On 16 December of most years I run a 10 km race in a place called Gugulethu close to
Cape Town, South Africa. It is not really a race for me as I normally go to enjoy the people. you get runners there from all over Cape Town and then also some people on holiday from other places of Africa or the world. You will see quite a number of Santas around running with big bags full of sweets. They then dish this out to kids along the road.
There are places in Guglethu where you get better houses, but then you also get areas where there are cheaper almost makeshift houses or shacks. Normally when you hit this portion of the race you find many kids lining the streets. They are looking for gifts, well actually sweets. Now I know that we should not give sweets to kids. The sugar content is far too high etc etc, but we were giving out sweets.
So I gave a few sweets to a number of people and everything seemed to be fine in the beginning. About five minutes later I had these kids running alongside asking, please some sweets, please some sweets. They would run 50 or 100 meters or so in the hope that they would get something. Many of them had plastic bags with them to gather the sweets.
Then about eight minutes later I stopped to give some sweets from a bag that I was carrying. Within 30 seconds I was surrounded by about 10 to 15 kids each one trying to get to the front to get a sweet. The hands were stretched out and many of them tried to open the bag to get to their sweet. Some tried to get a second sweet. It seemed that they were impatient and anxious to get to the sweets, to their helping.
When I was young I was taught to wait, to not grab and not to be first in line. I was often told, “be patient, there is enough for everyone”. I know I was extremely fortunate when I grew up. We did not always have cake or sweet things around, but I remember on Sundays and Wednesdays. There was always enough to eat. The rules here seemed different. You have to be first in line, you have to race to get it, you have to by all means get into the bag, to get your portion as there may not be enough for everyone.
I was emotionally deeply disturbed emotionally by this. I could not quite understand why I was so upset at that time. They were all anxious to get something. The bigger kids pushed the hands of the smaller ones down. I was anxious as I was running out of sweeets to give and as I was deeply embarrased about what was happening in this fight for survival. About 500 meters or so from there a similar thing happened and I gave the balance of the sweets to one of the bigger kids asking them to share. I am not sure if the sharing happened, but after that I started running again, a bit more free now to just run. It is easy to run and just close my eyes and ears to the anxious hands.
The image of hese hands, however, did not stop when I was not confronted by individuals anymore. It lingered on and found a way to reach into my heart. They are in there looking for an answer to their needs. We must find a way to turn this around.
Now reflecting about what happened there, I wish I was able to buy sweets for everyone in that area. Well not really sweets! I wish I could give everyone a tool so that they could grow up and change their thinking. One way to think is to say: there is enough for everybody, there is abundance. The tool does exist of course and that is education.
What often is absent is a father or mother or adult that could help them and motivate them.
Education is much more than teaching mathematics or science or languages, but education is needed.
If you want to make a contribution in time, energy, ideas or skills, please let me know so that we can tackle this challenge in Africa and worldwide!