I had a chance to relax this summer and go away on holiday to South Africa. This is a country I have visited before – my husband once lived in South Africa and we have friends there.
Part of the area we visited was about 100 kms out of Johannesburg on our way to the Drakensberg Mountains where the landscape was fairly uninhabited and quite remote.
The roads we were travelling on were very much like the ones here – tarmac surface and dual carriageway until at one point the road had not been finished and it turned into a dirt road and then a gravel road. My husband commented that he hoped we wouldn’t get a flat tyre and almost as if he jinxed it we then did get a flat tyre. He then said we are really in trouble if we get another as we only have one spare tyre and…we did get another flat tyre.
So we had a big problem – and I decided to stop the next passing car. The lady Yvonne, seen here in the photograph, stopped her car to help us. Yvonne helped us unload our luggage to her pick up truck and with our two poorly tyres she drove us about 20 miles to a repair place – from time to time stopping to tell little children off who stood by the roadside rubbing their tummies to say they were hungry – she told them the SA government gave their mother money to buy food so if they were hungry they should go and tell her. Yvonne then drove us back again with our now mended tyres to put back on the car.
She was unbelievably kind. And I wondered how many of us would stop and help and give up our time on a Saturday afternoon to help two random strangers. I wasn’t sure that we would feel comfortable doing that in the UK. I said this to her and she told me a little of her story.
When she was 6 months old she contacted polio which can be quite a debilitating disease and her mother abandoned her. She was taken in by an elderly woman of the village until she was old enough to earn her keep by fetching and carrying water and firewood for the other villagers when she house hopped to whoever would accommodate her. The old lady paid for her to attend primary school and then when she thought she wasn’t going to be able to go to high school another person paid for her secondary education. On leaving school she went to work as a cleaner in Johannesburg and at the same time discovered a talent for hair braiding and did that in the evenings. She saved up the money she earned from hair braiding and a friend she had made persuaded her to apply to go to university and by keeping her hair braiding business going she could earn enough to keep herself whilst she studied. She showed me photographs of herself graduating with her doctorate in education and I have not mentioned that she also managed to bring up two sons after her husband died.
I truly marvelled at all she had achieved. She was so practical – helping my husband change the tyres even offering her coat for him to lie on in the dirt. She said she had spent 18 years looking after herself and there was nothing she couldn’t do.
She also told me she was a Christian and as such she believed that God provided for her and he had made it her mission to return the help she had experienced and the guidance he had given her by helping others whenever she could which is why she stopped to help us.
It made me think of a reading called Footprints in the sand which you can read in the column opposite.
There are times in our lives when we need to be carried and that maybe through your religious faith or through your faith in others. We need our friends and our friends need us. Friends need to be able to rely on each other and to feel they will not let them down. We need the help and support of many people as we travel through life. In the earlier stages of this journey school provides a vital part of this help and support. If we are open to the benefits to be derived from school we will gain much from our time there. With a positive attitude and the encouragement of true friends we will all have the strength to continue life’s journey confident that we know where we are going and how best to get there.
I was inspired by Yvonne – she taught me something about helping others and without her immense kindness we could have been in quite a pickle on that deserted road in a foreign land.