South Africa Needs an Open Day

Last week was an Open Day at a local college. With three out of our five children already through the school system, we’re not considered active in this market anymore. We’re on the home stretch and have been exhausted and worn down by the responsibility of it all. So much so, that my wife and I often find ourselves flipping a coin to see who’ll attend parent-teacher meetings. And sometimes remembering that we forgot to open one of our children’s report cards way into the following academic year.

That minor issue aside, we decided to attend the Open Day anyway. As did many parents of children who are already at this college.

It was a wonderful day that showcased the academic offering, ethos, comradery, atmosphere and spirituality of the school. It reminded us why we had chosen the school in the first place and were grateful that our children had the privilege of attending the institution. This meant that we left reassured that our children are in the right environment. 

It made me think. Sometimes, all the negativity and all the complaining is so loud that it drowns out the positivity and the praise. 

If ever South Africa needed an Open Day it is now. With Xenophobic violence and criminal looting out of control in Johannesburg’s CBD this past week and in Pretoria the week prior, with the gang deaths in Cape Town reaching historical proportions, with the rape and murder of a UCT student and the kidnapping of a grade R child, with the State Capture enquiry dragging on without arrest, with talk of NHI and the economy struggling, South Africans have a lot to complain about. 

These are not small things, but they also only tell one part of the story. The other is what we would see if we were to be invited to Open Day South Africa. There we would view a country where the majority of the people are kind and caring and helpful and who will do anything to help each other. We would see the immense economic opportunity that can always be found in difficulty. We would see that all religions are valued and that, whether we are Jewish or Christian or Muslim or Hindu, that South Africans respect one other. We would see the sunshine and the music and we would laugh with each other, because South Africans are funny. We would showcase the magnificent coastline of the Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and then move inland to the spectacular Karoo and then the Kruger and other places we had no idea existed in this breath-taking country. We would see the largest road system on the entire continent and commercial centres that many would be envious of. We would see South Africans who genuinely want the best for each other.

I read an amazing idea in Benjamin Zander’s book The Art of Possibility. He speaks about the value of accepting the situation for what it is and not fighting the reality. Once you have done so, then possibilities and pathways open up. So, for example, we decided to go to Cape Town on holiday. When we got there, it was raining. If we send a friend a message to say “I am in Cape Town on holiday, but its raining,” we are very clearly fighting the weather, God and everything else that has resulted in us being there. If we change the message to “I am in Cape Town AND it’s raining” we suddenly have all sorts of options – like going for a walk in the rain, going to see the rivers and waterfalls etc. Zander uses the Florida example, but the case is made.

No one suggests that we shouldn’t push back against the many issues that plague the country. What I am suggesting is that we have an Open Day in our minds and that we accept the situation as it is. And then, once we are clear what we have and what we want to have, then we become active citizens in a country that is home to our children. 


This article was first published on South African Jewish Report