A few days ago, in a mentorship session with an entrepreneur, I happen to mention a book I’m currently reading, How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region written by Joe Studwell.
It is an amazing book on economic development in countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, and China.
I recommended the book to him.
His response was why am I reading a book about China when the very same country is ill-treating black people now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Basically am I not supporting the people who are not supporting me by reading their book?
I think there is merit to what he is saying regarding the unfortunate incidents coming out of China.
However the reason I’m reading the book is not related to those unfortunate incidents.
I often try to avoid classifying people as to whether I liked them or not. I try to classify them as to what I can learn from them and sometimes teach them in the process.
There are things that people we like say and do that don’t make sense and there are things that people we don’t like say and do that actually makes sense.
If I only followed people I liked, and read books of people I only liked, my perspective will be one dimensional.
I also learn from people who are not my favourite.
Mario Puzo said it very well in his book The Godfather: “Bring your friends close but your enemies closer.”
I have learned to avoid only socialising with those who are like me.
Once in a while it is important to get out of your comfort zone and see what others are saying, thinking, and doing.
Yes you are the sum total of people you associate with. It is important to choose your influences carefully.
At the same time, you are likely to learn valuable lessons from people who are not like you, who have different backgrounds, different skin pixels, different dialects, and different cultures.
Daniel Brink posted a video on Facebook and asked anyone who wanted to help destitute people like Nomvula to contact him.
The video is a short story of Nomvula from Dunoon township. Nomvula had encouraging words for people who were struggling during lockdown.
She took us through a tour of her house, showing us her kitchen, bedroom, the lounge, where “we chill” as she puts it with a smile.
They are five in the small house, her three daughters, grandson and herself and all stay in a one roomed house.
She says something quiet amazing:
“As small as it is, it’s actually big. I can invite people here, ladies from church – they dwell here, we worship here, we pray in this house and we have fellowship together.”
And then she says:
“We thank God for this house!”
What was remarkable about the video is how she cheerfully did the tour, and how proud she is of her house.
The video went viral, it was shared over 22 thousands times on facebook.
Most people on the comment section [over 1200 comments] loved her cheerfulness, her spirit, her peace, her big smile, her smiling eyes, her warm heart and her energy.
Nomvula is a reminder of how grateful we should be even during difficult time.
She reminded most people to appreciate and be proud of what we have, small as it may seem.
She may not be someone most people would have in their inner circles of elite and ‘important’ events, but she has so much to teach them.
We can learn so much from Nomvula and others like her.
Jesus mingled with the downtrodden, the meek, the lame, and the poor. He didn’t say I’m powerful and smart and therefore I will only mingle with powerful and smart only. Jesus understood that in the Kingdom of God, there are not VIP sections.
We should strive to get out of our comfort zones and expand our territories of influence.
We should strive to meet people who are not like us, learn about them, and read about them.
It is when we read stories of Hitler that we are able to understand the dangers of charming people.
It is when we read about how China got millions of its people out of poverty that we are able to know what mistakes to avoid in our developmental journey.
It is when we read about the Afrikaner Broederbond that we are able to understand the tactics and strategies of how to harness political, social and economic forces in our country towards a specific cause, this time our cause and succeed.
Entrepreneurs can learn from corporate people and vice versa.
Government officials can learn from entrepreneurs and vice versa.
It is when we read widely, outside our domain that we are able to connect the dots as wide as possible and understand the world in its totality.
Learning and knowing about others does not take anything away from you, it actually expands our perspective.
As F. Scott Fitzgerald has said before:
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
We are likely to learn more from people not like us, in the same way we learn from people like us.
PS: If you would like to help Nomvula and others like her in Dunoon township, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.