One Thing That Can Make a World of Difference

 

One thing. What is the one thing that you are going to do for you this year?

It is a question that often floats to the top of one’s thoughts when January arrives, and the habitual creation of New Years Resolutions. What is the one thing that you have committed to making happen this year? Truth is, it is often a handover of something meant to happen the year(s) before, that simply never managed to be achieved. Gaining a new language. Losing weight. Adding a new tick to the bucket list. Taking away those aspects of life creating clutter, chaos, concern.

Pause.

If the year could be marked by only one thing, one defining feature of change for oneself, what would it be? What really matters most? Importantly, what would make the freedom of a fresh, new 365 days unwasted if (finally) achieved. Equally, what would make a heart sad if the year were to pass and it remained a lingering wish of fulfillment.

These are the investments we make in ourselves. These are the words we carefully write as we capture the story of our lives. These are the quiet, personal quests that bring value to our lives. And learning. And quiet love of life.

At the same time, how can our lives be of value to others? For every ‘one for me’, what is the ‘one for them’. Who is the ‘them’? And how can our lives bring more life to theirs?

As time passes, as miles are crossed, as meaning is intensified, the ability to actively, even passively, make a difference in the life on another becomes more motivating. Because we can.

Which is another reason why January offers such a perfect opportunity to recommit. And in so doing, reconnect to one’s constructively compassionate heart. Something – some cause, some issue, some programme, some person, inspires breaking out of the bubble of ‘I’ and looking further to the ability to impact another.

Pick one. Whatever the cause, whatever the me issue, whatever the programme, whomever the person, be inspired to break out of the bubble, to make a difference. To commit to a year of support.

One heart. One choice. One stop-order.

In just one moment a year of making a genuine difference is mobilized, making this year one to quietly look upon as one that was lived richly.

Pick one. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2018

THE HEART-GLOW OF THE GIFT OF GIVING


‘Tis the season to be gifting, this time of year filled with shopping, choosing, wrapping, waiting….and then giving. Cards are read, parcels are unwrapped, ribbons fall to the floor as excitement rises. Smiles, hugs, thanks. Onto the next. For millions across the globe, this is the routine inspired by Santa’s sweet surprises, loved ones’ lovely thoughts turned to presents under the glow of Christmas tree lights.

For millions, however, simply being able to sit peacefully for a day, for just a few hours, would be a gift in itself. The ability to shut one’s eyes, breathe in silence, feel safe and warm and loved. It is so easy to forget these souls so deserving of such simple joys.It is so easy for the radius of one’s life to close in.

And then a Christmas miracle happens – an announcement is made that makes one’s heart burst with a wide smile, widening the lens, cracking open a feeling in one’s spirit that “God is watching.” 

The date: December 20th, 2017.

The messenger: the MacArthur Foundation.

The message: 100&CHANGE has awarded the partnership of Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee (IRC), working together in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, its ultimate prize, USD100 million to invest in early childhood education in Syrian refugee children: Sesame Seeds – “the largest early childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yy7z8PUxNDY

Why?

Because displaced refugee children are at risk of profound loss, educationally, emotionally and societally, not to mention spiritually. And because our world’s current crisis of displacement risks destabilising the foundations of not just nations, but generations, both for those displaced and their host nations.

Because by breaking the scared, visible silence of a child, setting them free of toxic stress, the worries of a parent – or guardian for those little ones whose families are lost – are also set free.

Because injecting into a society a mechanism for adoption of those in need, a society’s core strengthened at all levels – family, community, wider society.

Because if anyone can teach a child to not just learn again, but trust, laugh and dream, it’s Elmo.

And, because, survival is not enough.

The gift of this remarkable grant of 100&Change, created by the vision and hearts of a remarkable organisation, The MacArthur Foundation, will touch the lives of tens of millions of those in need, directly and indirectly, with hope, with harmony, with a sense of ‘home’. Importantly, for the global community, it offers an emotionally comfortable and connecting way to care through a programme championed by beloved, Muppet characters hundreds and millions worldwide grew up on, and that still speak to one’s inner child no matter how big we may now be. Because, as stated by David Milliband, President and CEO of IRC, “the refugee crisis is a test of all of us.”

