Archives For God

Two Sides of 50

January 19, 2014 — 2 Comments


An ongoing item in the news this month has been Michelle Obama’s birthday — noteworthy because she turns 50. She celebrated with an extra week of me-time in Hawaii after Christmas when Barack and the kids left. And she had a posh cocktail-and-dessert party in the White House. Happy, sad, or scary — it’s a milestone; might as well celebrate in style if you can.

I saw an article about celebrities turning 50 this year. It’s weird to think of people who in your mind are frozen in a certain younger time hitting the half-century mark. If they’re that old, how old am I? Rob Lowe is turning 50. I hated his smarmy character and Peter Pan pretty-boy face in St. Elmo’s Fire — and I still hate him. Sandra Bullock is gonna be 50. Wasn’t she just a young ingenue driving an out-of-control bus a couple months ago with Keanu Reeves (also 50 this year)? Add to the list Courteney Cox, Matt Dillon, Melissa Gilbert (isn’t she still in pigtails running across the prairie?!). Even Brad Pitt is hitting the Big 5-0 this year. Lately I’ve noticed his face looks as lined and tired as mine — and I’m four years older. Sweet!!

And in all this birthday talk of celebrities — and us regular people, too — is the idea that 50 is the new 30. It’s just the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in our amazing, privileged American lives, and we have decades ahead of us to fulfill dreams and create new ones. Hell, some guy in California just went skydiving for the first time on his 100 birthday! Maybe 50 is the new 15!

Mtuseni's FamilySomeone else turned 50 this month — Mtuseni’s mom, Nester. She’s a pretty, petite, gracious woman. I can’t wait to spend more time with her on my next visit to Johannesburg. She has probably asked god to bless me 10,000 times for all I’ve done for Mtuseni; she could not offer him the same on her meager salary. She has a hard life, raising three kids alone in a brick shack with no electricity or plumbing. Her oldest son Moses was killed by a car a few years ago. She’s had a few health scares lately — I think from stress and exhaustion — but there’s little money for doctors and certainly none for regular checkups. And of course the first 30 years of her life were spent under apartheid.

If 50 is the new 30 in the US, the calculus is a little different in South Africa. The average life span for a black woman in South Africa is 49. Does this mean Nester is living on borrowed time now, at age 50? When I pass the US male life expectancy of 77, I’m sure it’ll feel like the rest are lucky bonus years. How many bonus years does Nester have left? The number of people in Mtuseni’s community and circles who have died in the four years I’ve known him is shocking — and I haven’t heard about everyone, I’m sure.

So in addition to worrying about Mtuseni getting an internship, getting a job, and staying healthy — there’s always a small knot in the back of my mind worrying about Nester’s health. Because that precious family depends on her — and 50 has a different meaning in their corner of the world.

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Mational Mentoring Month

I’m a bit late to the party, but I just learned that January is National Mentoring Month in the US. Click the logo to visit the program web site and find local mentoring opportunities in your area.

To quote from the National Mentoring Month web site:

“To be a mentor, you don’t need special skills, just an ability to listen and to offer friendship, guidance and encouragement to a young person. And you’ll be amazed by how much you’ll get out of the experience.”

I can certainly attest to this. I am continually amazed by where my journey with Mtuseni has taken us, and by how much we both have grown. My involvement and investment have expanded beyond the basics of just “being there” as a mentor to become more father, nag, coach, and benefactor. But on the rare occasions when my South African son gets a little lazy or petulant or veers far off course, I remind him to think about what mentoring is all about… and he snaps right into line.

Funny… just the other day, before I knew about mentoring month and after a tough but ultimately fruitful conversation with Mtuseni, he posted this status line on his Mxit chat program:

mentor thank god

Mentoring can be hard work sometimes. It can also be pretty amazing. And make people feel invincible.


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After an epic stretch of (over)work beginning in October — followed by a surprisingly enjoyable and fulfilling holiday season that made this Grinch’s heart grow — I’m still trying to put things in place for a productive year ahead. So at the risk of tooting my own horn, “my” first blog post of 2013 will be an excerpt from Mtuseni’s post.

No matter how much I love this kid, I can sometimes tear my hair out in frustration and wonder why I took on this challenge. Next time I feel that way, I’ll remember what my little buddy said on his gratitude list — an achievement (still in the works) that I will consider the most important and meaningful of my life. And if I start the year as a wonder of the world, it means 2013 is going to be amazing. Happy New Year!

Victoria-Wharf-Cape-Town-South-AfricaMy Thanksgiving

2012 was an awesome but rough year for me, but I still have a lot to thank God for. It is only during this time I share my gratitude to the almighty with the world. I thank God for my daily breath because he had stored it in me to live this year fully and tackle every challenge without giving up.

It also was the people in my life that keep me going no matter how much anger I cause them, but they still love and support me in all directions.

My mom is the person that lives with this naughty soul every single day of her life and hasn’t thrown me out yet. Without this woman there wouldn’t have been a me in this world, and I’m very proud to be her son because she has gone through a lot to make sure I am granted success.

Michael Beckett — the eighth wonder of this world — has since adopted a clueless boy and made him a man. He has actually taken on my battles to fight them for me and does everything in his power to educate me in every day of my life. I wouldn’t have passed matric or gone to tertiary without his power, that is why he is my eighth wonder of this world!



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Mtuseni sent me this post today for his blog, and I thought it was worth sharing in full.

South-Africa-family-lifeToday we celebrate the most important day in the history of human life, and that is Mother’s Day.

We just want to say to all mothers that we still recognize your importance to us and the world’s population. It is a special day to us all but more especially to you because you are the only people that can bear the pain of giving birth and having that bond with the child. We acknowledge the wisdom that you give us because most of you are single but still manage to raise monsters like us who will cause all sorts of pain to you. But your unfailing love always overshadows everything.

I love my mother. She is raising three kids alone without my father’s help. This always drives me: If she is able to make it alone, why should I give up on anything? My mom has gone through a lot that all mothers do, but fortunately she has survived and managed to put meals for us on everyday life. She also shows the love to my siblings as if she is both a mother and a father.

She always fills my heart with joy even though we argue. It doesn’t change her love for me. I think every mother is capable of over achieving in their lives because it’s their gift from God. And yes, we thank God for providing us with such strong and loving people. I do also believe that when you look at the beauty of a female you see how God has planned this creature to perform the purpose of being the mother.

Mothers are the best gifts that God provided for men, and without their existence one would wonder how everyone would be on this world. I believe that all mothers will enjoy this day as it is a Sunday, and to my mother I wish her the best of everything. I love her a lot and appreciate all she has done for me in the past 19 years and I’m still counting. May God preserve all mothers to see their kids succeed and help them back. I would like to conclude by saying to all the mothers I LOVE YOU ALL, DECLARES THE LORD!

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