I met a man called Patrick today. He was on his way to Hout Bay after a long day’s work in Fish Hoek that began at 5am when he set off for Wynberg train station from the harbour hillside. He has a 7-year-old son, who he obviously adores – I can hear from the way he speaks about him and tries to show me photographs on his cell phone whilst I am driving on the bendy roads towards Hout Bay.
The boy’s mother is addicted to a life-threatening drug and has been since he was small. He has bonded only with his father because of this. Patrick gets up every day at four to earn a small wage as a merchandise packer, and then comes home to cook for his son and boarder, and clean the home, and make sure his son has everything he needs for school the next day.
What an inspiration he was to me. He is so hard working, loving towards his son, and compassionate towards his ex-wife who faces her own battle with addictions every day, disappearing for years at a time. I drove home thinking to myself, “this man is one of Cape Town’s greats” – someone I would probably drive past most days and not often notice. A friend asked me what made me give him a lift today? Something in my gut (aka spirit: I am learning again to trust that I can hear God’s voice in the day-to-day invitations) told me to serve this man today. So, what does one lift home and a R150 for his son really do? It doesn’t make a difference. Or does it?
It got me thinking about times when I have been stressed, under pressure, battling financially, or just simply feeling alone in this world, as we all do at times. One small act of kindness goes a very long way. Sometimes I, who work and engage in the development world a lot of my time, tend to think if it is not sustainable, it is not worth it. If it is just a ‘one off’, why bother? Will it make a lasting change? Tomorrow, Patrick will walk from Wynberg to Hout Bay again. Or … trust that someone will give him a lift.
Sometimes I forget that one small gesture can make a huge difference. Like when someone, once off, put money in my account to help pay for a car expense recently. I neither wanted nor expected them to do that ongoingly (even though the problems seem to be endless – grinds teeth) … it was that one act of generosity and kindness that gave me courage for the next part of the journey I was on when I was tired.
Different things make us tired. We are all so different. So today God nudges me while I am driving home to give someone a lift. And then it turns out to be someone like Patrick who maybe just needed a break today. And I had money in my wallet which I knew was for someone else. (I tried to give it elsewhere but was told to P&## off … that is a blog for another day). So, maybe, just maybe, Patrick needed to be reminded that he is a good father today and get a little encouragement for the journey. Maybe … once is enough. It’s been enough for me, many times.