|   Let integrity lead.

Least of these, by Class 12 Fellow Monique Mathys-Graff

I feel a bit like I’ve been Alice in wonderland these last few days; not least of all because I drank way too much tea and lost track of time completely as if at the mad hatter’s table for too long. As I stood on the deck awaiting a new set of strangers who were suddenly my mirror, the words of Paul the apostle from the Bible swirl in my head – I am the least of these. I am too broken to be here. They will think me a traitor as my family are immigrating. I don’t feel safe. I don’t do well in groups and feel like I’m back at a youth camp.

Like Alice taking a bite of the cookie that said “eat me”, suddenly, I shrink down. My insecurities overtake me. As one after another step onto the deck, I see their silent insecurities too. My past employee looming larger than my own name, I take shelter in an identity entangled with trauma. It’s a welcomed imposter. So I take another bite of a different cookie and I grow, grow, grow… as polite compliments from strangers smelling of authentic curiosity calms the storm.

As invited guests, we sit around our mad hatter’s table as the instruction came to switch off our phones, I realized I don’t have a watch. “Curiouser and curiouser” draws me in deeper as the days unfold. Surrender to the process. Like at the mad hatter’s table, strange phrases flow from larger than life people, pointing to us as being a chosen few. They speak with such statesmanship that one would expect them to wear a top hat – like Abraham Lincoln, like the Mad Hatter. “You can’t take less,” said the hatter: “It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

The guests at the table seem a curious combination of weird and wonderful. Some laugh. Some cry. Some are silent. Hands go up and down. Bodies take strain. Minds stretch. Ventures are birthed. “We’re all mad here” and “believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”.

Everyone else seems to understand it all, surely; clearly, I am the least of these. Was that my voice? “Who in the world am I?” I am the least of these. 

I don’t know when the shift happened – when we realised it was the queen of hearts giving the command to cut off their heads and causing the trauma. The problem wasn’t in the room, it’s what the queen of hearts and her soldiers were doing to the people. The people in the carnival portrait and Omelas’ basement, it’s the 2000 calling to shoot the elephant, the British colonised Indians, the forgotten American coloureds. Surely, they are the least of these. Or are we losing our heads? We look at our fragile hearts, wounded and our house of cards fall. What would MLK say?

Least of these, out there. With no voice. Least of these, all around us. Begging to be seen. Least of these; tired of waiting. Waiting for their Justice.

As the March Hare sped past, I caught a glimpse of his watch, showing XII noon. All seemed set on the norm but time was running out. Not a minute too soon, the stars aligned in our most glorious Isilemela constellation, as I dug deep and realised it’s not about me… the least of these matters, but that’s not me. I had slayed my inner dragon and conquered my Jabberwocky of self-indulgent, immoral complacency.

Only to wake up falling back down the rabbit hole and suddenly sitting under a tree, feeling the grass under me. Was it a dream or was it real? The familiar reality I see before me, looking somewhat different now. At least I’m not too big and not too small. At least the discomfort of the mad hatter’s table has passed.

I close my eyes, as I grab the soil beneath my hands, as reality sets in and a fear rises up;  what if I forget my bold dreams, even worse I stop remembering the least of these? I pause one last time, lifting my soul in prayer and sing: God Bless Africa, guide her leaders, guard her children and give her peace.

“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in wonderland.


Thanks to our valued partners and to all the Fellows who continue to contribute in many ways.

  • Aspen Global Leadership Network
  • Yellowwoods
  • Barloworld
  • Tshikululu