Cutting Watermelons With a Bent Knife and Other Reflections on Life

I tweeted yesterday that I was on my way to Kayelitsha armed with watermelon, chocolate cake and bags of ice.

I got responses telling me I was “amazing” and “a good person”.

I’m not.

I don’t say this to be smug and I’m certainly not humble.

I live a life of luxury. I zip around Cape Town in my car, from my expensive college to my personal trainer to dinner with friends at trendy restaurants. I pay R20 for coffee that comes in a paper cup.

I live a life of luxury and I do not begrudge myself. I like my lifestyle. I like drinks at La Vie and strolls on the prom, I like fresh dark cherries and I like a cappuccino in my hand while I grocery shop.

But I cannot forget the country I live in. The world I live in. I don’t let myself forget that while I swing kettlebells through my legs, there are children just down the street selling plastic flowers for R5 at the traffic lights. That 40km up the highway a lady they all call ‘Mama’ is pulling together a meal to feed 21 children, none of which are her own. She has one small fridge and not a single good knife.

I know this because on Sunday when KD and I arrived at her home armed with watermelons, we had to use a small bent knife to hack out uneven chunks of fruit.

I do Operation Shoebox because it makes me feel better about myself. Selfish motives, I admit. I feel better for spending three hours on a lilo in the pool today knowing that yesterday I had a sticky green lollipop pushed against my cheek by a happy, drooling toddler while her pseudo siblings took turns snapping shaky pictures of each other with my Canon.

This doesn’t make me special. I have not sacrificed anything to be there. Instead of going to the beach in the morning, I spent a couple of hours laughing with kids and watching them smash cake into their faces. And then afterward I went to the beach.

Charity is everyone’s responsibility. It is our responsibility and our duty as human beings to look after those who are vulnerable, to contribute to the moral fibre of our country.

It keeps me grounded. It reminds me of my luck in life, it reminds me to take nothing for granted. It reminds me to appreciate what I have.

And it reminds me to have hope, these children who have come from terrible backgrounds or who have simply been left behind. These children who are so proud of their boxes that they painstakingly fold their new tshirts, so that the corners are perfect, then close their box and sit hugging it.

These children who grow up as siblings, sleeping six to a room in bunk beds. These children who love each other and help each other. The girls who carry the babies around  and wipe their mouths and pick them up when they stumble. The little boys who hold each others hands and help the little ones on the jungle gym and admire each others new toys.

And the mothers, the women who have given up their personal and private lives to care for children who’s own families are nowhere. To feed classrooms on the grace of donations and minimal government assistance, with one fridge and a single wonky knife.

I support the NSRI, I buy the Big Issue monthly. I have a My Planet card instead of a Woolies store card, because quite frankly I can afford to shop there even without my loyalty points. I encourage friends and family to do Shoeboxes every year and I drive to Melkbos and to Kayelitsha and to Sea Point to deliver (donated) cakes and goodie bags and gifts.

I am not the guy in the wetsuit risking his own life to safe someone else’s, without pay or reward. I am not sitting in the Big Issue office or standing at a traffic light for twelve hours a day, come rain or sunshine. I am not KD, my chairperson who devotes endless time to ensuring that success of Operation Shoebox. I am not Mama, with the bent knife.

Those people are the true heroes. Those people are amazing.

Me? I am you. I am just a girl, who recognises that her life is pretty great and who chooses to spread the love a little.

IMG00029-20111218-1343Here are the websites for the charities I mention:

Operation Shoebox
– Collect and distribute festive season gifts for vulnerable children around Cape Town

 Staffed by volunteer rescue workers who provide 24/7 rescue and medical assistance on the beaches and in the sea, all around South Africa.

My Planet
 A loyalty card initiative, where your points are donated to a charity of your choosing. Sign up for free, pick your charity or charities and start swiping! Participating stores include Engen, Woolworths, Toys R Us and many more.

The Big Issue
 A global initiative, magazines are sold on the street by vendors who keep 50% of the selling price for themselves. They are currently priced at R20 in South Africa.



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