Monday, April 18, 2011

Two Tales of Tutu

What a lovely exchange after my Blog Post yesterday (for those of you who can see it on FaceBook) so many great and interesting perspectives from Jackie and Krissy and Caileen and Fiona - thank you all.

Fiona's post took me down memory lane for a little stroll.  Before I take you there, I want to say that Fiona (or Fi as we called when we were allowed to not call her Mrs.Bulman) and her husband Rod have been family friends for almost 30 years (oh my goodness this cannot be true can it???).  They have 2 beautiful daughters Rosemary and Sarah (aka Rosie and Bear) who were like little sisters to my sister and I and were the flower girls at my wedding (if only I knew how to scan a photo of them in here.... Rosie did me the honor of wearing a dress which was a BIG deal for her!).  Rod and Fi lived on a Seminary Campus in the middle of a black township called Imbali outside of Pietermaritzburg.  My Mom ran the preschool there and Rosie was one of the first children enrolled and to this day she calls my Mom "Teacher Lesley".

During the terrible turmoil of the 80's as the political situation went sideways Rod and Fi would often send the girls to stay with us (in our relatively safe white suburb) and made my parents the girls guardians.  Rod and Fi stayed put on the Seminary campus in solidarity with their colleagues and friends.  Fi and I share the story of both being arrested on the same day in a student protest at the University I attended and Fi taught at.  I remember seeing Fi (or rather Fi seeing me) in the holding hall at the police headquarters and I can still hear her voice saying "Does your Mother know where you are?" (She did not... but that is a whole other story!!) I love FB for connecting us back to all 4 Bulmans - the girls are married and Sarah just had a baby!!

Anyway.... Fi wrote this about my blog in "Names" yesterday......

Hi Nicky - must comment on your "names" thoughts. One of the most profound moments in my life - and seminal in the development of my political position in the 80s was when Desmond Tutu spoke at the Fedsem graduation and he spoke directly to those men and (a few) women whowere graduating and going on into parishes. He said "You must stand at the door of that church each Sunday and greet everyone who comes through the door by name - because that may be the only time during the week that that person is acknowledged by their name." Our names are so central to our identity and our sense of being, belonging and being valued.

I too have a Tutu Tale to Tell...... sorry ...... I couldn't resist the alliteration (english geek!).  If you are not familiar with "The Toots" (trust me when I tell you he may be an Archbishop and an Elder and a Nobel Peace Prize winner but he would love to be called The Toots - I can see him laughing now!!) read his bio here and be amazed!  You have to see his smile so just go will be inspired.

Being the daughter of anti-apartheid activists as I was (see aforementioned arrest ;) I was a huge fan of  Desmond Tutu and his stand for justice and peace in South Africa.  So when I heard he was coming to a conference, arranged by my Dad's organisation and in my hometown, I volunteered to help.  I took quite a bit of flack at school for The Toots.....principled stands do not make friends of all people, especially not of those who stand to lose something in order for justice to be served. 

I showed up for one of my volunteer shifts with high hopes of seeing the Archbishop and maybe hearing him give a speech.  One of the organizers asked if I could please take a cup of tea to a delegate who was in an office down the hall.  Slightly disappointed to be a tea bearer I headed down there (I was a well mannered young lady).  I came into the office  and saw the back of the diminutive Archbishop who was, at that moment, singing to his wife Leah on the phone.  To my credit I didn't drop the tea!  He asked Leah to hold on and took the tea from me and thanked me so much for my kindness.  I stammered "You're welcome" and left him to chat to his wife.

I was on cloud 9 - I had served Desmond Tutu tea!

I was standing at a table helping out when he came  down the hallway tea cup in hand.  The organiser took him aside and then called me over.  My heart was thumping.  Then Garnet Venn said to Desmond Tutu "This young lady has been taking a bit of heat for you at school Archbishop (Garnet'sdaughter was in my class) and I know she would like to meet you properly". The  Archbishop put down his tea cup and came over to me and gave me a huge bear hug and said "Oh dear, the things I do to my friends, I sincerely apologise".  I hugged him back and told him "It is my privelege to stand up for you Sir because you stand for what I believe".  Desmond looked at Garnet and said "My friend, our future will be ok, the next generation will show us the way!".

One of the Top 10 days of my life!

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