The Covid-19 pandemic has destroyed the dreams and aspirations of many people, including the boys at school who have lost out on their matric year, and the chance to play in the sporting first teams, but the world has not ended and there are many opportunities and challenges to embrace.
That was the message from old boy Victor Vermeulen when he addressed the grade 11s and 12s on at the school on Tuesday. “You can choose to feel sorry for yourself and tell everyone what you would have achieved if only it wasn’t for Covid,” he said, “or you can be grateful for what you have gained out of the experience and concentrate on what you can do to emerge stronger from it.”
Victor uses his own tragic life story – he was paralysed from the neck down in a diving accident at the age of 19 when he had the sporting world at his feet – as an inspiration to those he talks to. “I had two choices, I could sit in my wheelchair and feel sorry for myself, or I could choose to be positive and do the things that I could still do,” he said.
So, he took up painting by mouth, coaching cricket and motivational speaking. “I could have been a professional sportsman, I already had a professional contract at 18, but I ask myself now if I would have reached as many people in my life as I have in my speaking career,” he said. “The answer is no, and if my words reach just one person, inspiring them and turning their lives around then I am not a quadriplegic without power, I am powerful.”
That was his message to the boys – make the most of it with what you have, don’t complain about what has been taken away from you, especially in a year like this one. “Take responsibility for your life, never pass the buck.”
Never forget who you are, where you come from, and who helped you along the way, were his instructions to the boys. “I will never forget the role that Jeppe played in my life and the people here who contributed to who I am,” he said. “That’s why I will always come back here whenever I get the chance.”
In the greater scheme of things, he told the grade 12s of 2020, you will look back on this year and recognise that it made you a better person. Sage words from one of our best-known old boys, and our most inspirational one.