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Ingrid Wolfaardt

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE


Kindness, beats what statins can do for your heart. To be on the receiving end is nice, novel, neat and lowers your blood pressure but to be the giver of kindness, it is far better for one’s health, putting a warm glow to the most miserable day, lifting your load, making life a little lighter. It clears the head of debris and the blood of blockages and bottlenecks, making one go with the flow of the day so much better than without it.

Kindness is something you should learn at your mother’s knee. It should be imbibed with mother’s milk, it should be something that comes naturally to you. Kindness can be counted as small acts of generosity, coupled with thoughtfulness, mostly unexpected and often undeserved, which means it has a spirit of grace and gratitude behind it. Kindness to my mind, should not be a very public affair, if it is, and an almighty fuss is made about it, then I suspect some other agenda is at work because kindness, should happen in the quiet, behind the scenes moments with no or little fan-fair. Kindness in the ideal world, should be a way of life, without murmuring, or weighing up of the cost and effort, as part of one’s daily life as much as breathing, effortlessly.

Kindness is the healing balm we all need to live, and flourish in this country of ours.

Last week was the birthday of a man whom others would call a man of all trades and perhaps even more so a man for all seasons. From a humble background and coming to work for us after many months of dire straits, he has become the man you call for a burst pipe, a telephone on the blink, a grandmother that needs to be fetched, a garden that needs to be pruned, furniture that needs to be polished, stuff that needs to be carted, dogs that need to be pampered. When he began to work for us he could hardly utter a word, stammering and stuttering, and so much would go wrong because of his fear of speaking to us. A grown man with a family, a respected lay preacher in his own community, yet unable to talk because of his fear, because of his history of bad bosses.

But something has happened over the past four years, and I realized this, in passing, a while back, when I phoned him, rather irately, bothering him as is my custom on one of his many errands, about some minor, missing object, which should have been somewhere of my placing. He listened me out, patiently, then answered clearly, without hesitation and with quiet authority that he unfortunately could not help in this regard, though he would want to if he could, as he had no idea that such an object existed and that I needed to find another scapegoat, closer to home. I was stunned. I put the phone down, then immediately phoned J, triumphantly announcing that we had victory, our man was standing up for himself, without fear of retribution, dismissal or punishment.

So as it is in the house of the idle, I arose last Thursday, rather late and lazy to be told, as an afterthought by J, that it was our man’s 50th birthday and that I needed to put something together in the form of a party for him. I had other plans for the day and so for a moment, was slightly peeved off but then my better self took over and off I went to put a party together.

To my mind parties consist of eating, drinking, some singing and salutations, lots of laughter and a gift to be unwrapped.

Parties also need people and so the most obvious rent-a-crowd, were the staff at our offices who with me, are prone to “dial a man,” this man in particular whenever anything goes awry and so were my best bet on short notice, with our Madame of all matters domestic, Mari in tow.

There was lots of lovely things to eat and drink, we sang Happy Birthday in different languages and “Lank mag hy lewe” just to top it all. Speeches were made, Ricoffy cuppacino’s were sipped, while our man sat and was served by those who were always on the receiving side. Jokes were told and he had us in stitches too and my gift was just perfect and so in fashion, according to Madame Mari, who also doubles as our in-house stylist.

After the party was over and everyone was back at their desks, on their phones and computers, J told our man to go home and enjoy the rest of the day with his family. Our man stood up and requested that he may have a word or two with J and myself.

“When I was one years old, no one celebrated my birthday, neither at twenty one. No one has ever wished me happy birthday in all the years I have worked, but today is the first day that my birthday has been celebrated by those who employee me and I thank you for this great day in my life.” This is a shortened and rough translation of his words to us.

I stared at him and then at J and tears sprang to my eyes, oh selfish one, who thought it a trifle at first, this small gesture in thanks and appreciation was something so precious and wonderful for this man and we had done it, on a whim and yet it is who we are, to love, to care, to affirm, to show our appreciation and see others grow and shine like the stars they are.

And so our man went home. Ironed his new snazzy shirt, put it on, went off to his daughter’s school to wait for her, with a plate of cake in his hands and her face, lighting up, to see him at the school gate, so unexpected and such a surprise, was his biggest gift, he told us the next day.

Aaaah, kindness, may it be my default option, always.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Luso</a>
    June 7th, 2012 @13:55 #

    I think you're onto something here Ingrid. I find that kindness really has no particular address, except perhaps in the heart. If more people were genuinely kind, wouldn't that be something?

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Ingrid</a>
    June 8th, 2012 @10:58 #

    Agree, Luso, the world would be a nicer place for it.


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