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By: Kgabo Chuene

In South Africa we have a lot of tangible issues, like hunger for which we solve, sometimes temporarily by giving food to the hungry. There’s HIVAids for which we also manage by providing ARVs. These are all important and necessary. I however think that a lasting investment is one that can be carried everywhere. The things we believe about ourselves, the things we believe about our environment and our place in it.

In a lesson the other day, my teacher was teaching us improvisation. Improvisation in music is to invent, compose, or perform with little or no preparation, to make do with whatever materials are at hand. He asked me what I do when I improvise and I shyly admitted that I have always learnt beforehand what to do in my solos. He went on to say that improvisation is like having a tool box. The way you pack your tool box up is through a lot of practise. Practising elements of music until you know it inside and out, only then can you have it in your tool box and take it out when you need it.

I think life is much the same. We go through things and take away lessons which we put into our tool boxes. The biggest investment for the youth I believe is making sure we have a youth with overflowing tool boxes. A youth that is able to express efficiently what they are thinking as well as how they want to contribute to the improvement of this world. Young people are powerful beyond measure. History tells us this. People who have brought the biggest change in humanity were young people. When the youth speaks, people listen.

An element that we can add to all our tool boxes is “the art of asking”. I listen to a lot of Ted Talks and one of my favourites is by Amanda Palmer, she is a rather alternative creative. She spoke on the art of asking. She basically makes art and makes it available for free download online and accepts any donations for her work. Think about this, instead of having a CD that costs R150 she might have a listener who is so taken by her work that they want to offer more. She’s a millionaire now.  Asking puts one at a better position regardless of what the answer is. It takes courage to be vocal about ones desires and the actual need for other people, so not only are we learning to deal with rejection, we’re also putting ourselves out there. When things come up, people remember those who’ve shown interest and did something about it.

We can teach the youth about the treasure that is being hungry for knowledge. We can do this by further cultivating a culture of reading and listening. Reading everything, from novels to newspapers and listening especially to people who have walked the path you’re trying to walk or something close if you believe you’re carving a new path. Young people can have a sense of wanting to figure things out alone, that’s not necessarily bad, but it helps to learn from the mistakes of others sometimes. As an aspiring musician it helps me to read about the life journeys of established musicians as well as their professional journeys.

Another thing we can all add to our tool boxes is that it’s okay to not fit boxes. I have a gay friend and in one conversation I had with him, we were talking about how coming out has been. He said that he had realised that in many ways it felt like he had just left one box only to fit another. He’s had to fight stereotypes like people assuming that just because he’s gay then that means that he enjoys shopping or painting nails. People process this way, people want to associate things and people with things they’re familiar with, we all do it. So we are to an extent conditioned to freak out when we discover things about ourselves that we can’t relate to something we know. It is okay to walk out new discoveries about ourselves without having it all figured out, at the end of the day, we are all winging this life thing.

There’s a lot of “practice” we can fill our tool boxes with, the point I’m making is that if we equip the youth with things no one can take from us, we can thrive in any environment and we are more able to adjust to the changes that life serves us and more able to deal with challenges.

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