We may create these artificial boundaries between ourselves, but we are all here. I think it’s just a reminder to people that we live on one Earth. The impact is felt by all of us. If we’re gonna move forward and succeed, we’ve got to create room for all of us to collaborate.

Mpumelelo Ncwadi

Reflections of Life produces gorgeous short films that uplift the personal stories of ordinary people, with the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change. We feel hugely blessed to feature video-stories that filmmakers Michael and Justine capture with exquisite expertise, and which so beautifully illustrate grateful living principles and practices. In this short film we hear from Mpumelelo Ncwadi.

Learn more about Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance) through our Grateful Changemaker feature.

Questions for Reflection

  • What feelings/thoughts/questions surface for you in viewing Mpumelelo’s story?
  • How does Mpumelelo’s story move you?

We invite you to share your reflections below the video transcript that follows.

Video Transcript

Right now we live in a very, very uncertain world. What we’ve always considered to be normal is no longer normal. Covid moved the point of equilibrium. If we’re going to cope with that new normal, we’ve got to adapt. It’s easy to be lost in the maze.

My father used to say, “Ningabophila ubomi benu emphefumlweni ngokujonga abamelwane benu ukuba bakhangeleka njani ngaphandle.” You should never live your internal life based on the outward appearance of your neighbors. We do things based on the values and what other people are doing. And we are off track, right there and then. You know, we take wrong paths. You just have to be prepared to have a bit of courage to look for the right path. And having the persistence to find what is right. 

There are many lessons in nature about how to build our individual resilience. When you look at how fynbos can go through fire and rise up again. That fire allows seeds that have been buried to now open up so that they can thrive. And to see that landscape green after all the fire destroyed it, it’s a constant reminder to us as human beings…we might feel like we are devastated by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but there remains inside us things that will let us rise up again. There are bad things that are going to happen, but out of this goodness can come. 

When we experience pain and when we experience suffering and when we experience a setback, they just remind us that there is a part of us that is strong. If we are anchored by our values, if you are surrounded by a community that supports you, and you do things that are aligned with your own purpose, you’ll be able to grow taller.

I think all of us, when we are faced with hard times, trying circumstances, we need to grow a positive spirit, that we can survive and thrive. Nature can give us hope, provided we are willing to learn the kind of lessons that it teaches us. And of course, I don’t think you can learn from an environment from which you are not immersed. 

Covid reminds us that we are all connected. When we suffer, we suffer equally. The virus doesn’t have any boundaries, it doesn’t know hierarchies. Whether I’m in the Philippines or I’m in the U.S. or I’m in Africa, I’m impacted the same way. 

We may create these artificial boundaries between ourselves, but we are all here. I think it’s just a reminder to people that we live on one Earth. The impact is felt by all of us. If we’re gonna move forward and succeed, we’ve got to create room for all of us to collaborate. If we don’t collaborate, we’re most likely to fail together as a society.

It’s easy to be wrapped around ourselves, the spirit of self…I’m important, other things are not and other people are not. You’re part of a bigger society, you’re part of a bigger community, you live amongst people, and when you find yourself vulnerable, you need the support of other people. One of the guiding principles, which I think is a good guiding principle, comes from this book Life of Pi. It says, “There can be no greatness without goodness.” If I as a person want to get further, I’ve got to bring a lot of people along with me, so I’ve got a responsibility to do good things. 

To be human…it means to understand that we’ve got a responsibility to be good, to yourself and to the people around you. The little quote that I keep going back to, it comes from mam’u Charlotte Maxeke: “This work is not for yourself. Kill that spirit of self. If you can rise, bring somebody with you.”

To support Michael and Justine in their film-making journey, visit Reflections of Life.

Reflections of Life

Reflections of Life

About the author

Justine and Michael are a creative couple living in South Africa.  Their project, Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance), works to spread positive stories that reflect the wonder of the world. With the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change, they produce gorgeous short films that are posted online and available for anyone, anywhere, to watch and share freely.


Through their films, they explore what it means to be human. They touch on topics that can often be difficult for people to discuss – from loss of a loved one to aging and retirement to friendship to love and courage – universal themes that we all deal with at some stage in our lives.


By sharing these stories, Justine and Michael hope to remind us of one simple truth – that we are all human – that inside our hearts and minds, we are all facing similar challenges.  We have so much to learn from each other, and our connections run so much deeper and stronger than we think. Learn more and support their work at reflectionsof.life.