The only thing that is immortal is this moment. We try create statues and build lives that will last, but with the brutal view of a world that moves forward, attempting to freeze anything will leave it inadequate. What you do matters. Who you do it with matters. Doing it together matters. Nelson Mandela is without question the South African who the world is most proud of. This is not reflected in the growing number of streets, statues, buildings, scholarships, bays and cities named after him. It is reflected in his lesson that we should walk. However long that walk is. We should walk. Forward and together.
A friend, Brett Fish, asked for guest blog posts on South Africans who give us hope. I wrote about John McInroy. A few years ago he started the Unogwaja challenge. This involves a cycle from Cape Town to the start of the Comrades marathon (c.170km/day) over 10 days... and then joining thousands of other people from around the world in running the 89km between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. A marathon that symbolises better than any statue the strength of character possessed by people from Africa. And we are all from Africa. Earlier in the year after a few conversations with the man, I agreed to aim to join in next year.
Unogwaja is not at all a case of a few mad people getting together to do something extreme because they have time. It is not a cycle and a plod. It is a way to get a conversation started. A conversation followed by action. The idea that we are separate people with separate stories is a flawed way of looking at the world. The idea of Unogwaja is to raise money to release the potential of those that desperately want to help themselves but are stuck.
A challenge that arises from cycling from Cape Town to Durban is that you need a bike. In many ways that can symbolise privileges to which not everyone has access. It means that you end up riding past people. You can inspire them, but it is tough for them to keep up. John has been both encouraged and haunted by a boy who ran next to his bike shouting 'Unogwaja!' as he rode past. Encouraged because of the shared story, but haunted because he couldn't get to learn more of the boy and walk with him. He was going too fast.
So this year, John in going to get off his bike, and walk. He is going to walk/run from Cape Town to the start of the Comrades. Along the way, he hopes to meet that boy again. This time they will be able to walk together. John would like you to walk with them for part of the journey too if you are able. I am still going to aim to join John in 2016, and like him I am going to put aside my bike and let our statue be our walk.