Thursday, September 16, 2021
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Ian Walton

Small Things: Mother Teresa and Mandela’s Rugby Jersey

Small things often have a massive impact.

I’m thinking of that key that opens an important door, a switch that sets off some huge machine, a microscopic antibody that saves a whole community, the  fertilised egg cell that became YOU.  Small things with great impact.

In 1952 Mother Teresa established a Home for the Dying in an old abandoned temple on the streets of Calcutta.  When local Hindu priests heard that these missionaries had taken up residence in their neighborhood, they went to the local authorities to try and force them to leave.  Amidst ongoing opposition from these nearby Hindu temples,  Mother Teresa heard that one of the Hindu priests had contracted a fatal strain of TB and was very close to dying.  Because the illness was untreatable, he had been denied one of the beds in the overcrowded city hospital.  So Mother Teresa brought him to the Home for the Dying.  She cared for him personally until the day he passed away.  And when that day came, she and the other missionaries carried his body back to his temple for the appropriate Hindu burial rites.  Needless to say, the opposition from the Hindu temples in Calcutta stopped after that.   Sixty years later the Home for the Dying is still in operation, and is still in the same little converted temple building. It  has housed and loved thousands upon thousands of  dying widows, orphans and forgotten people who nobody else cared about.

Small Woman.   Small daily acts of kindness. Great impact.

Here in Africa, millions of us are currently remembering and reflecting on the very special life of Nelson Mandela, as he continues to fight for it in hospital.  He recently turned 95, and that number calls to my mind one of the truly great things the leader did with a very small but symbolic and controversial act:  He appeared before a massive worldwide audience wearing the green-and-gold jersey of the previously ‘whites only’ Springboks at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg.  This was a powerful statement that ‘One Team, One Country’, was for real.  It also symbolically represented what he had spent the previous year (his first year as President of South Africa) trying to move a racially divided and hurting country towards – forgiveness and reconciliation.



The Springboks won the World Cup that incredible afternoon – Mandela, still wearing his Springbok gear, handed the cup to the Captain (Francois Pienaar), saying with his big grin: ‘Thank you very much for what you have done for our country.’

‘Mr President,’ replied Pienaar, ‘it is nothing compared to what you have done for our country.’

Small things with great impact.

God can take our small offerings of generosity or grace or talent and turn them into something that has a massive effect on the world around us.  I love the way the mighty little nun of Calcutta put it:


Celebrity Status Special Edition for Father’s Day: Neville D and Sean Simmonds

This Father’s Day 2 successful artists – one from South Africa and one from Canada – share something of their own experiences of fatherhood with us.

Introducing Sean Simmonds and Neville D.




Men on a mission, passionate about music, family and God.




Brain-frying Optical Illusions!


What we see is not necessarily what is actually there.

Nature and physics beautifully demonstrate this in all sorts of fascinating ways  – but one of the most interesting for me has to be the good old Optical Illusion.  Here are some of my favourites:



Each of the graphics above is static and yet to all of us viewing them – they move or change in some way as we look at them.



The guys in the sketch above are staring at 2 different things, right?

Nope – block out the faces and you realize that the eyes are exactly the same in both drawings


Stare at these weird-coloured fruits for half a minute.  Now look at a blank white piece of paper or wall.


And while we’re messing with our perception of colour… the squares marked A and B in the above image are both EXACTLY the same shade of grey.

 No ways, right?

I didn’t believe it either until I  blocked off the other squares with my fingers!



People or Pillars?


Which figure is bigger?   Perspective tells most of us that the one at the back is… but they are exactly the same.


Despite what they look like, the horizontal lines in the image below are all parallel.  Go ahead, put your ruler on the screen to check…!  🙂


And these are all perfect circles.


OK…stare at the cross in the middle for 30 seconds.  You’ll notice that some of the pink dots start disappearing.  And if you’re patient enough, you’ll see a whole new set of dots – in green!


And probably my absolute favourite…

Which way is the cat spinning, clockwise or anticlockwise?    Now ask other people – you’ll find some of them will say exactly the opposite to you!  And right there you have a fascinating demonstration of how we all see the same thing with different perspectives.    No wonder humans disagree so often!


Finally – a short video clip by a professor who demonstrates powerfully how deceptive our limited perspective can be.  Wow!



The ‘deeper’ message of this post is simple:  the perspective or point of view from which we perceive something distorts our “truth”. Optical Illusions are a powerful visual reminder to all of us that we always only see in part.   Thankfully, getting to know God  helps us to start to see things – and people –  as He sees them.

