I wanted to highlight this article in the NYTimes, and brought me into a world that resonates with the Simple Way and Mark Scandrette here in South Africa.
If you have time, check out Mamelodi for a Month and read this family's story. One criticism of the family's action was that it "reinforced the centrality of whiteness in South Africa". One of the (184) comments on the article said something to the effect of "this story made it to the front page of the NYTimes webpage, and because of that I learned something I didn't know about before." I wonder what you think? I find both the comment and the criticism compelling; I wonder if both are fairly removed from the daily reality of life for the people involved, the community within Mamelodi and the Hewitt family. One post on Ena and Julian Hewitt's blog helped to answer this question.
This family's story brought me back to one of our original reasons for coming (back) to South Africa. We wanted to be open to being part of good changes in SA as we gradually learn about living here. For us, changes are gradual, in proportion with our faith and understanding of life here, as well as the broader context we're living in. Which tangentially links to this article on Generation Y Yuppies, which describes our generation's desire to be protagonists of their own awesome story.
The broader question of systemic societal change is not answered by the Hewitt's month in Mamelodi. The thing is, systemic change has to involve large numbers of people willing to change the many things we've taken for granted. The imperfect attempts of the Hewitt's open themselves up for all kinds of criticism, some of which I totally agree with, but it's something, it's small, it's beautiful. It's bigger than a blog post. I don't think they did it to feel good about doing good. I think they genuinely tried to understand and access something really important. I'm guessing among the readers of this blog, there are people who have done similar things as PhD fieldwork, as being part of the Peace Corps, and as families. It's hard and fraught to try new things, especially as a public act.
If you're interested in reading more about people trying stuff in South Africa, check out Nigel and Trish's blog about moving (permanently?) to Hillbrow.