South Africa – Humbled and Blessed

Dec 21, 2009

Following is a moving story from our South Africa corporate citizenship colleague Suna Snyman.  Suna was inspired to share her personal reflections upon return from a recent Operation Smile mission – -

Suna’s story
Much Afraid in Tana
Operation Smile Mission
Antananarivo Oct|Nov 2009

Amongst the necessities that we all need to make it through the journey of life, and sometimes, simply through the night, my maternal grandmother had a blue hard cover book on her bedside table along with a glass of water, her reading glasses, her teeth and a couple of crumpled up tissues. The book was the first edition (circa 1944) of Hannah Hurnard’s Hind’s Feet on High Places. It is an allegory dramatising the journey each of us take to find some peace and make some sense out of this crazy world.

In this classic tale, Much Afraid sets out on a journey with two companions, Sorrow and Suffering. On their way they flee from their dreadful relatives, the Fearings, run into a cast of unsavoury characters; Dr Pride, Miss Bitterness and imagine having Mrs Self-Pity (oh no! not another female with a double barrel surname) as a mother-in-law!

Nearly a century on, and Much Afraid and her companions are still alive and well! The journey might look different and it is certainly called by many other names. Corporate Social Responsibility, nonprofit organizations and lending a helping hand. Apt slogans underwrite who is sponsoring who and good old-fashioned charity doesn’t make the grade any longer. Names should be catchy and cute, at least call it a playful charity challenge and not just knitting by the knee-dy.

So, here we are, nearly at the end of the first decade of the 21st century and lending a helping hand is the latest global trend. It’s the new consciousness and all that, you see, darling. Be it a bit late, we are now in a place where we are giving back. Helping one by one and creating smiles across the globe. Most of it carefully created corporate mambo jumbo to disguise WIIFM (what is in it for me)? But in spite of all the catchy names, the sponsorships, the websites, the banners, the videos, the vuvuzelas and the bells and whistles, the journey, in essence, has not changed. It is still about transforming our human nature into something more tolerable. Something that we can live with. Memories that could sustain us when, as Much Afraid did, we need to travel through the Forest of Danger and Tribulation. Joining each Operation Smile Mission, Much Afraid and her companions board the jet and the first encounter on the journey is usually with Pride and his army!

When do we start realizing that it is us that are changing with each operation counted and documented? With each Operation Smile Mission, just like with Much Afraid, we are the ones that are transformed. We are the ones who return home with thankful hearts and new smiles. It is us that have been humbled and blessed.

It was after a harrowing journey that Much Afraid transformed into Grace and Glory: and her two companions, Sorrow and Suffering, changed into Peace and Joy. And it is after each mission that our faith in humanity is restored; our hopes and dreams for the future renewed and rekindled. It is after each mission that we are able to make sense out of a world that is changing so fast it makes your head hurt. We are the one’s that could be documented and tallied … Us few, us lucky few.

PS: Hind’s Feet on High Places has been republished in paperback by
Tyndale House. ISBN 978-0-8423-1429-9.

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