Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Sandwich Drive

One of my favourite short stories can be found in a little New Testament life application Bible that I used to carry around everywhere with me. The story described a man walking along a beach where thousands upon thousands of starfish were stranded and he was chucking them back into the sea one at a time. As I recall, some people watched as the man tirelessly threw the starfish into the sea one by one and called out to him, saying, "You know, you're never going to be able to throw all of them back in. You may as well just give up now because your actions are insignificant." The man's response was something along the lines of, "I know that I can't save every starfish, but I am able to save some of them." The moral of the story was that any change or difference, no matter how small or insignificant they may appear in the grand scheme of things, may in fact still be very significant on an individual scale, and that we should not become demoralised or moved to inaction because we are overwhelmed by circumstances.

South Africans like to complain about the government taxing the middle and upper classes more and more and justifying it by saying they need more money for education, infrastructure, and so on. I really believe that the majority of South Africans would not mind giving up more of their income to aid the poor if we knew that it was definitely going to end up helping the less fortunate. Instead, we only find evidence of misappropriation and mismanagement of funds with many disadvantaged South Africans living in squalor. Often this evidence is manifested by reports of giant mansions being built and extravagant parties being thrown for government officials.

In Pretoria there are lots of beggars to be found on almost every street corner, all hours of the day and night. Most of the time I do what 99% (this is not an accurate statistic but rather a cynical guestimate) of the other motorists do and shrug, apologise and tell them I have no money, roll up my window and, if I'm in a terrible mood, avoid all eye contact and stare dead straight ahead. The few times I do have spare change lying around to give, I'll pass along the change and in the same mental process accuse them of using all the money they get from begging to buy glue. 

Recently I have become more frustrated with myself and the situation at large. For the past 3 years of driving through Pretoria I'd justified my inaction by saying that any small contributions I make are completely insignificant, so more often than not, I end up doing nothing. This has now come to an end... enter the Sandwich Drive! I went and bought a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a few plastic sandwich bags. For the past few days I've made a couple of sandwiches and placed them in sandwich bags, and while I drive, whenever I see someone who looks hungry, whether a beggar, security guard, gardener or similar, I hand them a sandwich. I don't do this to assuage my Christian guilt. When one is more concerned about whether an act of kindness is significant or not, it's not really a selfless act of kindness at all, but rather a selfish act aimed at making one feel better about oneself. 

The Sandwich Drive is not about random acts of kindness, it's about intentional acts of kindness. 

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