We volunteer at Paballo soup kitchen on Wednesday nights. It is run by the methodist church in Braamfontein. Every time I go I learn something new and am humbled by the experience. A big thing I have learnt is that being poor and homeless doesn’t mean you cannot be happy. Many of the people we feed are still friendly and happy and make jokes and can laugh. Another thing I have learnt is that the food feeds their bellies, but many of them are there to be able to talk to us, to have stimulating conversations. Often we say that we feel there is more we should be able to do for them to get off the streets, but the fact is that they choose to be there, and what we do is plentiful. If we got them jobs, within 3 months they will be back on the street.
A couple of weeks ago I met Oupa, who told me about his story, why he is on the streets, and what his plans are for the future. He is funny, laughs a lot, knows his problem is that he drinks a bit much, but he acknowledges that this is also why he is jobless. He is polite and a good story teller too. I hadn’t seen Oupa for a while, not because he wasn’t there, but because I hadn’t been to soup kitchen for a while, for various reasons.
Last week was much harder for me than the usual soup kitchen runs. We were only a handful of volunteers and the cues were much longer than I am used to. At some point we had people circling us for soup or bread – usually people are very good at standing in line and waiting their turn. We always do 3 stops, and by the end of the second stop I was emotionally drained. When I got out the car at the third stop, Oupa was standing waiting for me and giving me a huge hug all excited to tell me about how he had progressed with his plans. When I got to talking to him he told me how he had come week after week excited to see me and how I inspired him to get his papers so he can look for a job. He was overjoyed that I had remembered his name and his story.
This made the difficulties we even still experienced at the third stop all worthwhile. It made me feel like I am making a difference to someone’s life – this I believe is part of my purpose on earth. In debriefing afterwards I started saying that it is the first time I’ve felt that I’ve made a difference, but then retraced my words. Cassidy pointed out that I have also made a difference in her life. It got me thinking about how many people’s lives I have already touched.
I can’t say that my list is plentiful, but I can think of at least one hand full of names of people who have thanked me or pointed out to me that I have made a difference to them. Even my brother has told me how he has always looked up to me and wanted to achieve the same success I have. This is pretty cool, and I hope with full awareness I can now do this more and more by following my journey and sharing it with the world!
P.S: I believe my brother is much smarter than I could ever dream of being, and I am not shy to boast about his skills to the whole world. PJ rocks!