I was at my old high school the other day, speaking to the Grade twelve learners there and trying to inspire them. I asked them to tell me about what they think are some of the most valuable lessons that the young people of our generation can learn.

As an answer to my question I thought they’d tell me about the importance of studying hard or something like that. I must say, of course, that I would’ve still been impressed if they’d given me those sorts of answers. But the answer that I did get from one of them was both interesting and very different to what I expected them to say.

A short, light-skinned girl, with a crazy afro, raised her hand and I asked her to stand up. Blushing a bit from all the boys in her class whistling at her, she composed herself and told me about an idea she had for a National Apology Day. She told me that on that day every young person would apologise for all the things they’ve said and done that have hurt others in any way.

If, as a young person, you’d talked back to an older family member when that person was scolding you, you’d use National Apology Day to apologise. Or if you’d been mean to someone or done some other thing wrong, this would be the day you’d use to apologise. In continuing to explain her idea, she said that one of the things she struggles with the most is to say “sorry” when she’s done or said something wrong.

But on National Apology Day, that can all change. All of this, she said, would teach a young person how to be humble. It would teach a young person that in every argument the feelings of different people are involved, and that if you respect and try to understand those feelings you can have better relationships with people.

Personally, I think that apologising for doing or saying something wrong is really important. But before we can even get to the point of deciding if we should even apologise or not, we first have to look at our feelings, words and actions. We have to ask ourselves tough questions about what could possibly be wrong with our actions and words.

Once we’ve realised how our actions and words were wrong, we can get to what really matters, the apology. Because, remember, if you can’t apologise, how can you expect someone else to apologise when they’ve done you wrong? And, in fact, it doesn’t even end there. An apology isn’t enough.

You need to change the way you act and avoid repeating what got you into trouble in the first place. I mean, think about it. If you take the train, for example, you’ll know that they always apologise when it comes late and tell us “we apologise for the inconvenience caused”. But the thing that makes people really angry about the trains is that they always come late again and again even though the railway operators apologised. They never stop coming late!

And that’s where you and I can be different. We can make sure that after we apologise for doing something wrong, we try very hard to not do it again.

But what do you think?

#ChatBack: Can you think of an example of when you looked at your actions or words and asked yourself whether you were wrong or not?

And if you thought you were wrong, how important was it to you to apologise?

Let’s continue this chat on Facebook: What’s poppin’ eKasi.