Over the past two weeks I have travelled through some of South Africa’s most rural areas visiting the schools, early childhood development centres and aftercare programs in which The Lunchbox Fund works. Road trips with other people are tiring, we all got on each other’s nerves, but in each place we visited, we were reminded to cut out our nonsense by meeting people who were doing their best to help their children. Often with the most limited of resources and in the face of exceptional challenge and poverty. It was both invigorating and humbling. When we got home each evening I would check in with the rest of the world, and here are some of the other people I met. People that I think would have loved to be along on the trip with us.
1. Sakena Yacoobi: “education transforms people. When you educate people, they are going to be different, and today all over, we need to work for gender equality. We cannot only train women but forget about the men, because the men are the real people who are giving women the hardest time.” When the Taliban closed all the girls’ schools in Afghanistan, Sakena Yacoobi set up new schools, in secret, educating thousands of women and men. In this talk she shares her vision for rebuilding her beloved country, part of which involves upskilling Afghanistan’s men (“when we were children they gave us guns. We still have those guns”). Brave, determined, fierce, funny – she shows how it is important to remember a gender that has been left behind.
2. Brian Sewell: “Growing old is the most prolonged of all disagreeable experiences. Now into my 80s, I observe with wry humour the failings of my body. Once not uncomely, broad of shoulder, flat of belly and proportionate, I had stamina, played rugby with enthusiasm, ran long distances and clambered about in mountains, but now my bones have turned to chalk and pumice, crumbling, my joints creak, my heart is a four-cylinder engine firing on three and, naked, my skin draped about me like a grubby old net curtain, I resemble a 17th-century Spanish painting of an ancient hermit saint expecting the Last Trump. That is, of course, exactly what I am doing – waiting for death.”
So starts a beautiful piece on ageing by English Art Critic and great mind, Brian Sewell. Sewell has always walked his own road and revelled in his individuality: he allows his dogs to sleep on his bed, small (cheesy) discoveries make him happy, he loves his car passionately and he has always believed in speaking his mind: “Anger is our surest weapon against the violence of the brute, the dishonesty of the banker, the complacency of bureaucrats and the vanity of politicians. Anger may just save the world from the blind follies of those who inhabit it.” A timely reminder to get angry more often. Sadly, Brian Sewell succumbed to the cancer on 19th September 2015. Read the whole article here.
3. Richard Saul Wurman: “Give it 5 Minutes”. This great piece of advice comes via Jason Fried who tells of an encounter with Wurman during which he (Fried) launched into a criticism of Wurman’s talk ….within seconds of meeting him: “His response changed my life. It was a simple thing. He said “Man, give it five minutes.” I asked him what he meant by that? He said, it’s fine to disagree, it’s fine to push back, it’s great to have strong opinions and beliefs, but give my ideas some time to set in before you’re sure you want to argue against them. “Five minutes” represented “think”, not react. He was totally right. I came into the discussion looking to prove something, not learn something.” I know I do this too sometimes. Good to be reminded to stop, look and listen. (Richard Wurman is an architect, graphic designer and the co-creator of TED Talks)
4. Stevie Wonder and James Corden carpool for The Late Late Show. This is 15 minutes of pure, unadulterated, fabulous joy and music. Watch it here, and make your day.
5. Maya Angelou: reminded me that love liberates: “My Mother said: “Now wait a minute baby, I think you are the greatest woman I ever met.” ….. And I thought – suppose she’s right?”’ This piece is just beautiful and thought-provoking. Another good reminder when things feel tough and the uphill seems endless. (PS: my favourite piece of live-by advice came from Maya Angelou: “When people show you who they are …. believe them.” See her explain the concept to Oprah Winfrey here. Believe them the first time ….)