Today I had the most humbling experience of my life. My eyes still tear up at the memories of the incident that I was party to this morning.
I never normally stop at the side of the road to help others in need. I don’t give money to people at robots. I am not a Saint – there are a lot of things that I don’t do. But today, for some reason I did. Today, I CHOSE to go to the aid of a black man lying in the midday sun on the pavement of Linksfield Rd in Edenvale.
The temperature must easily have been 29 degrees C and as I drove past I could see him lying on the ground. There was a large black suitcase behind him. His one hand held a crutch, and he was grasping at the ground, scrapping the crutch, trying to leverage himself to get up. And as I drove past him, cars on either side of me seemed to drive by oblivious to the fact that here was a fellow human being who was in trouble.
I drove up to the robot – I don’t know why, but I made a u-turn and drove back on the other side of the road to where he was and parked the car. I wound down the window and asked him if he needed help. No sound came from his mouth, just the ongoing desperate clawing at the ground with his crutch. I crossed the busy road and still no one noticed. I admit, being human, that I had a fleeting thought, that this is South Africa, it could be a hoax or I could get mugged. I brushed those thoughts aside as I focused on his face, on his eyes and I could see as I looked at him, the desperation, the fear that sat there. I bent down next to him and asked him what was wrong. He did not answer me. His hand held on to mine. By this stage I gathered that he was unable to speak. I felt somewhat desperate as he was too heavy for me to lift. A car ahead of me stopped on the same side of the road as the two of us and reversed back towards us. I told the man that I was leaning over that I was going to get help.
The occupants of the other motor vehicle were an elderly couple. The gentleman put on his hazard lights and got out of the car to help me with the man I had left lying on the pavement. As I walked back to him, I waved my arms for someone else to stop and the cars just kept whizzing by. Just as we got back to him, another Angel appeared on the scene coming in the opposite direction. She did a u-turn and came to park next to us on the pavement.
With the three of us there, this man who was still helpless on the ground, pointed behind him. Across his chest he had the strap to a back pack that he had placed across his back. He pointed to the backpack which we took off his shoulders. Inside were freezer blocks that as you know are used keep things cold, two buddy bottles of coke, syringes and insulin bottles.
This man was not only unable to speak, he was also diabetic. He grasped at one of the coke bottles and took long slugs of the cold coke. As the sugar hit his system he began to sit up a little straighter. He was uncomfortable and the man who had stopped to help straightened his legs for him. This man who we were serving, was also physically disabled.
After a little while, with as he rested against my legs, cars whizzing by with no-one again stopping to help, he gained a little more strength. He pointed to his suitcase which I might add was as heavy as if it had rocks in it, and in the front pocket, he took out a clipboard that had an exam pad attached to it and he wrote down –
“Thank you for stopping to help me – mommies and daddy. I had a sugar drop.”
We asked him his name and he wrote for us that he is Sandile. He further informed us that he was from PE and that he had come to Johannesburg to see the bone doctor for his hip, hitting his hand on his hip bone. Angelina, the lady who had stopped told me that she had helped him before and he wrote down that he remembered her. She worked across the road at the Edenvale branch of Sandown travel.
Sandile was too heavy for us and unable to get himself up and walk with his crutch on his own. Angelina, called from her cell phone to some of her colleagues from her office to assist us. The kind elderly gentleman gave Sandile a small amount of money before taking his leave as her colleagues came across the road. They assisted Sandile into the back of Angelina’s car and placed his luggage in the boot. Sandile kept writing his thanks to the “mommies” on his clipboard. Angelina and I were able to establish that Sandile was trying to get to the centre of Johannesburg to get a taxi so that he could return home to PE. He advised us of the cost of the taxi – and that he did not have enough money. At no point though did he ask either of us for money.
Angelina took Sandile across to the office parking lot whilst I went to withdraw a measly amount of money to make up the amount that he needed to get himself home. On my return to Sandown Travel offices his face broke out in a beautiful grin. His eyes shone and he kept touching his chin in the sign language version of gratitude. When I put the amount of money he needed in his hand – he took my hand and placed it against the side of his cheek. By this time, tears were streaming down my face.
Sandile continued to write answers to questions that Angelina and I were asking him. He is 43 years of age, his only family are his four sisters who live in PE.
Gratitude shone out of every pore his face broke out in a huge grin when he read our names on our business cards he pointed his finger up to the sky. For we are Angela and Angelina.
Angelina, beautiful soul that she is offered to drive Sandile to Louis Botha avenue, to the BP station where he could catch a taxi that could get him to the taxi ranks in the centre of the city so that he could find his transport back to his home. I extracted a promise from him that he would let us know that he had gotten home safely. He agreed with a huge smile and wrote on his paper – by sms! The last I saw of him was his smiling face in the window of Angelina’s car.
I hear the voices of the cynics (if you have gotten this far) that are reading this article saying that it was all a hoax. Please don’t bother to say so on FB posts – so not needed. My only comment is that I wish that you had been there to see the incredible gratitude that shone from Sandile’s eyes as he felt better and better. I wish for you that somewhere in your heart, that you could find some sense of compassion for another person who never asked for money, who never asked for a shred of pity, all he was concerned about was conveying his gratitude that he could get back home. I wish for you the privilege that I had to see humility shining out of the eyes of another human being for three strangers who had done nothing more than care.
Now imagine if you will for one moment what it must have felt like to be Sandile. Physically disabled, unable to speak and a diabetic in danger of going into insulin shock, what would you have thought as you saw car after car travelling by and no one stopping. What would you have thought when no one demonstrated any form of care for long enough to take time out of their ant like existences scurrying hither and thither without a care in the world for another human being who was clearly in trouble? Helplessness takes on a whole new meaning does it not?
Is this what we have come to – a society of people who has forgotten what it means to care, to have empathy for another Soul?
We are so consumed with fear – of not having enough, of warped ideas of success vested in material things? Why are we not more concerned about using our positive potential to choose to be of service in action as we show up in our world each day? Granted there are, and for one minute let me not take away from, many thousands of Angels of mercy who do this kind of selfless work each and every day. I am not asking for Sainthood because I broke my own patterns of self-preservation and served another human being.
Who came out of this richer for this experience. I do not know whether Sandile will ever know the impact that he made on my life today – of the humility and gratitude that I feel towards him.
Today I could have made the choice to drive on by – I didn’t. I ask you now, to pass on this gift from a humble man who has had to overcome obstacles in his life that most of us cannot even begin to contemplate. Please pass this message on to those in your inbox, to those on your facebook pages, twitter and anywhere else where we can ask others, to stop – and to care.
Sandile – I look forward to your sms saying that you are safe. Thank you because I am a better person because of you!
Angela is an avid advocate for freedom and choice and her passion lies in transformation, facilitating processes as Storytelling and Experience Economy thinking that encourage people and organisations to access their strengths, talents and potential.