Find Your Own Garden

A year ago, I was in South Africa with 15 amazing people working on a project to provide a drop-in centre for vulnerable children in a remote part of the country.

It was a life-changing trip, in many, many ways, and I obviously have hundreds of unforgettable memories as a result. One of the first things we did after arriving in Johannesburg was to take a tour of the city, which included a visit to the Apartheid Museum. It is utterly brilliant, and you must go if you ever get the chance.

When we visited, we were lucky enough to see a special exhibition celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela called “From Prisoner to President”. For obvious reasons, Mandela feels ever-present in modern day South Africa … and our trip led me to re-read both the Mandela books I own.

His autobiography, ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, is amazing … but it’s also a big commitment at 700+ pages. The only problem I have with it is that Mandela is so humble, you feel like he is sometimes underplaying his own importance in events.

‘Long Walk’ was written with the assistance of Richard Stengel, who used his time with Mandela to write another book, called ‘Nelson Mandela: Portrait of an Extraordinary Man’. This gives us a much more detailed look at Mandela himself, rather than the events that he was involved with. The list of chapter titles reads something like a ‘how to’ of personal development … Chapter 1 is titled ‘Courage is not the absence of fear’ … Chapter 3 is ‘Lead from the front’, while chapter 4 is called ‘Lead from the back’ … ‘Know when to say no’ is the tenth chapter, and so it goes on …

I’m torn between two favourite chapters. Number 12 is ‘Love makes the difference’, but I think my favourite is the final chapter, called ‘Find Your Own Garden’. It took years of patient work, but when he was a prisoner Mandela had a thriving vegetable garden that became a way for him to separate himself from all his other struggles. The garden “was not a place of retreat but of renewal,” says Stengel. “Each of us needs something away from the world that gives us pleasure and satisfaction, a place apart.”

Do you have a ‘garden’, a place where you can leave your challenges behind for a while? If so, how healthy is it? Are you spending enough time there?

And if you don’t have a garden, perhaps you need to find one?


Weekly [digital] email to help navigate the [analogue] world …

Weekly [digital] email to help navigate the [analogue] world …