Why is it that in my house the conversation has always been, “we should do.something for charity, maybe volunteer at an old age home or a soup kitchen…” Since I was a kid, my divorced Oprah loving Mother of two, desperately wanted to teach us about selflessness and appreciation. It was a conversation which had been had many time, but which for some ‘procrastinatory’ reason just never gone beyond that point. After I left home i carried on the cycle of wanting to contribute to something selflessly yet never activating my wish.
So one Saturday, as I was about to drive past the Home of Hope for the umpteenth time, I was having a terrible day of selfish “woah-to-me” when I had the thought that maybe I need to stop. Stop the negativity. Stop the noise. Stop the car. It was something I had thought about many times, and on that day I put action to my pattern of inaction, and sought to step out of my comfort zone with the aim of doing some good.
As I knocked on the front gate and saw the friendly face approaching, I could just imagine what they were thinking. It turned out I had interrupted a yoga class which was in session. You heard me correctly, a yoga class, at Home of Hope there is a strong focus on rebuilding and preparing the girls not just with the basic skills, security and financial support, but with a spiritual self-awareness. I have no regrets. It’s hard to believe that it was just over two months ago (like almost to the day), but since then I can honestly say i have been forever changed…
Understandably the arrival of a volunteer is treated very delicately, especially one who is most probably as impassioned as I might have seemed; anyone who can impact lives that are in need of care needs to be properly assessed. I had a sit down with the team and we discussed the practicality and investment that is required and what my personal contributions could be, we found an alignment that seems to have worked and it is a great honour to be a part of a team that has been working so hard since then on Home of Hopes new digital identity.
But… That’s the practical side of things. My first excercise of charitable good with the Home was when we invited the youngest of the girls to attend my four year old son’s birthday.
On one hand, it was a simple gesture that was significant for me as a white father in South Africa, with a son in a private school, to commence the fostering within him (passively, but which will be continuous) a sense of equality and generosity of spirit – It’s how my mother raised me and members of my family still speak about what a “lovely” child I was… I’m a Jules Street kid, my friends were my neighbours, and Jules street was diverse, there is no room for divide.
On the other hand, I desperately wanted to demonstrate how invested I was prepared to be, even if my contribution was going to be of the littlest significance, even if only for an instant. At that moment we were planning the birthday party for the next weekend and so immediately after introducing myself i thought it would be great for the girls to have a day of fun, to be children, to play and eat cake!
The next day, after getting approval from Mam’ Khanyi, my family and I came to the Home and handed out individually addressed Birthday Invitations with a sucker to each of the youngest girls, they all lined up and my son Alexi and I asked each one of them one by one, and by name, if they would please come to his birthday party next week. The next week the party came, we arranged the collection of the girls, they were all so excited, a week of anticipation built up. There was a jumping castle, there was cakes and sweets, hot dogs and chips, laughter and screams of delight.
Each of the girls came up to me and my wife through the day and presented me with a thank you letter to Alexi for inviting them to the party, and each one of them thanked my wife and I for letting them come – truly the joy was ours. It broke my heart at the end of the day to turn off the jumping castle and announce that it was time to go home.
In parting, each of the girls received a party pack and were returned to the Home, hyped up on sugar (casualty of a children’s party, sorry team), happy and cheerful as all children deserve to be. It was for us the simplest of gestures, but for them they spoke about the party for weeks after. My only regret is that we weren’t able to take them all along for the day – but this journey I am on with Home of Hope is for the long haul, and I look forward to avail more opportunities for happiness on the road ahead…