Monday, July 6, 2009

A must...perseverence, resilience (Kristen Konkol)

She steps out of bed onto the cold, hard ground with a chill filling the air. She can see her breathe with every exhale. She puts hot water on to boil for tea to warm her body before she begins her daily journey. She pulls on her tall socks and long skirt along with her hat and gloves and steps into the dark, star-filled sky. It is never easy to leave into the darkness of a winter morning, but she knows she must, for she must provide in the best way she can. She walks from her home to the main road and looks here and there for a ride on her first leg of the journey, but she finds none and continues on. She walks down to the highway and joins many others who raise their signaled hands and wait for the vehicles to pull over and give them a lift. Finally, an old bakkie (pick-up) pulls over and she along with about 12 others climb into the bed of the truck. They huddle close together and pull the collars of their coats up high as the cold, swift wind of the highway screams by. The sun is now on the horizon as she climbs down out of the bakkie some kilometers later. She walks down the same familiar road to her final destination where she will work with her hands to make ends meet. She must make the journey, she reminds herself, for I have no other choice but to do it for my family. She perseveres, she is resilient!


A sharp-witted man sits in his familiar place, nose in his books for hours on end. He studies the mounds of literature; he captures the precise techniques and scans the latest research day after day. When he is not studying, he is on his feet for hours on end, walking the corridors of the hospital, reviewing charts, studying up for the next time he is called upon. He has a gift and was blessed with those hands. His hands are skilled, practiced and proficient. He works flawlessly in the theatre (operating room), with the lives of so many in these hands with every precise procedure he very capably carries out. Years of practice and study have prepared him for the test and he is ready, he is confident. He sits for the written surgical specialty exam and knows he has done well. With only the oral exam to go, he knows he is but one small step away from being qualified as a surgeon able to practice in international medicine anywhere in the world. He would be the first black South African to do so from this institution. He sits before the board of light-skinned faces and answers question after question without hesitation or intimidation. He has done all he can. Days pass and he finally receives word…they have not passed him and will now have to do it all over again. He is not demoralized, but yet is even more determined to overcome the obvious injustice and “make them” have to pass him when he is back later this year. I will not let them deter me, he reminds himself, for I will obtain the qualifications I deserve. He will persevere, for he is resilient!


She looks up from her garden as children come and go through the haphazard gate. With a limp in her step she makes her way to the house to see how the progress is coming on the inside. One young boy sweeps away the endless dirt that seems to blow in day after day. She sits down and looks at her feet. She has already lost two toes to diabetes and her swollen legs tingle endlessly from the lack of circulation. She looks at her ragged dress and wishes she could do more, but what can she do? Five of her children have already succumbed to the same dark fate of so many others, withering away from HIV/AIDS. Only two remain, and her daughter has already taken to the life of prostitution to make a bit of money, and she knows her fate will one day be all too familiar. The children are left and she wonders what she can do. She must now look after the grandchildren, for they have so few other options. She worries about how she will put food on the table and clothes on their back as she cannot go out and work with her own poor health. All she knows she can do is pray, wipe the sweat off her brow, and head back out to the garden. For she must, she says to herself, for if the garden is all I can give them, then that is what I will do. She must persevere; she must rise above and be resilient.


Too many times I have seen, observed and heard these and other stores about perseverance and resilience. Injustice, poverty, discrimination and adversity weave a thread though the lives of so many here in South Africa. Even as some years have passed since democracy has so wonderfully been won, many continue to struggle each and every day. For it does not take days or months or even years to reverse the reality and life situations many have come to know, but generations. I am humbled each day with what so many go through on a day to day basis and am sometimes paralyzed by the monumental peaks that have to be overcome. But what strikes me above all is the perseverance and resilience of those faced with challenge day in and day out. We must, it is said, for there is no other option. We must, we must, and we must…rise above and overcome for a better tomorrow!

Peace & Blessings,

Kristen