And so, as the new year nears, please, please add to your list of resolutions, placing it right on top of the list, the support of an organisation deserving of your stop-order because of their vision and courage to make a true, sustainable, meaningful, and multiplier-effect difference for our shared world.

Can’t decide which one? Here are three incredible programmes so worthy of the world’s support:

SESAME SEEDS: http://refugee.sesameinternational.org/

MSF SEA: https://www.msf.org.uk/country/mediterranean-search-and-rescue

ZIP ZAP CIRCUS SCHOOL: http://www.zip-zap.co.za/

Pick one, please, and give the gift of hope and security and life. No gift could yield greater heartglow. And Elmo will love you for it.

Happy 2018. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

A PAUSE FOR DESERVED PRAISE AND PRAYER


On Tuesday, November 21st, 2017, the world watched as a nation ruled by fear, unfairness, often near-famine, and fading faith saw its ruler of almost four decades exit the stage. Robert Mugabe declared his resignation as President of Zimbabwe. It was over.

Scenes of ecstatic relief and disbelief immediately transmitted across the world as Parliament’s roof rose from the cries of excitement, tears of joy. It was over.

And now the world watches the ‘What next? Who now?

It is all too easy to look to tomorrow now that today is into its final hours. It is natural. However, there is nothing natural about what happened in Zimbabwe.

To begin with, the ruler, taking office in 1980, President Mugabe stood tall as patron. In the initial years, his care for his people was true to fatherly form – protective, seeking personal well-being for all. His African-nationalist position was firm, his loathing of white colonials clear, unedited in his point of view regarding the historical rulers of his homeland: “The only white man you can trust is a dead white man.”, openly declaring, “Our party must continue to strike fear in the heart of the white man, our real enemy!”

As time passed, however, and faculties dimmed, power and often violent control eclipsed purpose and the once held vision collective good. His reign evolved into a lifetime of leading with self-serving power, inspiring fear and paranoia. Over the last 37 years his iron fist was visible as his dictatorship took hold, seeing, inter alia,:

  • qualified ‘white’ farm owners violently forced from their homes for the sake of ‘black’ ownership, a prelude to liberation,
  • those speaking….or rather whispering…against the lion of the nation being silenced through the stopping of their heart, and
  • the disappearance of opposition a clear statement of cost of voicing conscience.

For over 13,500 days of rule, life was as he dictated – paternalism the shroud that covered his people. Global leaders shook their heads seeing a nation, once rich in natural and human resources, faced starvation of body, mind and spirit. But there was no way for the people of the nation, his nation, to fight back. The power and oppression was drowning of all hope and humanity. His personal and political indulgences were simply to be accepted. Just be quiet and look away.

Which is why the events of the past week are so astounding.

For decades, literally decades, the desire for overthrow has been omnipresent, within and outside the country. But the threat to people, politics and power repeatedly defused any possibility. Only the hand of God seemed to be able to rid Zimbabwe of its aged ruler.

And then, unsuspectingly and non-aggressively, the hand of the Military moved in. After the sudden firing of Vice President Mnangagwa, on November 14th, 2017, tanks move into central Harare, major arteries of the capital blocked, the national broadcaster taken over.

The President is put under house arrest within 24 hours. 72 hours later protests erupt on the streets as the 93 year old President refuses to leave his throne. 24 hours later threats of impeachment linger, with the President standing firm in his rejection of exit, despite his wife and party leaders forming his inner circle being expelled from their shared political party, ZANU PF.

And then, the 21st of November dawns. And statement of resignation is released. It was over. President Mugabe was President no more, the flames of his fiery life of leadership extinguished.

Today, in just hours, the nation’s interim President will be sworn in, the ‘Crocodile’ taking the crown in a peaceful transfer of power, for now. The nation looks forward as the world looks to see how Zimbabwe, under President Mnangagwa, will shape its future.

