative messages (and people) and concerns about just getting by. I’m choosing to acknowledge all these worries for what they are but not to let them be the dominant elements of my life.
I choose to laugh as much as possible, to lend a hand wherever I can, to make sure I’m registered to vote and to celebrate the small and wonderful moments that happen every day. I’ll take responsibility for my immediate environment, not give into the fear and bring along as many good vibes as I can muster.
It was Nelson Mandela who said: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” What a huge difference would we see if we all, in our own small way, made such a choice?