Here in South Africa it’s common for people to sell things at traffic lights or beg for money. What’s changed in recent years is that there are now also white people doing this – when in the apartheid past, this was almost exclusively the domain of black people.
Most people seem to get very uncomfortable, roll up their windows, stare straight ahead and pretend not to notice these people. I too, used to do that until recently, when I started rolling down my window and actively started engaging them in conversation. What I notice is that when I take an interest in them and talk to them, they mostly engage right back – and rarely ask me for money.
Last week I was on my way to present an EFT taster event and I noticed a young man at a set of traffic lights going up to the cars and giving them a piece of paper. Most people, as per usual, pretended that he did not exist. When he got to me he smiled, greeted me, handed me a small piece of paper and walked on; he didn’t ask for anything.
On the paper he wrote ‘My name is Frank and I am 24 years old. I am looking for domestic or gardening work and I have experience of painting houses too. Please call me …’ and then left his phone number.
I was deeply touched by this – a man who, instead of holding up a sign saying ‘poor/hungry, please help’ was actually trying to help himself; it was for me, the practical application of what it means to take responsibility.
I called him a day later and contracted him to hand out flyers for me. During a break we sat down and he shared some of his life with me, and how important it was for him to become successful while his parents are still alive, so that they could be proud of him.
Looking at him I thought, they’re probably already proud of him.
If you live in the Cape Town area and have work to offer Frank, please email me and I’ll put you in touch.