April 4, 2012

The Privileged Few

Schricker,-Mary-Dec2010By Mary Schricker Gemberling

The conclusion of a tale of Mary’s travels to South Africa and Zimbabwe

Johannesburg, a city of more than five million people living in a land area of 250 square miles, is a dichotomy of wealth and poverty with its gold, silver and diamond mines in contrast to an unemployment rate of over 30 percent. Johannesburg, the most populist city in the country, is the economic and business hub of South Africa. Our drive through the city took us to Freedom Square where Nelson Mandela spoke of reconciliation and forgiveness, to the Hector Pieterson Memorial, a view of the homes of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, past the diamond and gold mines, to the maze of inner city streets, and finally to Soweto Township, one of the poorest parts of the city. A performance at a Youth center once again reinforced the extraordinary musical talents of the young people, a testimony to the cultural rich heritage of South Africa.

The last leg of our trip was a brief flight to Zimbabwe. This landlocked country, which is slightly smaller than California, has almost 13 million people, with an average life expectancy of 36.7 years, and an unemployment rate of over 70 percent. Its main attraction is Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Dr. Stanley Livingston, of the notable ‘Dr. Livingston, I presume’ fame was reportedly the first to see the falls. The mighty Zambezi River plunges more than 300 feet into the Zambezi Gorge, creating magnificent Victoria Falls. Clouds of spray rising upon the water’s impact can be seen for miles away.

From the historical accounting of the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope to the real life stories by those who lived and suffered through Apartheid; from watching a tower of giraffes at sunset in the Bush to standing in the spray of Victoria Falls, I felt, throughout the trip, that I was walking through the pages of a National Geographic publication. It is difficult to describe within the confines of these pages my emotional reaction while staring into the cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for his opposing political beliefs, or the sadness I still feel for the people in Zimbabwe who are still subservient to the corrupt regime of Robert Mugabe. I’m feeling pretty lucky right now to be living in America. I hope the visual scenes, and recounting of stories by those less
fortunate stay with me for a very long time. I do know the need for acceptance, understanding, and education has become
glaringly more apparent to me.

Here is something for us all to think about:
• If you woke up this morning with more health than illness… you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive the week.
• If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million in the world.
• If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death… you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.
• If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep peacefully…you are richer than 75 percent of this world.
• If you have money in the bank, in your wallet and some change in a dish by your bed, you are among the top 8
percent of the worlds wealthy.
• If you can read, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all.

Mary Schricker Gemberling, a former educator and Seniors Real Estate Specialist, is the author of two books, “The West End Kid” & “A Labor of Love.”