Today I made a grown man cry, I was so shocked that my simple act could reduce him to tears and stumbling with words.
As I walked towards the shop to get some chocolate for a sick mother I noticed an elderly man of about 70 leaning against the wall of the shop in his Sunday best counting his coins that he kept in a see through bank bag. As I walked closer I saw him leave the wall and slowly start to walk away from the shop in my direction, his shoulders slumped with such sadness.
Without thinking I put my hand in my pocket and then put my hand in his, he looked down and then looked up into my eyes, when they connected his filled with a rush of tears, he grabbed both my hands and said thank you so many times I was shocked. I couldn’t say anything to him other than “Dis vir jou Oom” (This is for you Uncle) which shocked him even more, a white girl calling a coloured man Oom, (To call someone Oom is one of the greatest signs of respect). His face just lit up and then I shocked him further by giving him a hug, by that time both of us were in such shock (I from his tears and him from what I did) that neither of us could talk so I just patted him on his back and told him that I hoped he had a wonderful day and walked into the shop speechless but smiling.
I tell you this story not for praise, not to make you think of me as a great person, for that I am not, I do not look for your praise. I will not tell you how much I gave him nor whether I could afford it or not, I will not tell you how many times I have done this nor the other crazy things that I have done. The only people that know are the ones who have been with me when I did them and the other person. I am not a saint, nor do I ever want to be seen as one.
The fact that people curse and swear at these people when they are doing the best they can, they are too old to work, they have hardly anything, they don’t even ask for charity! They are the forgotten ones, they are the wise ones for they have been where we have been and more, yet we ignore them, why?
*Boring statistic: This elderly gentleman is a pensioner, the average pension in SA is a grand total of R700 ($90) a month if you are lucky some get as little as R600 ($77). The food prices in SA are higher than in the UK which, if we look at it realistically, is ridiculous seen as the exchange rate is R16 to ₤1. On average per month to feed two people basics it will cost a R1000 ($130). Perhaps we are cheap, but those are basics, I’m talking milk, bread, vegetables and meat once a week.
I give you this story in hope that one day I might not have to walk back home with tears running down my cheeks in sadness that someone had to stand there in his best suit counting out his money to see if he had enough to buy simple groceries, not asking for charity or change from another soul for embarrassment and shame. I give you this story so that his tears from the shock of a simple act of kindness are no more.
Giving to others or being kind is unconditional, it should not have any price tag attached, it should not be done so as to get your name in the paper, or a tax cut, it should not be done to boost your public image or your self image, it should be done from one person to another with out any expectation of retribution.
This world is sick when a grown man cries for a simple act of kindness, how will this world ever get better if we don’t help it?