This post is quite difficult to write, because I don't quite know how to express what I am feeling.
I want to tell you about the man who joined our congregation at church this Sunday, but the more I think about it, the more I get myself tied into knots about how best to describe the experience of meeting him.
Nono is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (now there is a misnomer!). He has left his wife and 11 year old daughter behind in the Congo (not the DRC) and has come to South Africa to see if he can start a new life, one with more stability, and he plans to send for his family as soon as he is settled.
He is in Moorreesburg at the moment because the N7 highway that passes our town is being repaired and he is working with the road team. I'm not sure what it is he is doing, but I hope he is one of the guys who is waving a flag to warn the traffic rather than one of the people working with hot tar or the strange fabric stuff that they seem to be sticking over the potholes.
I am always saddened by the plight of the refugees to South Africa. Not only are they met with the usual racism that this country still exhibits daily (and it is not just black against white, many Afrikaaners hate the English and there is inter-tribal racism too) but he also has to deal with the xenophobic attitude of people who he says "are immediately able to tell the difference between a South African black and someone from outside the borders".
Almost without exception, the refugees are the cream of their countries. They are the ones who are determined not to sit back and accept the status quo. They are the ones who are prepared to sacrifice to make a good life for their families. They are the ones who have looked into the abyss and are determined not to get sucked in.
And, in South Africa, they are looked down on by so many. Someone confided in Greg recently that he was "getting over his racism", but was not prepared to invite "them" into his house. That's fair enough, and I admire his honesty. Change doesn't happen in an instant. Or even in 16 years.
What I can't accept is the way people are judged and belittled. It comes down to a simple choice: am I going to treat this person as my neighbour, as a fellow human being, as someone who deserves the same level of respect as I want for myself? If you can't answer yes to those questions, maybe you need to be asking some hard questions about yourself and your attitude.
Like, what exactly is it that makes you think that you are superior to the flag waver on the side of the road, as you pass them by at the roadblock? Does the job a person is doing make them less worthy of respect?
Would you feel differently if you knew something about them?
Would your opinion change if you were involved in an accident on the N7 this week and the first person on the scene to help you was Nono, the lowly roadworker who is doing what he can to send money back to his family while he waits to take the exam that will recognise his qualifications and experience and allow him to continue practising as a medical doctor?