Wednesday 19th January, 2005


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By Dr Anna Mahase, chief assessor

A sugarcake may save a Life. One day in a small store in Curepe, two young gangsters entered suddenly and held up the people inside. One of the shoppers, an old lady, was so frightened that she started to hyperventilate. At that, one of the bandits drew a stool forward and said kindly, “Don't frighten, Granny. Come sit down and catch yourself. We ent goin’ hurt you.”

The other bandit, however; growled angrily,“Speak for yourself. Me ent have no granmudder.”

Which of these two young men had clearly known kindness at some time in his life?

He obviously had happy memories of a grandmother - and, most probably, of the sugarcake which she used to make. Her influence was still with him and, although he had become a bandit, it prevented him from developing the depravity and callousness which a life of crime could cause.

What kind of influence was the other bandit subjected to? Who was so cruel to him in childhood that he had become calloused and pitiless even towards a harmless old woman?

“Me ent have no granmudder” - what a sad admission of childhood deprivation! Clearly one of these young men is redeemable!

Our behaviour today is largely driven by influences that go back to our earliest years. The young child is bombarded by many, many influences. He cannot discriminate-between them and, therefore, just accepts everything as what IS. So he absorbs all influences, good and bad. Later in life, voices in his head direct much of his behaviour, both positively and negatively. He thinks he's just hearing his own thoughts and reactions, but if he listens carefully he will recognise that many of the voices are not his own.

This relates directly to you, because if you are to succeed, it is important for you to understand how the mind works. Too many people are prevented from achieving their full potential because they listen to voices within telling there that they CAN'T - they don't have the ability, or the time isn’t right, or remember how they failed in some past venture or someone else is more capable or bright or deserving. The list is endless. These voices come from negative or over-anxious parents, people who criticise constantly or instil fear, the memory of past failures, and they have the power to deflate a person's sense of self-worth and ability to achieve.

The great discovery is to realise that you can defeat the negative voices that echo in your heads by conscious effort. Pay attention to the thoughts running through you mind. Are they uplifting, encouraging you to dream, to accomplish, to believe in yourselves? Hold on to these, nourish them. On the other hand, are they discouraging, full of fear and uncertainty, unwilling to venture forth? Wipe these out of your mind. Every time a negative thought comes, replace it with a positive one. You are now old enough to do this consciously and can reverse the influence of early years. Once you are conscious of how your mind is working, you CAN reshape yourselves by developing new ways of thinking and believing. The time to start is now, in your youth, while your minds are still fresh.

Now I must warm you that reorganising yourself takes effort - it's so easy to stay just where you are and how you are. Often, people excuse themselves from dreaming big dreams and making the effort with,“I couldn't possibly do that or be that! What power can only one person have?”

Ask Mahatma Gandhi that question, ask Martin Luther King, Julius Caesar, Napoleon and a host of others. They will give you the quick answer: mankind has always been profoundly affected by single individuals who called upon the power within to influence and change what they saw needed to be changed. And they stated with themselves.

An old African proverb says, “Each man is ruled by a special spirit. However, if he says, 'Yes!' powerfully enough, the spirit will also say, ‘Yes’” Character is destiny.

Closer to home, you have the positive influence of role models, such as, George BovelI III, Brian Lara, Ato Boldon, Wendy Fitzwilliam and Michael Phillips. They have all turned their attention to young people, visiting schools and uplifting the spirits and ambitions of the students. In the case of Wendy Fitzwilliam, she has called both national and international attention to our local HIV-Aids children, which has benefited them enormously. Here, our local heroes have used the power of their influence for good and to encourage others to achieve as they have achieved.

Dwayne Bravo, our exciting new Test cricketer, attributes his success to Brian Lara.

When Dwayne was experiencing difficulties some time ago, Brian took him aside and spoke encouragingly to him, uplifting his spirit and making him feel that he could achieve great things. This was the world’s double record-holder speaking, an influential man in the world of cricket.

Dwayne keeps Brian Lara's positive voice running through his head and today is performing exceptionally.

You stand at the crossroads of life now and which way you jump depends heavily on you. You can no longer blame bad homes or past failures, because you are old enough to control the workings of your own minds. You can also listen to wise advice. For instance, you are often advised to keep "good" company.

Why? Because the company you keep influences you in both obvious and subtle ways. Keeping good company means that you can influence each other in positive ways, but when you play with the dogs you get bitten by the fleas!

Above all, keep the faith. When you put God into the situation, wonderful things take place. I wish you all the very best. Thank you.




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