In 2006 I donated my red Toyota Stallion to GDM in Mozambique. It has been amazingly resilient and is still going. Being a communal possession, serving the community and working very hard, it has been steadily gaining bumps and bruises. For about two yours the canopy door lever has been broken and it has pained me to see people struggling to open the doors every time by having to press a stuborn lever below the body with a small stone or something sharp.
This time, when I arrived in Manica I was overwhelmed with joy to see a door handle on the canopy doors of the Red bakkie. The fact that it is a real door handle, as in front door of house door handle, makes it even better. They say ‘a boer maak ‘n plan’ but the also say ‘a boy maak twee!’…
Someone who knows nothing and has no contextual insight might criticise the type of handle, but I think it was a brilliant solution to an irritating problem. We can look at the same thing and see something different.
I don’t easily cry about sadness or when I’m hurt. When I look back on my life, there is repeatedly one thing that makes me emotional. At first, I didn’t see the similarity in all my emotional moments. Then I started to recognise a similar theme…
This is most clearly illustrated even in a short, commercial, yet real-life, version of the pattern. When I watch X Factor or Idols, every now and again a first time audition produces a new star. And when the new star blows the audience and judges away, they inevitably asks if the singer has done auditions before, if they had training? To wich the answer, in the ‘best’ stories are predictably: no. The judges, for their show to claim authenticity and relevance, need to uncover a hidden diamond.
Anyone could gather the best of the known talent, but these shows are into surprises, they want the singer to go from zero to hero. Not from hero to well known hero. Development practitioners could learn from this I think. What is so cool about taking the best of local and international talent and building a super NGO? Yet everyone tries to do it, because they don’t have funding and time for the hundreds of failed auditions. So they hold interviews and pick the ready made talent. Short budget cycles and short performance review cycles does not encourage developmental talent search; looking in the dust for rough diamonds is not considered productive and does not guarantee good ROI.
The diamond in the rough, is not the talented individual in a mediocre community, the diamond is the dusty individual, that starts to shine as he gets rubbed and polished, through communal work, exposure and friendship.
Upon the moment that someone’s greatness and talent is revealed, we cry. The seeing and the sense of being seen is the greatest thing on this earth. That moment of revelation that lifts someone up, be it Gladiator removing his mask or Simba in front of the animals, we all instinctively feel connected to such moments of coming to age. Wont it be more fun and more worthwhile if the what and how of development work take these moments of seeing as a core mandate and ultimate reward?
An unedited thought space – not for sensitive whites