Friday, 23 August 2013

Our Madiba Day Celebrations


Our Madiba Day Celebrations
23 August 2013

In our family, birthdays are big.  Christmas is big.  Easter is big.  New Year’s is big.

And so, if you catch my drift, celebrations of any kind?  Kinda big.

And just so we’re clear – my family is kinda big.  As in humongous in fact.  And therefore we tend to do lots of celebrating.  Apart from the obvious reasons for celebrating we also do births, weddings, farewells, new jobs, accomplishments, etc.  Sometimes we don’t even need an occasion.  We just celebrate being us, being family and being together.  Does one really need any more reason than that?

And thus given an opportunity to celebrate our beloved Nelson Mandela’s birthday, quite naturally we celebrated that too.  Though the Cloete Five, did that on a more nuclear level. 

I had asked the kids in advance what they would like to do.  And just to clarify for those, not from South Africa – every year, in honour of the 67 years that Nelson Mandela has spent fighting for equality, South Africans all over the country are asked to give 67 minutes of their time for a good cause.  This is a wonderful initiative.  As the emphasis is placed on giving of yourself.  And of your valuable time.  Not necessarily money.  And so you can help to do maintenance work at a crèche in a disadvantaged area.  Visit the elderly and lonely in an old age home.  Lend a hand at a soup kitchen.  Pick up litter along the beach.  Any contribution of your time, is appreciated.  And people are super creative in finding good and worthy causes.

Literally the sky is the limit.  And it is wonderful to see how many remarkable charity drives take place in Madiba’s honour.  Even big multi-national corporations get involved.  Often taking on a big task jointly with all staff members in order to make our world a better place.  Giving up valuable productive company time.  Schools do their thing too, encouraging whole classes to do projects together.  All with one communal end goal in sight.  Helping those less fortunate.  And making our country better.  Because every little bit, adds up, to make a wonderful whole.

This is a wonderful unifying process.  And in the lead-up to Mandela Day, it was on everyone’s lips.  It was the topic of many conversations over the radio and TV too.  People were encouraged to get stuck in.  To roll up their sleeves, and give of themselves.

My darling Luke, said that for his 67 minutes, he would work on his latest school project.  What can I say?  By nature, teenagers are not really known for their giving and selfless spirits.  I gently pointed out the error of his ways, as spending his 67 minutes on a project he had to do in any rate, was completely and utterly self-serving.  Teenagers!!!

In the holidays preceding the much anticipated Madiba Day, a few family members and friends had been knitting up blanket squares at a rate of knots.  This all due to a friend’s daughter - she goes to the all-girls school, Rhenish, in Stellenbosch.  Every year, they do a charity drive, whereby they ask each child in each class to knit at least one square (15x15cm).  These are to be sewed together and handed out to the elderly and Hospice patients too.  The aim is for every class to jointly do at least one blanket.  As they are clearly hoping for some kids to do more.

My friend Gill, put the word out, that she would be willing to sponsor the wool and needles, if anybody was willing to help knit.  By her own admission, Gill can’t knit to save her life.  And amazingly quite a few people responded to her plea.  I asked my family to help too and by the end of the holidays, Team-Lombard handed in about 136 blanket squares of our own.  Most definitely a huge contribution to our 67 minutes for Mandela Day.

But perhaps one of the very nicest things I did on Madiba Day, was to register as a Bone Marrow Donor with the Sunflower Fund.  Not necessarily for them, but for me.  It was just such a lovely feeling, knowing that I could potentially help to save a life.  Sadly it costs a lot of money, to even get on the registry, as it involves pathology tests, etc.  Normally they ask donors to contribute towards these fees – I think it’s close to R2 000.  However if you are unable to afford this, they put you on the waiting list, and fund this as soon as they’ve got the bucks.  But, in honour of Madiba Day, they did a huge drive to increase their registry and they even managed to get sponsors for the initial blood work needed.  And therefore there was no fee involved.  At the same time, they do encourage donors to contribute if at all possible, as they are so reliant on the goodwill of people out there.  Also, they are a non-profit organization.  Holding thumbs I do get picked.  The registry is worldwide, so you never know.

In addition, on the big Madiba Day, I made sarmies with two loaves of bread, bought a pocket of oranges and the kids and I hoofed it over to the nearest night shelter, to spread some love.  Yes it is true, that I did most of the labour, but the kids most certainly helped too.  In addition, on our way to the night shelter, we happened to drive past a huge big painted wall in Somerset West, where well-wishers and passers-by were encouraged to send a message of love and support for our ailing Madiba.  He had been in hospital for weeks already, with a whole nation fearing for his health.

