So I was thinking today and maybe I’m just having a moment here, that there have been so many moments in my life that I’ve been blessed by people way less fortunate than me. I sometimes forget how blessed I am when I look at my circumstances and forget that there are those way worse off in many ways.
With the current economy it has been brought home to me personally how fragile our comfort zones are and how fiercly we fight to protect them. We trust in our jobs or bank accounts for our security.
So I was reminded this morning of a few instances in my life where I’ve encountered people who saw a bigger picture and were able to love, laugh, share kindness and hope despite their circumstances and were even able to forgive those who were the source of those circumstances.
The first person God reminded me of was my friend Michael. We were at Tech together way back in 1990-91. He was the only black guy in our quite large Graphic Design course. It was the day of Nelson Mandela’s release. We were all sitting outside the sculpture room working on projects and listening to the radio as the release was broadcast. Above us on the balcony were the young white guys studying accountancy were dressed in their suits and ties…As Mr Mandela was released I remember these guys shouting down degrading horrible comments to Michael who sat serenely working on his sculpture. I remember looking at him and asking him how he can sit there without getting angry and I’ll never forget his response. He said “What do I have to be angry about, today is a great day! Let them say what they want.”
He taught me that some battles are already won and I don’t have to fight them again.
A few years later I joined a group of young people travelling around the country in a music and drama ministry. We’d spend each week at a different church. Each week we’d be hosted by a family from the community we were in and usually the people who hosted us were comfortable enough to take in one or two young people for the week, feed us and give us a place to sleep. Sometimes we would be in a community that was not able to do this in the same way as other communities and one of these weeks was the week we spent in Alice, a small town in the Eastern Cape. Most of the team had to sleep in the church as there were not enough families in the community able to host us. 5 girls however got to spend the week with a lovely black lady who’s name excapes me as it was more than 15years ago. I was priviledged to be one of them. She had 3 daughters and lived in a small apartment in Fort Hare University where she worked. 9 of us shared that apartment for 6 days. They gave up their beds, they sacrificed their comfort and shared their small amount of food with us. One of these nights she came home with enough Kentucky to feed an army, soft drinks the works! Wow did we have a party! There was so much laughter and joy that night we didn’t mind that there was not enough hot water for 9 people or that we were sharing beds and sleeping on top of each other.
They taught me about true hospitality, about sharing what you have no matter how little it is.
The last memory I was reminded of was more recent. A little while ago a good friend of mine came to Durbs and we decided to go to a restuarant close by for Pizza (Eden) and he invited some other friends of his to join us. So typicaly we are all sitting chatting and catching up like old friends do who haven’t seen each other in a while. In the background an elderly black man is playing the guitar on the steps and singing and not able to compete with the 13th birthday party happening upstairs. But trying to earn some money to take home to his family. He had tried to dress smartly, had worn his best suit but still you could see the looks on the other diners faces as they tried to ignore him. Our pizza arrived and the party continued and eventualy this elderly man packed up his things in defeat and walked past our table. My friend casually stopped him and asked him why he was leaving. He replied that the had to get home and it would take a while and he wasn’t able to compete with the noise from upstairs. So my friend asked him if he wouldn’t sing something for us before he left. He beamed! Out came the guitar and he happily played two songs for us. While he was singing we piled some pizza on a plate and put it at an empty seat at our table. When he finished my friend invited him to join us.
I can’t describe the look on his face. And the looks on the faces of the other diners.
When he sat down and picked up a knife and fork, we said “no, use your hands, that’s how you eat pizza” and he replied that he’d never tasted pizza before and his hands were dirty and he didn’t want to spoil it.
He taught me not to take anything forgranted, not even the taste of pizza.
My friend taught me that in simple acts of kindness we can give someone a moment they won’t forget and honour their humanity.
So today I’m grateful for all I have and for the people who have blessed my life in little ways they are not even aware of. How many people’s lives do you touch on a daily basis without even realising you are leaving a mark, good or bad? And how much more can we do with the little or lot that we have to bless others. It’s not about money or the lack thereof, but what we choose to do with it.
Most of all I just want to encourage you to look people in the eye and smile. You don’t know what trials or struggles they are enduring and all of us no matter our economic standing, need a little kindness sometimes.