Here in South Africa, Winter is on our doorstep. 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 – is 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, let’s 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. That’s something 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 it’s 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, while 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 – it’s 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 R15 or so, can feed someone for a few days. A can of tuna, beans, or something to that effect, not more than R30, can be a meal for someone.
Even a roll or two: think about that. R1 or R2. That’s 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 privileged 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 😉 )
And 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 Jumuah.
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.
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