Stemming to a large extent from its history of racial prejudice, South Africa today faces problems of xenophobia, gender discrimination, HIV&AIDS stigmatisation and the marginalisation of the disabled. This despite the belief system espousing that all are created equal before God. Heartlines has chosen Accepting difference as a value which goes beyond mere tolerance. If South Africans could learn to accept and embrace the differences within this multi-cultural society, each individual could be encouraged to realise their full potential and give their best back to the nation.
Family breakdown, high divorce rates and the abandoning of children are problems that face many South African families. There is also a crisis of absent fathers – men who don’t take responsibility for their children, leaving mothers to shoulder the entire responsibility for raising children. This feeds into a myriad of social problems, such as a lack of discipline, early school drop-out and lack of positive role models. Although it is especially hard to take responsibility in difficult circumstances – like unemployment, unwanted pregnancy, and untimely death, due to AIDS or other illnesses. Heartlines will try to show that taking responsibility for one’s children, is a value that will help solve a number of societal problems. Taking responsibility in one area of one’s life also teaches one to take responsibility in other areas.
Forgiveness is a value that is particularly relevant in South Africa. Icons such as former-President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have led the way in encouraging South Africans to forgive and be forgiven. The power of this value is that it can have a two-way benefit. Both for the person who is forgiven, and for the person who is forgiving. Ultimately, forgiveness sets both free. In some cases, it leads to reconciliation and restored relationships. Even though we are well into our new democracy, South Africans need to be encouraged to live out the value of forgiveness every day, whether it is related to a racial issue, bereavement through violent circumstances or through other injustices.
Unemployment is one of the most pressing problems facing South Africa today, because unemployment often leads to other issues, including poverty and crime. People try for jobs and eventually give up when they are repeatedly turned down. It takes great perseverance not to give up when faced with continual rejection. Perseverance is also needed in many other areas of life – in studying, in sporting activities, in remaining HIV-negative and especially in our relationships with others. If one has goals and a hope for the future, one is more likely to persevere than if one does not feel there is anything to hope for or work towards.
Today’s generation is one of “instant gratification”. Many South Africans live for today, and want it all now with no regard for the future. This is particularly a problem in the prevention of HIV&AIDS. Because young people live for the present and those things that give them instant pleasure, they see no point in remaining HIV-negative. A lack of self-control affects many aspects of life. Getting into debt to gratify immediate desires is another major problem that affects economic development. An important part of self-control is saving that which is worth waiting for, for later. This results in a greater enjoyment of and appreciation for that particular thing (delayed gratification).
Theft, corruption, fraud and family breakdown are all issues that can be traced back to a lack of honesty. Telling the truth is a value shared – in theory – by all South Africans. But which, when circumstances are difficult, falls by the wayside. Honesty is the value that underpins the decision not to take things that don’t belong to one, along with respect for other people and their possessions. A life of integrity can be described as in when what is said and what is done is “one”. This is a challenge in every sphere of daily living.
Most people find it easy to care for and show compassion to those who are close to them, or those who are similar to them. It is more difficult when the person is different, or outside one’s immediate circle. The HIV&AIDS epidemic has presented South Africans with the challenge of compassion, and how to care for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Compassion was chosen for the Heartlines series in the belief that the problem of stigma could also be tackled if South Africans were truly compassionate. With compassion, there is a two-way benefit – both for the giver and the receiver. One finds that in giving of oneself, one receives more than one expected.
Partly as a result of South Africa’s history, life circumstances are difficult for many people. Because of this, young people are easily drawn into crime, drug abuse and early (often violent) sexual experience. The workplace offers the temptation of fraud and corruption. In the home, families suffer when infidelity causes a breakdown of trust. For people who have fallen into these traps, it is extremely difficult to start again – unless other people value the power of giving a person a second chance. Heartlines will show that if individuals reached out with selfless love to those who have made mistakes, many lives could be transformed.