Something to give

I am sitting next to my dad by the fireplace as I am typing this week’s blog. After Mandela day I am more aware than ever before how desperately we need our dads, and not just that, but how we need our dads to love us.

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Of the 130 kids that joined us for Mandela day, a few have mothers, but not one has a dad. What a horrendously unhealthy society we have created! It probably started with the migrant workers and fathers leaving families to find work, but it is now certainly worse than ever. Most of the children there were born long after Madiba died, but to them, he is the only father figure with whom they are familiar.

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Our Mandela day project was wonderful, crazy, busy, exciting and exhausting. Our community, as always, went above and beyond. Kids got onto buses for the first time in their lives, KFC was delivered (a whole meal for each one),  they were able to jump on the most incredible jumping castles and had their little chocolate brown faces painted. But this is not what they will remember. They will remember the adults who took the time to get to know them a bit, to kick a ball with them, to wipe a snotty nose, to tie a shoelace. The community did not just come and donate their stuff, but donated of themselves –  their time, and in most cases, their hearts. Let me tell you, to send a child back to Ehlanzeni squatter camp while you know you are going back to your three-bed in the suburbs gnaws at you.

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My heart was bursting with pride when neighbours and my staff showed up and stayed a lot longer than the required 67 minutes. They laughed with the kids, danced (the white ones quite badly) with the littlies and some of us even jumped on the jumping castles (ask me who had to see her physio this morning). They were building relationships, lavishing love on very unloved young humans and trying to make up for years of neglect with joy.

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But the kids also gave back. As they marched off the busses they had a “show” prepared for us: an incredible marching band with some very serious dance moves incorporated. It was wonderful and they loved every minute, impressing us and showing us that they are more than just a bunch of poor kids with little hope. They had dignity and I think because we have walked a long road with them, they knew, without a doubt that they would be welcomed and loved, and that assurance gave them the confidence to put this together.

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At the end of the day, a little guy came to me to give me one of his sweets. I told him to keep it, it was for him, but then realised, this is not about the sweet. It is about him wanting to give back. Is that not what the whole day is about: that we give to each other, and that we all have capacity to give, whether you are in a fancy house with high walls making sure your domestic worker’s children receive a decent education, whether you are a paraplegic who knits jerseys for the poor, whether you are a stay at home mom helping someone with homework, or whether you are just kind to a rich man, for no other reason than just because you know people are often nice to him because they want a reward.

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My friend Deline spoke to Dennis and asked her what the best part of the day was. Without skipping a beat she answered that it was that we loved her, that we loved the kids she looks after and protects, and that even though she goes back to Ehlanzeni, we keep on loving her, year in and year out.

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