Life Lessons

The Unfurling of the Flag

A little background history for this story: In 1993/4 I was working as the Media Director at Ogilvy in Cape town. We were thrust into a literally 24/7 task working for the Business Election Fund, a fund created by big business who wanted to see a peaceful birth of a new democracy in South Africa, without being politically aligned. The task was immense, the funds not as forthcoming as we had wished and yet the job had to be done.

It was my job to negotiate free space for our campaign in EVERY medium in the country, every TV station , every tiny newspaper, every taxi and every magazine and radio station. All this complicated by mindset segmented messaging. In the Freestate in Afrikaans the messaging was about not needing to bury food supplies in the garden (there were rumours that the shelves would be empty) In KZN it was managing the factional war and telling people that their vote was secret, in Johannesburg it was pleading with business to support the new dispensation.

I hardly slept for six months and when I did it was with a notepad and pencil on my pillow so that my overloaded brain could download throughout the night. It was energizing, exciting, fraught, exhausting and destined to make me completely committed to the country we were all collectively reinventing.

I had grown up in Kenya and was always confused by the concept of apartheid, and whilst I was never brave enough to be an activist, I rejected the notion completely. The new South Africa gave us the possibility of this entrenched inequity being brought to an end. I was at a profound level, completely committed to these ideals, the ideals espoused by my hero Nelson Mandela.

And so on a rainy midnight in April, when the new flag was being unveiled at Parliament in Plein Square, I was determined to be there. I almost didn’t go. It was raining. I had an asleep 7-year-old that I could not leave alone at home. But, I bundled him into the car and found myself with a small group, maybe 50 people gathered under umbrellas and in raincoats standing below the flag pole to witness the flag being raised for the first time. It was quiet and for me, moving, meaningful and profound.

And then I went home, quietly, glad that I had made the effort.

Why is this important? Well, I often wonder…. If I had not made that small pilgrimage, would I have ended up at the CEO of Brand South Africa? Did that action create my next step, my destiny, my calling? Somehow, I am not sure.

None of us know what is going to happen three minutes from now, but I truly believe that every step we take needs to be intentional, needs to reflect our soul’s desires, our truth. And then we set things in motion which are way beyond our knowledge.

Our thoughts become our words. Our words become our actions. Our actions become our destiny.

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