When I woke up yesterday one of the first words that came out of my mouth were “Tjo! Kana I have a blog”. Translated that would be…uhm…”By the way, I have a blog”. Very badly and very directly translated, I apologize if it still makes no sense.
When trying to decide what to blog about, believe me there is so much I could share but I think this account will sum up how profound my week was. I learned things from unlikely sources and I began to question: what makes the source unlikely?
On Monday I had to have a cyst removed from my eye. The doctor literally pulled it out, with my eyes open. I was injected in the eye to numb the pain but it was still very unnerving to have this man stand over me poking my eye with metal contraptions while the nurse kept my it open. After that I was given a wonderful plaster which left me looking like, as my sister put it “a sexy abuse victim”. From the time I stepped out of the doctors practice I had people turn heads, others looked in the other direction so as to avoid staring. As I continued through town, a few of the street kids looked at me with shock and concern. The words that escaped their lips “Yoh sisi, uright kodwa sisi? Kwenzekeni” translated to, “wow! what on earth happened to you lady?”. Of course at that time I simply chuckled, tweeted about it and carried on walking. When I came back down the same street, they asked me again. I stopped, and this time I tried to explain what had happened and to tell them that I was okay and nobody had hurt me. The relief in their eyes was so heart rending. I couldn’t believe it. These street kids who I usually ignore and get irritated with were the only people that day, besides my friends, who stopped to make sure I was okay. At no point did the laugh at me, or ridicule me. It was genuine concern, from genuine people.
Friday night we were selling boerewors rolls on a street corner to raise funds for our society. One of the street men came and started to bother us and of course none of us paid attention, we simply wanted him gone! I was the first to get upset and tell the people who were buying from us to pay him no mind and keep walking. He was manipulating our customers by telling them he was going to sleep on the street while they went off to their nice houses and that irritated me. So I decided to speak to him and tell him to go away.
The first thing I smelled when I got close to him was the alcohol on his breath and clothes. He refused to leave and forced me to listen. I must have stood there for an hour listening to this man. The truth is most of what he said didn’t make sense and he went around in circles, probably because of the alcohol in his system. Also there was a bit of a language problem, but I understood the jist of most of what he said. Anyway, one of the things he said to me that I hope I will never forget is “sometimes we as people on the streets get hungry. But it’s not necessarily a hunger that would be filled by two boerewors rolls. Our minds are hungry. And it’s easy to ask us why we drink and don’t get jobs but there are few jobs and its difficult out here”
When I spoke to him initially I was angry, after I while I tried to understand. Although I don’t think I’ll ever understand what it’s like to live on the street, I think I have more compassion for street dwellers after this last week.
Some people (including the man I spoke to because he later made strange requests and started bugging people again), are opportunists who are looking to con people into giving them money and have run away from homes that have tried to help them. But other’s have a real need for someone to just take notice and speak to them as a fellow human being for just 10 minutes.
As a black woman, I often complain about how I am treated as a sub-human by society yet I turn around and do that to someone else. I even have difficulty finding a suitable name for someone who lives on the street. Is hobo politically correct or is it derogatory? I honestly do not know, but what I do know is: No single person deserves to be treated as less than a person.
The answer to the question I posed initially? What makes the source unlikely is preconceived notions we have about people. We expect others to be a certain way and therefore end up shutting our minds and lives to things and people that could add so much value to who we are as people.
Look beyond face value. Renew your mind. Lean not on your own understanding but begin to understand from the perspective of another.