It would be such a great shame, and do the nation such disservice, however, if the world is to simply look on, knowing it will eventually look away. The past week in Zimbabwe is a profound lesson to the world in decency, civility and humanity. Let us never forget that, as a hurtful, often hateful, leader of 37 years is overthrown, not a shot is fired, not a drop of blood is spilled, not a sheet of glass is broken, not a rock is thrown. Instead of wishing that their oppressive leader hang, or that he spend the rest of his life stripped of his freedom, dignity and safety, the people of Zimbabwe wish he rest. Their leader, their father, is tired. Let him rest.

The courage shown by the people of Zimbabwe in their willingness to openly, visibly and audibly, have their identities and demands revealed, all in a place where one would fear death if exposed, is incredible. The honour with which the transition took place – peacefully, collectively, decently, is exemplary. The people of Zimbabwe deserve the world’s respect and salute.

Is now a time for the world to watch closely the new leadership, new hope, and new possibilities in Zimbabwe? Absolutely.

And it is also the time for the world to pause, in prayer and praise, for the people of Zimbabwe. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

 

 

 

 

NO PHOTOGRAPHS, PLEASE


 

To travel to discover a destination is one thing.

To travel to fulfill a quiet dream is quite another.

We all have our little lists of ‘must see‘s in the world – places near and far where we would one day love to dance, to dine, to take that oh-so-local adventure, find that oh-so-beautiful artwork, to do the daring, and to share ‘I was there’. And then there are those places that quietly whisper in our spirit an enduring wish of ‘how incredible it would be….’ – a place where one’s imagination of what might, just might be, becomes real.

To have these moments come to life, these quiet dreams fulfilled, is to discover true awe. It is an enduring quest of travellers.

Yet pure awe in travel can be so hard to find…..because all too often we are looking so hard to find it.

When one does find it and feel it, however, it is unmistakable – there are no words, there are only tears.

And soon, very soon, the secret to its discovery is revealed: being still, being quiet, and being grateful.

This is where awe is found. This is how travel dreams are fulfilled. Time slows, seconds stretching out to be able to squeeze in as much as possible. Senses seem heightened, sounds and scents dialed up, peripheral vision closes in, the eyes taking in all that is seen as though with a magnifying lens, not a detail overlooked.

How best are these moments preserved? Which device does the best job? Filtered or unfiltered? For sharing on which platform? Friends or all Followers?

None of the above. None will truly do the moments justice.

The only, only essentials of the experience:

Stillness.
Silence.
Gratitude.

 

Such was recently the discovery when finally, finally, a dream to see the sea turtles came to life.

The place: Tortuguero, Costa Rica.

The species: Tortuga Verde (Green Turtle)

The timing: October – end of turtle season, under an almost-full moon.

The encounter: a magnificent est. 30 year old grand lady returning from a journey of thousands of miles to the safe shores of the national park, setting in motion a next generation of ancient life.

The echoes and images: intense.

The photos/videos: none – these great creatures are nocturnal. No photography is permitted. Absolutely none. No exceptions.

Reflecting on the experience, while at first there was sadness to learn from the guides that no cameras, mobile phone or otherwise, were permitted on the beach during the night visit to the turtle nests, in the end it was this absence of devices that made the moments magic. Suddenly, responsibility for the richness of the time shifted from what was in one’s hand to what was in one’s heart. From what one saw in front of them, to what one felt within.

The rules of Mother Nature, and her appointed guardians, are non-negotiable.  The park guides strictly yet sensitively trained to protect the giant sea turtles who have, as a result of man’s hunger for exotic food and souvenirs, put these ancient sources of life that spend their lives migrating across the world’s waterways, into a state of global endangerment. The shame of the situation, and the innate truth that it is us, we who feel entitled to roam and often ruin the world around us, has lit a fire in the turtle guides who reinforce that an encounter with these incredible creatures is a gift, never an expectation. Respect for the great turtle, in one of her most private moments, must, must come first, for as long or short as one’s encounter may last.

