I don’t know what the weather has been like in your part of the country (and world), but here in Cape Town, the Winter chill set in last Thursday. A day when, it seems to me, that switch was flicked – and it officially became time to start dressing warmly every day, no matter what temparature was forecasted for the day.

Yesterday,   like the day before, was cold and rainy. And although its supposed to heat up a bit over the coming days, this is only temporary relief, as Winter fast approaches.

At this time of year, we take out our heaters, blankets, thermals. We prepare ourselves for months of cold, wet and difficult conditions.

But while we do this, and while we may suffer from the cold, we must remember that there are many out there who suffer a lot worse than we do in these cold days and nights. There are those who live in run down homes, shacks and informal dwellings. Worse still, some are homeless.

We get to sit in front of the heater when we’re cold; snuggle up under the covers; wrap ourselves tighter in our warm blankets when we feel the chill.

But some don’t have any of this. The few clothes they do have are inadequate. And all they have as blankets are newspapers. They find shelter where they can, sometimes being chased away by security guards, and sometimes – many times – being at risk of being mugged by thieves, who seem to have no mercy for those who are in the worst of conditions.

Poverty is a bad thing. People suffering, not having even the basics – its a bad thing.

But poverty is a good thing too, in that its an opportunity for those who can, to help those who don’t have anything. Its a blessing, because what little (or lot) we can give to others, is a tremendously good opportunity for us to help our fellow human beings.

This Winter, as we go shopping for new clothes and all that we hope will keep us warm, lets give to others as well. We don’t necessarily have to buy new stuff for them – although it would be nice, since we should love for our fellow human beings what we love for ourselves.

So, buy new clothes for them, or give old clothes, if you have some that you no longer need. Both old and new, focus particularly on thermal wear. Thats something very essential in Winter. Even if a person has an inadequate pants or top, thermals underneath do a great deal to keep the cold out.

In this country, we’re always seeing homeless people, and people in need. Whether its at the traffic lights, outside the shops, or even those knocking on our door, asking for something we can help them with.

And, while its good to give to organisations and Winter charity drives, its even better when we can go and give in person. Is there a homeless person you see regularly, that could use some clothes for this Winter? Is there a family you know of, who have so little that they can barely support themselves, let alone worry about what is going to keep them warm in the coming months?

Whether by yourself, or as a family project, get together some old or new clothes, thermals, gloves…whatever you think can benefit….and find someone who is in need: an individual, or a single mother with children, a street kid, anyone who doesn’t have. Go and give to them. Not with the intention of making yourself feel good, or doing this so that others will see you in a better light. Don’t do it so that someone will thank you for doing something for them.

Just do it for a very simple reason:

You have, others don’t. You can to do something to alleviate the suffering of someone else. If you were in their situation, wouldn’t you want that same help?

So, make an intention to do it, then go and do it.

Of course, do be careful out there. There is danger out there – especially if you’re a woman. (Not discriminating here – its just a fact that women are more likely to be targets than men).

But, don’t let fear stop you from doing good. We don’t need to fall into a culture of fear, because it has damaging psychological effects. (There’s a bit in the movie “Bowling for Columbine” which addresses this point).

Just take the necessary precautions, and go and do what you intend to do.

Also, please don’t forget about food. All that was said above, about people in need, it applies just as much to food.

When we fast, we feel that hunger from time to time. Hopefully, it reminds us that there are those out there who also feel it. But unlike us, they don’t have the simple task of waiting until fasting ends before they can eat.

And they can’t just go to the kitchen, have the choice of what they feel like eating, and eat something.

They have to wait until they can actually find something to eat, never mind if its something big enough to fill their stomach. Next time you’re in the shops, think about how a small amount of your money can go towards feeding someone: a loaf of bread, just R5 or so, can feed someone for a few days. A can of tuna, beans, or something to that effect, not more than R10, can be a meal for someone.

Even a roll or two: think about that. 60 or 70 cents. Thats nothing to us. But its the price of a roll. A piece of food which – even though its small – can go some way towards alleviating the hunger of someone in need.

As someone who really enjoys luxuries – sweets, chocolates, take out – I feel its also important to think about whether those in need would like those luxuries too, every once in a while. We’re priviledged enough to enjoy these things, pretty much whenever we want, right?

But, must we assume that we’re the only ones who can have it? Is having enough money a pre-requisite to enjoying a luxury every once in a while?

I hope your answer is “no”.

Once again, imagine yourself as being in their position – having nothing, but still being human, still having a stomach that needs to be fed, and a mind that delights in luxuries, even if it be very rare. Just for a moment, you can forget your poverty, forget your troubles, and enjoy something which brings even more pleasure than just fulfilling your basic needs.

Even if you get them a chocolate, or a pack of biscuits (which lasts longer) – its something that goes above and beyond the basic. You’re giving more than just the ‘necessary’.

So, if you can afford to, keep the “luxuries” angle in mind as well. And hey, a great combination of food AND luxury is a meal from one of the fast food outlets. (Nando’s is supposed to be healthier, apparently 😉 )

To end off, please remember that helping others is not a one-off thing. We should try to develop in ourselves a permanent quality of generosity, and not confine our giving to Ramadaan, or Winter, or Jumah.

Let’s appreciate what we have, and be thankful. And let giving to others be one of the ways we show gratitude for all the blessings given to us.


For the single people out there

This one’s for all of us who are waiting. I hope you take something good from it.


They tell you to be patient.
They say your time will come:
what is meant to be will be;

And all that lies between now and then
is a trial of Faith,
a lesson in patience,
a Revelation of your ultimate reliance on the One.

You seek that which, you feel, will complete your heart;
complement your mind;
bring lasting comfort to your soul.

