Alone in the crowd
I remember that day well…
Earlier on, there had been an invitation from a good friend of mine, one of the kindest people I have met on the planet. She had invited me to come over for a birthday get-together. It would simply be barbeque and drinks with friends in the back garden and it would be fun, she had said. I didn’t really know the person celebrating that day, but I decided I’d honour the invitation and go over.
Perhaps, if I had known how the day would unravel, I would have stayed back in my apartment, content with playing a video game, munching pizza and downing cider – but, I had no idea, and like we say in Africa, I carried my two legs and went over.
I walked through the door way with my most polite “hello-people” smile on my face, relieved to see a few familiar faces – and it was then it dawned on me that I was the only black person around.
Now, I am generally “colour blind” and open to different races and cultures with their unique traits, but standing there being stared at like a ghost made me question if I was at the wrong gathering. I mentally checked what I was wearing and knew I didn’t look like a tramp or gigolo.
At that point, my friend had rushed out, beaming broadly as she came, and had given me a reassuring bear-hug. There were still stares around, and as she left to attend to some other things, I could feel eyes on me. No one offered me food or a drink, so I walk to the table, as is the custom at such parties and made myself a burger.
Then a lady said to me “Would you like some squash?” Ok, I am NOT a fan of squash. Give me juice, give me anything else, but not squash, but I said “Er, alright” – and then just at that point, another guy walked through the door, the smiles appeared on all faces, the sun came out, people offered the new arrival food and the fridge popped open and out came the wine bottle for the stranger at the door!
Later, I sat thinking to myself in a corner of the garden (before “rescue” came as friends of mine arrived the venue. I was the the only black, but that didn’t matter at that point), even if I was a stranger and unknown, isn’t there a basic way to treat another human being?
Today, I am still “colour blind”. I have great friends from all over the world and I remember a friend who was asked about my race, over the phone. She came over to where I was, looked me over and said “Mom, he’s black” – and we had both laughed at that later. She was so used to me, she actually lost track of the colour of my skin. Now, what I have come to understand is that it is not about country or tribe or any such variable, but about people. I have seen people mistreated by kinsmen all over the world.
But what is the point of my story?
It is simply this: Let us not love in words, but in deed…
It’s strange that many say that when they are lonely, have made serious blunders or are going through tough times in their lives, they suddenly realise that with 1600 facebook ‘friends’ and over 200 contacts on their phone, there is hardly anyone who they can readily confide in or talk to? I have received calls and messages from people who are not close to me, or who just met me – and all they wanted to do was talk and confide in someone, unburden their hearts, cry on a shoulder.
Why are such shoulders lacking?
- Many people have loose mouths and cannot be trusted with information
- Many are simply immature and cannot handle much – and this has nothing to do with age
- (And this is a big one) Many are so out of touch with reality, so full of empty pat answers and shallow untried advices. These are people who say all the “right things” and every shred of stuff that comes out of their mouth is useless to the person going through a storm. Sadly, a lot of religious people fall in this category. I call it “paper theology”!
- Many people think they have to talk a person through and out of a bad scenario. Sometimes, silence is golden.
- Many are simply selfish or totally crude and ill-mannered. They lack tact, they lack depth, they lack the will to part with resource in terms of money, food, time, comfort – or themselves – to help others …especially strangers.
It is my hope that this note will make you decide to become a haven of rest for those around you…especially the stranger.