As my wife, Ruth, and I continue preparing for our relocation from Cape Town to the UK in early March, via an extended stay at Sunrise Ranch in Colorado, and as the time fast approaches for our departure, I realise what an enormous cycle this has been for me.
In the sorting and packing of possessions, deciding what I want to take with me while considering what is redundant stuff that I’ve held on to over the years (you never know when you might need it), the memories flow thick and fast! Old 35mm photographic slides showing something of my life in Kenya in the early 50s; a book that I received as a first prize in an inter-school drama competition in 1964; a black-and-white photo of the Fourways Johannesburg EDL community from the early 80s; and tools that were part of my survival kit when I undertook a solo safari into the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana in the late 90s.
What an incredible cycle it’s been, chock-full of beauty, challenge, growth and learning—a very different life to the one I might have had if my parents had not answered the call they heard to take a step into the unknown and take a chance in wildest Africa! Certainly, my early life on this continent was a mix of extremes—from exhilarating excitement to abject loneliness and depression. But, in looking back, I feel deeply thankful for it all and know that my soul has been well nourished and exercised.
I know that what makes it all meaningful to me now is the depth of gratitude I feel for the innumerable gifts I have received, including many that were less welcome at the time. In the process of sorting papers I came across this piece that I wrote a few years ago:
It takes courage to embrace the pain and adversity that our life sometimes brings us. We can’t expect to live out our lives without something of that experience—it’s part of the territory of being human. To be whole people who create a whole world, our ability to be thankful in the midst of whatever is happening for us is a crucial ingredient in the creative change that can happen through the way we handle our circumstances. To maintain an attitude of gratitude, no matter what, takes courage. To not slide into a state of victimhood in the face of that which might seem to be unjust or unfair takes strength of character and an understanding that we live in a caring and abundant universe, no matter what human nature factors might be suggesting otherwise. We make a positive difference in our world to the degree that we remember who we are as creator beings and know that every circumstance, just as it is, provides opportunity for transformation—of ourselves and of our worlds.
Today, 7th February, is exactly one month from our upcoming departure date. The intervening years between my original arrival in Africa in 1952 and now seem so fleeting, so brief, and yet so full —like I’ve lived more than just one life in that space of time.
As I stand at a new threshold, I do not take for granted what and who played their part in the life I have lived and, standing shoulder to shoulder with Ruth, I welcome whatever the next cycle will reveal and give deep thanks for everything that brought me to this moment.
PHIL RICHARDSON is an international speaker and teacher who invites people to reconnect with their deeper innate spiritual awareness and to bring that awareness into their everyday lives.