We hope you had fun with these, I certainly did.   Share them with your friends…

And please post some more Optical Illusions on our 1Africa Facebook Page for us all to enjoy!


The World is flat

You may have heard recent news about Nick D’Aloisio, a 17 year old boy who just finalized a 30 million US Dollar deal with Yahoo who are buying his Summly App.

He developed this clever web application in his parents’ London home at the age of 15.  Wow!  Understandably, Yahoo is buying himtoo – the deal includes a lucrative 18 month Yahoo employment contract for him and his small team.

Stories like this are common – and getting more frequent.   For me, one of the things they highlight is that the world no longer built solely on age and stage, education and hierarchy.  Rather than paying attention to the social standing of their originators, the world is looking at the ideas, products and movements themselves.

In a similar vein, almost anyone is now able to have a global voice.  Look at what I’m doing right now – the fact that anyone can publish their thoughts, ideas, art, etc and make it accessible to anyone around the world without paying a cent (except for a connection) is amazing.  Right now, there are millions of people sharing visual media, news and thoughts with their Facebook ‘friends’ and on the dozens of other social media platforms.  400 Million tweets will fly out across the world today. In the next 60 seconds,  at least 700000 people will search for something on Google. What we read in newspapers today was yesterday’s news on social media. Gone are the days when the giant news agencies and secretive governments hold the power of information.  You hold the power of information.

Connectivity is changing the landscape.  The World is flat.  No longer is it all about being in the top position, or knowing the most powerful people, or having been around for the longest time.  The oldest and most qualified and loudest voices are no longer necessarily the ones being heard.

There is great opportunity in a flat world.


No longer do you need to be given the chance to share your thoughts and ideas – you have the chance now.  No longer do you need to wait until it’s your turn to take the ‘next step up the ladder’ – make you own ladder.

9/11 Perspective

Some of the most captivating stories from the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the USA were recounted by the many firefighters who served and saved the lives of hundreds of people working in the World Trade Center buildings that fateful day.

I was reminded of one of them last week, in which a chief fireman and his team risked their lives by daringly using one of the smoke-filled elevators to get to some of the citizens on the higher floors.  He recounts how they forced the doors open into the noisy chaos of an investment firm about mid-way up the burning building.   Most people were trying to make their way to the emergency stairs, clutching their bags and using their jackets or scarves as makeshift masks against the fumes.  His team quickly moved in to direct everyone to the nearest exit, urging them not to panic.

And then he recalls a moment he will surely never forget.

New York Fire Fighter

A young businessman was still sitting in one of the cubicles frantically punching away at his keyboard – obviously trying to close some big financial deal before leaving.  The fire chief quickly shouted and beckoned towards the man, instructing him to head for the exit immediately.  The broker turned around briefly, clearly irritated, and shouted back something to the effect that he was coming but just needed to finish something first.  “Sir, you must leave now!” the fire chief screamed even more emphatically.  This time the man didn’t even turn around, he just waved him away in annoyance and carried on working.  The fire chief tells sadly how he just had to leave him there and move on to help someone else.

With a bit of perspective – even 200 meters of it – the young man at his desk would have made a very different decision in that moment.  With the benefit of perspective, he would have seen jet fuel flames billowing through this giant building above and below where his little office was.  He would have seen a second plane filled with praying passengers about to smash into the South Tower just a short distance away.  He would have seen screaming people hanging out of melting windows a few floors below him, desperate to escape the flames that were about to rage through the floor he was on too.  He might have even somehow sensed that in less than 15 minutes, the entire 500 000 ton building was going to come crashing down on to the terrified streets of New York.   But that young man’s perspective was very limited that morning.  Needless to say, he was one of the thousands of people whose lives were lost that terrible day.

Perspective. I lose it easily.  I know that often I am that young man punching away frantically at what I think is a very important task, eyes down, stressing over things which I can’t control or can’t let go of.  But missing perspective.  Dangerous.  Reminds me of the story Jesus told about a super rich guy who had worked so hard to gain so many possessions (could also be knowledge, popularity, experiences, money) that he needed to make giant barns to store everything in.  As he finally felt he could relax and enjoy the benefits of his accumulated wealth, God says these haunting words to him: “Fool! This very night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?  So is the one who lays up treasures for himself and is not rich towards God”.

Twin Towers Burning

As I stare again at some of the famous, haunting images of the burning towers, I picture that man at his computer again, doing his ‘very important’ task.  He wasn’t stupid, or bad.  He just really lacked perspective.  And so I am reminded to think beyond what consumes me today. To look up and see what’s really important in my life right now.  To listen up for the voice of Someone calling out to me.

To ask for His perspective so that I can stay fully alive.

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