Inspiring examples

2009-03-18 00:00

Newspapers must so often focus on stories detailing the worst aspects of human nature, that yesterday’s Witness came as a pleasant surprise. In its pages were three shining examples of the human spirit at its finest — brave, selfless, determined to overcome great odds in pursuit of a higher goal.

First was the report of 67-year-old Vince Knott who, seeing a woman struggling with three armed men at the roadside in the Umkomaas Valley, did not — as he was legally entitled to do — “pass by on the other side”, but stopped and intervened at some risk to himself: a shot was fired at him. Unable to prevent the attack and the theft of her car, he called the police, who arrested three men and rescued the woman, who had been raped and injured. Knott matter-of-factly dismissed the idea that he was a hero: had that been his wife or daughter, he said, he hoped someone would do the same for them.

Second was the story of the sentencing of the men who attacked Jessica Foord and her father last year in Hillcrest. Most victims of rape, especially gang rape, choose anonymity, and, in mortal fear, turn inward away from society. Foord, however, has chosen to take control by speaking out openly about the appalling experience, by engaging fully in therapy to help herself through the post-traumatic stress, and by mounting a crusade in support of rape victims. May the outcome of the trial give her and her father some closure, and may her reaching out to others in this courageous way assist her own healing process.

Third was the feature article about Abigail Ntleko, born the 12th of 13 children in 1934, who, after some years of herding cattle, decided she wanted an education and, in defiance of her father, entered school at 14. At 18 she ran away from home, working as a domestic to finance her schooling and, at 30, beginning nursing training. In 1968, she joined the government Health Department, and was eventually posted to Underberg where she set up mobile clinics and motivated for a permanent clinic. She required a matric before she could train as a community nurse, so obtained that, did the course and qualified at 58. Then, impelled by the growing prevalence of HIV/Aids, she began actively spreading the word about transmission of the virus, and herself housed a dozen Aids orphans. An article by her in an Underberg newspaper moved an American visitor to raise funds and to purchase a smallholding in the area. The house, now known as Clouds of Hope, is home to many orphaned children. At 75, Ntleko is still joyously active, still grateful to the mentors she admired and strove to emulate, still looking forward eagerly to the next step in her journey. She travels to the United States next month to accept the Wise Giving organisation’s Unsung Hero award from the hands of the Dalai Lama.

These inspiring stories of human goodness happen to have come to public attention. Perhaps more inspiring is to reflect that among us live many more extraordinary people, quiet sources of compassion and practical kindness, of courage and selflessness, bent on overcoming difficulties standing in the way of noble goals.

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