This I believe
Reflection on what I believe lead me to my parent’s door or perhaps I should say doors, for in the years of my childhood we knew many doors to many houses.
My parents were born in apartheid South Africa, the product of generations of Afrikaaners. My father was a history professor his father a railway guard on South African Railway. My mother was a teacher and her father a prison guard. My father obtained a PHd and taught history at the only all black university in Africa at that time. It was attended by Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and other notables on the political scene. When the national government took over the university and fired him, my father left to support a wife and two young children , went to Oxford university where he obtained a second PHd. Later, when my parents had the opportunity to emigrate to Canada they embraced the chance of a new beginning. Without fanfare they returned to South Africa, packed up twenty five crates and left their homeland and their families to start a new life on the frigid prairies of Alberta in the winter of 1967.
We lived in South Africa, England, Wales and Canada and my childhood was a kaleidoscope of landscapes, cultures, but most importantly people – people of all shapes, sizes, colors, dispositions and beliefs – all treated with respect and dignity. My brother and I were never lectured on this, there simple was an understanding. The closest time I recall to any type of discussion, was when we had guests visiting from South Africa. We attended a tour and they informed me they didn’t wish to be a part of a tour which included ‘blacks’. I remember that evening telling my mother of this and she brushed it off impatiently saying –“Well, that’s just silly”, and that was the end of the discussion.
We were never wealthy, but as children we didn’t know that. We were taught the value of a good book, a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, a rocky mountain etched against a blue Alberta sky, a garden lovingly tended.Years passed, two children were raised, cancer was battled and beaten, and many friendships forged on several continents. On reflection, my parents believed in human dignity, compassion and self sacrifice. As a physician I try to emulate their example hard though it may be, because it is in this that I also believe.