“Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”

The phone woke me up close to eleven. I just let it ring. It was a telemarketer who left no message, an assumption on my part but I think I’m right. I heard it all, including the click of the receiver, as I didn’t even bother to move to answer the phone. (I’m going to complain a bit here so skip down to line 9 if you want to miss the groaning.) My back is horrific every morning. I wake up, crawl my way to the edge of the bed and wait until the stiffness goes away. Mornings bring the worst of the pain. I wait, patient and still, until I can move without the neighbors hearing me scream. Gracie looks up, sees me sitting, decides all is well and lies right back down on the bed. Fern meows, turns on her back and expects scratches and pats: so much for their sympathy. Meanwhile, I am Igor working my way to the bathroom. As I move around, my back starts to feel better but the pain stays all day, just a bit abated. Monday I’ll give the doctor a call though I’m not sure which one-I guess the surgeon. I call them my stable of doctors.

(Line 9 for those skippers among you) Today is another rainy, dreary day, but I don’t mind a day like today in winter. Summer, though, is far different. I always think I’ve been cheated if a summer day isn’t perfect, but my standards are much lower for winter when a day can be anything. If I assumed for a moment the guise of Pollyanna and played her Glad Game, I’d say, “I’m glad it’s raining. At least it’s not snowing.” That almost makes me gag. I think I’m long past my Pollyanna days.

When I was sixteen, my family dragged me to Maine for a few days. We were at a friend’s cottage. One of the neighbors came in to say hello. She was from South Africa. I was intrigued and a bit jealous and told her Africa was one of the places I’d most like to visit. She asked if I was talking about colored Africa. Seriously, I missed entirely what she meant. It wasn’t naivety. It was just I hadn’t ever heard that term before. Into my head popped green tropical forests, cloths of patterns and colors and fruit: yellow, red, green fruit. I told her yes. She explained that my life would be in danger, and I would be a target, a white target. I started to argue because I then understood what she meant by colored Africa. My mother put a stop to my rantings and shooed me outside.

When I was in Ghana, we were told we could anywhere except South Africa. No one needed to explain why. South Africa was apartheid, and Peace Corps espouses the opposite. In all its literature, Peace Corps calls the commitment a cross-cultural experience, but it is so much more. For most of us, Ghana became home. We absorbed all we could and became part of the whole landscape of Ghana: its customs and its people, the wonderful colored people of Ghana.

Nelson Mandela guided South Africa from apartheid to multi-racial democracy. He served 27 years in prison and turned this imprisonment into a tool to create political change and national liberty. In 1993, Mandela and President de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work toward dismantling apartheid.

Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the country’s first black president on May 10, 1994, at the age of 77, with de Klerk as his first deputy.

On December 5, 2013, at the age of 95, Nelson Mandela died at his home in Johannesburg, South Africa. President Zuma released a statement later that day, in which he spoke to Mandela’s legacy: “Wherever we are in the country, wherever we are in the world, let us reaffirm his vision of a society … in which none is exploited, oppressed or dispossessed by another.”

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18 Comments on ““Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.””

  1. Hedley Says:

    Group G : USA, Ghana, Germany and Portugal

    Group D : England, Italy, Uruguay, Costa Rica

    • katry Says:

      My Dear Hedley,
      I remember Ghana ousting the US.

      When I went back to Ghana the second time, I bought my nephew’s son Ryder, who is 7, a Ghana football shirt. He said he wouldn’t wear it because they had beaten the US.

    • Birgit Says:

      Hi Kat and Hedley, back home 🙂
      (wedding today – not my own, chorus concert tomorrow)
      Hedley, thanks for the update. So we have to beat Ghana and the USA to have a chance to meet England? Oops, bad KTCC draw!

      • katry Says:

        Hi Birgit,
        Wow, you have to beat my two countries. I’ll cheer the USA first then Ghana second. Sorry, Germany only gets my cheering if they do us in.

        I knew you had something today.

      • Birgit Says:

        Kat, sounds like soccer comments on KTCC in summer 😉

      • katry Says:

        My two cents worth aren’t even worth that given my lack of knowledge. I’ll have to rely on my family in Colorado for comments to help me along.

      • Hedley Says:

        Birgit , yes a difficult KTCC draw, but lots of fun next Summer. Tell us about your concert tomorrow

  2. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    Sorry that your back is not behaving as it should. I feel your pain. Not quite so badly as you but just as constantly.

    Nobody ever had to drag me to Maine. I went willingly and enthusiastically. Even though I worked like a dog on the farm from late spring to early fall, I still loved being in Maine.

    In high school we had an exchange student from Rhodesia (as was but I forget what it is now… Zimbabwe?). She took a great deal of pleasure saying things like “For my 16th birthday my father got me my own houseboy.” I think she did it mostly to shock us and maybe she was being defensive but that kind of thing doesn’t wear well. In the end her only friend was the girl from Alabama.

    It’s raining here but it’s not snowing and that’s a good thing. I have stocked up on ice melt, just in case. I have pizza and chips and ice cream but no chocolate. I still have time.
    The town light department has spent the day maiming street trees in preparation for any ice storm that may happen. Everywhere I went there was a big truck with a big wood chipper attached and several guys with chain saws hanging about.
    I guess we’re ready. 🙂

    Enjoy the day.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      I appreciate the sympathy. Bad backs are the worst.

      I was sixteen and stuck with my family. The cottage was a giant room with bunks built everywhere. The cottages on each side were a car’s width away. Kids knew each other from every summer. I was the outsider. Plenty for little kids to do but nothing for my age. I was miserable.

      I bet she wasn’t kidding. Rhodesia (you’re right) had a white minority government after independence, and they were wealthy land owners.

      Rain here as well-too warm for snow. Gracie has left wet, muddy paw prints all over the house. I need to buy more safe-paws ice melt as I have only a little. I use it on the steep back steps to the yard. The snow is coming, at least to some parts of the state-not here.

      I was just thinking about not having goodies. My Peapod order came, but I didn’t order enough goodies so I’ll go out tomorrow.

      The last thing I’d want is an ice-storm. It is so destructive!

      Have a great evening!!

  3. Bob Says:

    Men like Mandela can be counted on one hand. He will be missed.

    This morning I left Montreal with temperatures above freezing and dry conditions. I arrived in Dallas to a frozen mess. There were few taxis at the airport so shared one with a young Indian family whose flight to India via London was canceled. It’s colder in Dallas right now than in Montreal, Toronto or New York. The tree in front of my house will have to removed since the weight of the ice on the branches has split the tree and the larger portion is lying on my roof.

    • katry Says:

      He was such a man of compassion. That is what will be most remembered and missed.

      I hate ice storms and what they do to trees and the eaves of houses. I won’t even mention the dangers inherent in driving, especially at night.

      It is colder there than here where it is 47˚. We are expecting cold weather the next few days, starting late tonight. No snow though!

  4. Birgit Says:

    “Rest in PEACE” is very fitting for Mandela.
    My interest in South Africa startet early when I heard (and luckily recorded) a Tom Paxton concert on radio. His song “Steven Biko” was so moving. The next day I went to the library and read the book about Biko by Donald Woods.

    • katry Says:

      I don’t remember when I first heard of Nelson Mandela. When I got back to the US and was teaching English, I started a course called Minority Literature and chose Cry, the Beloved Country as one of the novels. Kids had no idea what was happening outside their little world so I thought they needed to know more. They were indignant when they learned about apartheid and the novel brought it to them on a more human level.

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