We immediately pulled over and the kids and I had heap loads of fun, painting on the wall too.  It was just such a lovely initiative.  It is true, that it served no apparent purpose.  It was just a little bit of frivolous fun.  Still it is unifying and gave all of us a wonderful feeling of warmth, as if Madiba himself could feel our outpourings of love for him.  Sadly another one of Cole’s former white school shirts, bit the dust.  But for what a good cause.

At the night shelter, it was humbling for my kids to see, how the other half lives.  We are not affluent by any stretch of the imagination.  Still we get by.  And on occasion it is easy to forget, how well we actually do get by.  And my kids often feel done in because they don’t have the latest things they want. The trendiest clothes.  The best toys.  We don’t do holidays overseas.  Or even in South Africa itself.  Instead we visit family.  They often bemoan the fact that we don’t often eat out and go on wonderful outings.  Still I think they walked away from the shelter, with a deeper appreciation of exactly how fortunate they are.  And they all loved the thought of a hungry belly not being hungry that night.  Even if it’s just partly due to our humble peanut butter and syrup sarmies and a healthy and nutritious orange too.

But perhaps the greatest tribute to Madiba that I saw on his day, was a simple post on Facebook.  It was so humbling, that it moved me terribly and put a big lump in my throat.  In fact, it made my eyes well up too.  I’m still not quite sure why it affected me so.  Perhaps because it came from someone, who put himself in an awkward and often quite humiliating position.  And then chose to take those circumstances, to tackle our preconceived ideas, and make us take a deeper look.  Rather remarkable.  Especially given that I don’t know this person at all, and only discovered afterwards what his name is.

A friend posted on her Facebook timeline, that she was waiting at one of the busiest and most dangerous intersections in the Helderberg basin.  And as is the norm, there was a beggar standing at the robot, holding his placard aloft, pleading for money.  She said she caught sight of him out of the corner of her eye, and hating to be faced with that reality daily, she chose to not look at him directly nor make eye contact.  It seems that we see these poor people at every single intersection.  And it is terribly sad.  One can feel quite overwhelmed by it.  Everyone’s placard story is sad and pulls at the heartstrings.  Yet in our warm and snug cars, we do get tired of it.  Of feeling bamboozled and always having to give a hand-out.  Of having no respite from the poverty and the hardships people out there face every day.  And on a certain level, one becomes blunt to it and simply switches off.  Numbing yourself to it all.

And then this friend said, that despite her initial intentions, she found her eyes drifting to this beggar.  And that’s when she saw, that he actually wasn’t a beggar at all.  Just a normal every day, average Joe.  Dressed in casual clothes, braving the freezing cold and wet weather, facing the hustle and bustle of cars and people on their way to work.  And on his placard, instead of begging for money it said, “Smile.  Please wear your seatbelt.”  With a big smiley face hand drawn next to it. 

Apparently his name is Terry and for his 67 minutes for Mandela Day, he did a simple human kindness.  He spread a bit of common sense.  He made people take care.  He made them realise that their lives are valuable.  And those of their passengers too.  He lifted spirits.  He gave love.  I think he was exceptionally brave.  As, let’s face it – not many people would put themselves out there like that.  He put a smile on many people’s faces.  And brightened their day.  He makes me proud to be South African.  And gives me faith in humanity.  That we’ll all actually be okay.

I’d like to believe that more people wore their safety belts that day.  That it perhaps made them think about strapping in the next day too.  And the one thereafter for that matter.

But over and above it all, he showed through his deeds how fabulous South Africans are.  How wonderfully enterprising the human spirit can be.  And I wouldn’t be surprised, if his actions, trigger a whole host of similar acts of kindness next year on the 18th of July.

He was a physical embodiment of Nelson Mandela’s legacy.  And I do believe it would’ve given Tata Madiba a proud moment too.  And put a smile on his lips for sure.

Well done Terry!  You rock, Dude!

Please click and LIKE on Facebook - Thanx!

Our sarmies and oranges that we dropped off at the night shelter

Kids happily busy painting

Even I had a go

We thoroughly enjoyed it!

Cole doing his thing

The whole wall covered - too beautiful!

Happy kids!

Such concentration!

Huge buckets of paint in beautiful colours

Giving it their all

Simply lovely!

A huge big 67 outside on the pavement - all made of recyclables - colourful tribute wall in the back

Another uniform bites the dust
Terry - The Rock Star!!!  I seriously dig this guy!
The Sunflower Fund - we'll be buying our annual bandanas again this year

Even The Arch supports the Sunflower Fund
A joint Happy Birthday - The Blog turned one and our Madiba turned 95

1 comment:

  1. Lovely Helene!
    You are a very special woman teaching your children wonderfulvalues and leading by example!
    Exceptionally proud of you!