Tractor-like tracks on the beach from the night before seed hope that maybe, just maybe, the night ahead will see green turtle return once more. Ledges of sand pressed down along the shoreline, and then pulled almost 100m inland, start the quiet conversation with oneself – inaudible prayers take flight.

But again, there is no guarantee. Mother Nature decides, and quite honestly, does not care about the travel plans of tourists. Her only concern is her precious green turtles.

At last the long-awaited time came: time for a walk to designated stretch of beach, and then a wait……waiting, waiting, and hoping that a silhouette emerges from the water and slowly, cautiously shuffles to a safe nesting spot…..as guides carefully look out for what only their naked eyes would be able to detect, while travellers looked up at a magnificent moon-rise scattering gold-dust on the waters of the Caribbean.

And then a firm whisper breaks the silence: it is time to go see her. No talking. And absolutely no cameras. Seconds tick by slowly, so slowly, nearing the still unseeable beautiful beast. Suddenly all is blurry – the overwhelming intensity of anticipation causing tears to fall.

In the darkness of night with only the glow of the rising moon over our shoulders, and a faint red light over the turtle’s shell as a guide for our vision, tiny movements were evident in a giant dugout of sand. Enormous, yet so vulnerable, she has safely nested in the sand and was ready to lay her eggs. In silence, with only the sound of her legs slowly shifting sand filling the air, guides whisper her entering into a trance – the pain of the process of laying her eggs had begun. One by one, times an estimated 120, her soft-shelled eggs, glowing white like little moons themselves, began to fall from the safety of her protecting body to their sandy, exposed, dangerous new world.

Ssshhhhhhh.

Gathered in a small, tight, limited crowd, onlookers were able to close in to see a cycle of life unfolding. One by one by one, the eggs continued to drop, mooshily stacking one on top of the other, rebuilding their new home until time for their little lives to break through their individual shells.

Unexpectedly, undeniably, the extreme intimacy of the moment – her moment – caused a deep, urgent need to look away…..to shift the soft red light from her tail to her face, to absorb the beauty of her, as she shared this incredible moment with us. Seeing her so closely, her head heavy, her aged eyes teary, her nostrils buried in the sand, she had evolved from being ‘a sea turtle’ to a gentle, graceful sight, her raw, rugged presence making a softly touching connection, unmistakably, to the storybook of, in this case, my life.

Something in those moments, on that beach, with only the sound of the sea gently lapping on the shore in the near-distance, caused a penetration of spirit beyond anything imagined, anything which could be analysed. Any attempt to find words caused child-like tears to flow. The darkness of the night allowed for a safe mask from the eyes of others. ‘Alone’ was desperately needed to be able to take it all in, to not let the emotion run out.

It was a feeling of pure awe.

 

While no more than 180 seconds were spent in each of the two rounds of viewing over the 80 minutes of the experience, the time was timeless. Priceless. With images and emotions of the encounter still so vivid, so real, there is no question about it: the quest to find the perfect photo would have resulted in a complete loss of the perfect memory.

It was a profound learning. And its truth still lingers. Sometimes the best way, the absolute best way, to capture a moment in time is to simply take it in, slowly, deeply, unfiltered, in the moment, allowing each and every single second, each emotion, to embed itself in one’s memory, in one’s personal storybook. These so often simple, subtle occurrences carve lifelong impressions…

A tropical moon rising.

A slow walk into sandy darkness.

A stumble into night nests from nights before.

A teary approach towards an ancient creature creating life.

A fixed stare on the power of Mother Nature.

A whisper of thanks for the blessing of the here & now,

Quickly followed by echoes of appreciation for those who made the dream come to life, more perfectly and profoundly than could ever have been imagined.

Stillness.
Silence.
Gratitude.

Gracias con todo mi corazón, Señor Ministro Ventura y Alejandro. Muchas gracias. x

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

THE DANCE OF DIPLOMACY


 

September. A month in which the world shifts its focus onto the United Nations.

