Small gesture, big lesson. 

Apparently you’re never too old to learn. My dad taught me this – he continued studying well into his fifties. He never became a doctor or a scientist or an advocate or anything like that; instead he remained a blue collar worker who decided to at least keep up with changing times and maybe improve his family’s life. Even just a little bit. Maybe that’s where myself and my siblings get our curiosity and hunger for (even random) knowledge.

Sometimes our lessons are not found in books or on Google, they come at us in small doses which teach us the biggest and most human of messages.

This afternoon was a busy one – soccer momming around Joburg. A usual afternoon. On the way to fetch my kids from school, I stopped to get them a takeaway meal because I knew we wouldn’t be back home until 6pm. They were eating in the car on the way to the orthodontist (yes we had toothbrushes with us), and we stopped at a traffic light. As the homeless man approached the car, Stretch and Mouse stopped chewing and tried to hide their lunch. I shook my head at him and looked the other way. He turned to walk away and both my children shouted at me, “Mom! He saw the food. Shame! Now I feel awful. Give him some money.”

Being my cynical, untrusting adult self I said no.

By the time the light had changed, they had me opening my purse and car window. I called the guy over and gave him money and drove off as instructed by the green light and hooting traffic behind me.

When I asked Stretch and Mouse if they felt better I got more of a surprise. “No” they said “it’s a cold day and it would be better if we could give h money, warm food and something warm to wear.”

Stretch and Mouse are not little children who see the world as a wonderful place and whose hearts are filled with love and compassion. No, they’re at that particularly lovely age – lazy, messy, sullen and selfish teenagers. Maybe not so selfish after all.

I’m not telling you this story to brag about their or my (forced) compassion, but to remind you and myself that there’s many lessons to learn in life. Sometimes they come from the most unexpected places.


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