You wish for the bond of love and tranquility,
placed between your hearts;
you yearn for the one who will be a garment to you,
and you fulfilling the same blessed purpose for them.

You dream of a future,
a life no longer alone.
A companion to share with you all the extacy and agony you will face within your journey.
Someone who will walk with you,
side by side,
hand in hand,
down the beautiful path that leads back the One to Whom we belong,
the One to Whom is our return.

And though you will face that Day alone,
your bond – and all it manifested itself as – gives you hope
that, together, you were each other’s helping hand.

You enjoined what was good,
and forbade what was evil;
You had a common goal, a beautiful goal;
and the support of each other was your safety net:
you had a home in their arms,
and when they held you,
nothing could harm you –

For you were right where you were destined to be,
wrapped in the love of the one who you held so dear,

and the two of you,
wrapped in the Love of the One Who brought your souls into existence,
then shaped you over time – through pain and joy, preparing you for the pure, everlasting union that was always in existence – though you did not know it until it came to your senses:
manifested itself in front of your eyes.

He alone, you worshipped;
He alone, you asked for help.

And though, at times, you grew frustrated,
wondering when the help would come;
when it would be your turn –
in truth, the Help was always there.

It was just for you to accept –
with your heart and your mind,
beyond the superficial rhetoric –
that everything has its appointed time.

So on that Day,
as you stand before Him,
you do so in the knowledge that your lives,
your souls,
though beginning separated;
were brought together at the appointed time.

And all that came before was not a waste –
on the contrary,
it was a treasure chest:
a collection of thoughts, feelings, experiences;
all part of your preparation.

Yet you did not see it that way,
in your haste to attain that which you so cherished.

But the past has passed,
and all is put into perspective now.

And though we cannot conceive what awaits us in the Hereafter
– for Paradise begins where the imagination ends –
we know who we wish to share it with.

So, look past the immediacy of these moments without them;
and remember what awaits you in your future.

Take lessons from the past.
Be thankful for the present.
Be hopeful for the future.

Seek help in patience and prayer;
ask of Him Who is of infinite bounty.

Tell Him all that you fear,
all that you dream of,
all that you want;

Open up to Him and pour out every ounce of the hurt you feel.
Let it all go.

For when you have done so,
when your troubles have been released,
you will be brought back to the truth and comfort of your ultimate reliance on the One:
your Eternal Companion; closer than you can imagine.

Keep the faith, always.

(Note: The sequel to this came 5 months later – here.)

Notes from a frustrated writer

Twice in the last week, I’ve had to reduce things I’ve written at work to make it as compact as possible, having to cater to readers who apparently ‘switch off’ if what they have to read is more than a few paragraphs.

Although I understand the importance of conciseness in certain kinds of communications, sometimes it just irritates me how much a writer has to cater to readers that supposedly can’t be bothered when they have to read something a little longer than a brief note.

OK, I admit I can be a bit wordy at times, and that may not suit every reader. But, that aside, what bugs me is this acceptance of the idea that we shouldn’t write longer communications, articles, etc, because people won’t read them.

Why should a writer simply accept that things should be ‘short and sweet’, and anything else is not going to be as effective?

Do people really think in bullet points nowadays? Do audiences just want the information in as brief a format as possible, neatly packaged so that they can be done with it in a minute or two?

Do people no longer appreciate the ‘padding’ that surrounds the main information? An introduction that draws you in; a paragraph that tries to empathise with you; a conclusion that tries to leave you on a high note?

I think that TV and other forms of passive entertainment have played a huge role in the decline of reading, and maybe the average person has become intolerant of having to read for more than a few minutes.

But, I ask you, is this really the way we want ourselves to be thought of?

As impatient individuals who want their information, and want it NOW. And: “if you’re going to ‘waffle on’ with your words and words and words, you’re just wasting my time.”

Any thoughts?


Breakfast in the ‘Bosch,
out on my makeshift porch –
        electric failure,
        none but a small bother to me.

Yesterday’s breakdown,
now part of History.

But its all over, and why cling?
A new day brings a fresh start:
a chance to think through a positive window.

There are pictures I want to blow up;
hang on my wall,
a reminder of sunrises that have captivated.

And still more: more memories, places, angles and effects.
Shots of an amateur, aspiring to nothing more than
his hobby – capturing moments in time,
visually freezing his outlook,
for all of a split second.

He has music, too, to throw away:
the physical collection of years spent
hooked on something no longer part of his life.

Car alarms clumsily knife through the morning soundscape,
demanding human attention,
embarassed not by their oafish screams.

The school bell rings: tea time over,
if school was in session, that is.

Much stays on my mind,
yet not as much is expressed.
Common themes, topics, ideas –
    recycled words
    for people who are only now discussing the big topic with me.

Dear reader:
I have no idea what this piece is,
for the only common theme is that it is a picture of my life on this morning.

What are you getting from it?
Why are you still reading it?
Are you hoping for some coherence of thoughts?
For these words, lines, images
    to all culminate in some grand finish?

The wandering of this pen to find some definable direction?

I could say the same of myself –
    yet I will not.

For, direction is not a pre-requisite.
Purpose is not necessary for these words to find their way onto the page.
Reasons are not needed, for me to sit out here and let my hand move the pen,
to put in words what comes from my self:
     The vessel that holds all these thoughts and memories,
     Dreams and frustrations,
     anxieties and Freedom.

I waited not for a glimpse of the Whole,
a spark of inspiration.

I just did – I didn’t stop, wait, think about something to say to you – to me.

So, dear reader, take from this what you can.
For I have no idea what this has meant for me, but
The page is out of space, so I’ll leave you for now.