Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Amnesty International Newsletter

Link to the Amnesty International Monthly Newsletter mentioning my Capetown friend Norman...

Thursday, April 1, 2004

What Does $7.00 Buy?

Seven Dollars. A Five dollar bill and two ones. Twenty-eight quarters. What does that buy these days? A magazine and a cup of coffee? Does it still get you into a matinee at the theater?

From time to time we all get these sappy emails about how the World could be a better place. Or maybe a story of how fate entered his/her life and changed it. Or the story of how someone's life was unexpectedly touched by someone's simple actions. Or maybe a little saying or poem meant to bring happiness or peace into our lives.

As I sit here tonight on this long flight 12 hour flight, I wanted to share one of those touching moments. Something that will not soon leave my mind. A moment that comes far and few between in today's busy and rushed modern world. An instant when time seems to stand still for a brief second and a lightening bolt of reality is sent into your life. A moment that makes you realize what really matters in the grand scheme of everything. It happened to me tonight and I really felt I needed to share this.

Tonight I was rushing to the airport. Running very late for my flight from Capetown South Africa to London. I saw a lone porter out by the curb. He rushed over to help me with my bags, Insisting he could take everything himself. He beamed ear to ear with smiles and happiness. So eager to help and to lead me to the ticket counter inside directing me with his broken English. I was stressed about being late and missing the flight. I could tell the airport was already thinning out, as I was now heading to a nearly empty ticket counter. The most important thing in the world to me, at that moment, was making that flight. That thought was about to change.

As the ticket agent tagged my bags and checked me in I looked in my pocket for a tip to give to the porter. The last bill I had in my pocket was a Fifty Rand Note in South African Currency. About the US equivalent of $7. I handed it to the porter, and thanked him for helping me to make my flight. I was so preoccupied with checking in, I totally just went on with my check in process.

When I stepped away from the counter, the porter approached me and grabbed my arm. He had tears in his eyes. I will forever remember the look in his face as he proceeded to send a chill down my spine. "Thank you sir, for it is because of you I can feed my family tonight. I have not worked in two days, and I had no customers tonight. I work for tips here only. It is so hard to tell my daughters that all they will have is bread to eat on a Sunday." I didn't know what to say. I was stopped dead in my tracks. He continued on, "Tonight, I will be able to buy a chicken for our dinner table. And I want to thank you. You have made my family happy for they were so hungry. What is your name?" I told him it was Stephen, and I again thanked him for his help. He offered to help me to the security checkpoint, so I accepted, and as we walked, I asked him about his family.

"My name is Norman. My wife has no job. And I have three daughters, 14,12 and 8. But they love me very much, because they know I work hard for them. We live in a one room shack in the Capetown Flats {As I discovered on this scout, it is a very crime & gang infested area outside of Capetown made up of rows and rows of shacks in a makeshift city. Sometimes with as many as 8 or 9 people living in one shack and an unemployment rate of 45%}. We are lucky cause it is a nice home and we are thankful because God provides for us. When I thought all hope was gone tonight, you drove to the curb. You are the last customer tonight, and because of you, we can eat tonight."

We were reaching the security checkpoint where I would need to leave my new friend. "Good-bye Norman, and thank you. I will look for you again here sometime soon," I said. He turned to me and smiled ear to ear, "Thank you Stephen. Remember me, your new friend in Capetown. And tonight when we eat, my family and I will pray for you and your flight. You need to land safely. You have loved ones somewhere too."

After passing through passport control, as I rode the escalator up to the gates, I caught a glimpse of my new friend. Waving ecstatically with both hands behind security..."Goodbye Stephen.....God Bless You......" $7. Less then a movie or a drink in my world of personal enjoyment.

Tonight I saw hope and happiness in someone's eyes. And it touched me.  Thought I would share the feeling.