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Dear October 2022

A man walked into the store I was in this evening. He walked right up to me encroaching on my personal space. He told me to keep calm, pay attention to what he was saying and not to panic. The last time I heard similar words, it was 13 years ago with a gun to my head in my home as an armed burglary began to unfold. Triggered much? I started to run, and he very calmly said, I said don't panic, everything is fine, I'm trying to help you. I'm replaying this in my head and realise I cannot even remember the language spoken. The entire experience incorporated a combination of Zulu, Tswana, English and Swahili and took place in Pretoria, South Africa.

Today's lesson was a personal reminder to have an attitude of gratitude.

Perhaps it is the nature of birth months that one becomes contemplative, reflective and more analytical. Or maybe that's just me.

My birth month is often one that has me navigating new experiences and I suppose by extension I graduate from some new life lesson each year - that's a good thing.

Today I had an experience which in and of itself was jarring for me. It was triggering in the moment and educational as it unfolded. I make meaning of situations by finding words to express what I am seeing or thinking or feeling. Good or bad, I find that articulating my experiences and reflecting on metaphors rather than the absolute experience allows me to language a personal context and interpretation.

I have been impacted by crime and the acts of criminals and denounce the label victim and the emotional state this tends to box me into. The stories we choose to tell are powerful and are more than just words giving a blow by blow account of this happened. They are windows into humanity, human behaviour, its unpredictability and sometimes, glimpses into a humanity we forget exists and which thrives in normal situations.

The pervasiveness of crime in South Africa is not normal. Our conditioning to cushion our exposure to criminal activities and debasement of human life is not normal. If we leave the story on this note that emphasises the crime, this is also not normal. The accompanying voice note was recorded 30 minutes after the incident. It tells the full story, the one that I would like to remember.

Humanity and dignified engagement is normal. Care, safety and personal security is normal. I am grateful for that reminder today.


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