The 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly has commenced in New York. The period of the 12th through to the 25th September brings together literally thousands of diplomats, direct reports, decision makers, donors, delegates and media determined to stay ahead of the issues that form the agenda around which 193 member states unite.

Across the city national flags from across the world splash out their colours, while sirens and blue lights signal VIPs in transit. Mobility is challenged both on the main roads and in the meeting rooms. Getting from A to B whether a place, a policy or a principle, can and does demand careful maneuvering.

It’s all about diplomacy.

To see diplomacy in action is to watch a slow, subtle dance unfold. The steps are ever so carefully choreographed – the movement of a hand, blink of an eye, shift of a shoulder…each a form of communication. Together, apart, together, together, together, apart. Nothing ever stays the same. The tempo of the music, the style of the steps – each and every motion becomes an expression of interests, intentions, intrigue.

For many in the audience, the dance can become frustrating to watch.

Who is leading? Is the follower happy to do so, or actually wanting to be change the song, seeking to lead? Why such hesitation?

Being ever so careful not to step on toes, the dance works its way through. Externally, it appears a graceful management of energy and emotion. Below the surface, however, diplomacy can in fact be an invisible, full body sport.

Such was the case recently when another UN General Assembly took place, this time in the global Travel & Tourism space. The stage: Chengdu, China. The occasion: the 22nd General Assembly of the UNWTO – the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.

Over 1300 global tourism leaders came together to shape a shared future of one of the world’s most important sectors – a sector that is today responsible for 1 in 10 jobs worldwide, 10.2% GDP, 30% Services Exports. The stats are one side of the powerful story. The other: the ability of Travel & Tourism to act as a priceless vehicle for preserving cultures and identities of peoples across the globe, protecting natural environments and communities, and promoting peace through the alchemy of understanding and respect that travelling unlocks.

Over the course of the UNWTO GA week, statutory meetings put the plan of work of the organisation front and centre. Initially meeting by region, the global collective then came together to tackle critical issues of the day. Of highest priority: confirmation of the Secretary General-elect, the individual who would define the course and culture of the organisation for at least the next four years, commencing 01st January, 2018. But this was no usual nominee confirmation process. These were no simple, easily resized shoes to fill.

Who would, who could, possibly succeed one of the finest, wisest and sharpest Secretary Generals that the organisation, perhaps even the UN system, has ever had at the helm? Organisational meaning, momentum and unity were all on the line. Who would be able to smoothly, confidently cut in on, and take over, this critical dance with the same style and substance?

When the time came to confirm the leader charged with the responsibility of leading the organisation, the diplomatic dance took a dramatic twist. The music could not have been more deafening, more penetrating. Intense debate, with unprecedented moves, at times left the dance floor boards close to cracking. The floor that connected one and all started to splinter away. Fatigue, frustration and fury – powerful, deep bass notes muting any trebles trying desperately to break through.

And yet somehow, somehow, a collective rhythm was found. The mental gymnastics spontaneously, diplomatically performed by the outgoing Secretary General to shift individual styles into a line dance of 1300 were exhausting to even watch. With fierce strength of spirit determined not to let the floor fall through, finally, masterfully, a piece of music, a proposed way to move forward, was found. Its chords penetrated people’s hearts, shifting their steps from ‘I’ to ‘we’. It was a United Nations show of truly united nations.

So rightly, so deservedly, as the music stopped, a wave of standing ovation began. Instantly, the thick, heavy heat that had built up in the room was pushed out as fresh, pure air washed through. The music hushed…the tears fell.

Crossing the globe, the steps that will carefully, cautiously, thoughtfully unfold in New York this week will, no doubt, prove to be history-making. Thankfully we have within the global community a few, just a few, masterful dancers of diplomacy who not only understand the steps that need to be choreographed to reach a truly inspired, uniting outcome, they seek to teach them.

Dr Rifai, please take a bow.

 

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017