By William Ernest Henry
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
The recent movie Invictus was just released and I had a chance to go see it on opening day. The movie is based in South Africa during the 1995 Rugby World Cup. I was fortunate to be there for that very monumental time in that country’s history. I have a deep love for South Africa. I have had the privilege to return twice to visit. However, it has been over ten years since I have been back to visit and it has been far too long. I have kept up on the latest news from there and I still feel very much connected to that great country.
Melissa and I watched the movie together. I was sporting my Springboks Rugby jersey and green South Africa hat. I’m a nerd, I know, but it was fun. As we watched the movie, I felt as if though I was taken back 14 years to that very time and as if I was there witnessing all of those things for the first time. Several times during the movie I would lean over to Melissa and tell her that I had been on that very sidewalk in front of the Union Building in Pretoria, or in the Ellis Park Stadium, or in the townships, and on and on. I’m sure she was sick of me interrupting her during the movie, but she was a good sport and I appreciate her for putting up with me.
The story that was told was that of overcoming difficulties and rising above expectations. As I watched, there were a couple of times that were somewhat emotional for me. As my eyes became “moist” during different points of the movie I couldn’t help but think that most people that have no connection to South Africa would not understand why I would be close to tears. The emotions came flooding back because of the experiences I had like getting drenched in more than one African rainstorm, or walking down the busy streets of Johannesburg, or watching the wild animals of the bush veld in Kruger Park. I have very fond memories of the many people that I met there, from the township kids to the famous S.A. Golfer Gary Player and everyone in between. The languages, the foods, the customs and cultures, the struggles and achievements that took place after Apartheid are all separate significant pieces of my soul that I hold very closely and care deeply about.
I remember watching that final match, South Africa vs. New Zealand. I remember the hope that everyone had developed. White, Blacks, Coloured, and Indians were so excited to see their team beat all of the odds and advance to the final match. During the match, the streets were empty. The nation was gripped by what was happening at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg. I had the opportunity to watch the match with an Afrikaner family that lived down the street from us in Kempton Park. As the game was tied going into the extra time period, everyone was so hopeful for a victory. The Springboks had a great defensive effort and held the All Blacks from running away with the lead and now it was TIED!!! When Joel Stransky was in a perfect place to drop kick the winning goal and time ran out shortly thereafter, the entire country erupted. I remember going outside and everyone started running around, hugging, singing, dancing, partying, and looking past all of the things of the past that divided the people of the old South Africa. The party seemed to carry on for days. The effects of the Springboks winning drew everyone to a common sense of pride in the nation.
Just as the poem states that, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul”, I think of how many things I can overcome and exceed my own expectations. I hope that I never forget those things that I learned while in South Africa. I hope that I can return to visit and gain more of those experiences and strengthen my friendships of those that I know who live in the country I love as my second home. VIVA SOUTH AFRICA!!!