Spit and polish in honour of Madiba

SOUTH Africa celebrated Nelson Mandela’s birthday and Mandela Day on Saturday.
But how do we go about honouring a man who has set such an astounding example of humility, compassion and strength? On this day, we as citizens of this rainbow nation, gave 67 minutes of our time in recognition of what he did for nation-building. There are so many ways to serve your community.  In preparation for this day’s events around the country, groups worked tirelessly to put together parcels to hand out to those less fortunate than ourselves. Some were made up of basic necessities, while others contained treats for young and old. There is great joy to be found in receiving, but even more in giving, so the saying goes. I concur, giving of yourself whether it is of your time or energy must certainly rank up there with all the greater joys.
Our nation’s great man walked to freedom, not barefooted but with shoes. Bearing this in mind and considering how Madiba served communities himself, Boston City Campus and Business College Polokwane decided that it would be fitting for us to serve our 67 minutes by polishing the shoes of the people who passed  through the arcade which serves the entrance to our learning centre.
They say you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes.  We so often take for granted and accept that we put on a pair of shoes in the morning. Some of us are fortunate in that we step into a pair of slippers in the morning and then into our work shoes.  Maybe we even swop these for a pair of running shoes for a lunch-time workout.  A business meeting or dinner out in the evening may require that special stiletto with the sling-back and sequin detail.
Do we stop to consider another person’s relationship with his shoes? The people who pass us in the street whom we may never see again, the cashier at your local supermarket and the man who greets you everyday when you take your newspaper from his stand?  Don’t get me wrong, you should never judge a man by his shoes until you have walked a hundred miles in them.  Nonetheless, shoes tell a story.  They tell of distances walked and dusty roads travelled to get to where their wearers need to be. They speak of care taken to preserve their appearance while others bear testament to neglect and “I don’t care”.  Some have given up on their masters and are close to retirement. We saw shoes and boots on their way to appointments, off to work or returning from a night shift at the mine.  Children with their ‘town’ shoes and gogos with their comfy flats.  Whether it was one of many or the only pair, there was not a barefoot in sight.
Whatever their condition, we offered to give them a shine.  We had mixed reactions at first.  There was apprehension and delight, a mixed bag of joy and also scepticism.  After all, it is not every day that a stranger offers to do something mahala.  But the end result was always the same.  As the shine was returned to scuffed and dusty toecaps and heels, so too a smile would beam brightly over the face of each and everyone of our guests who sat down for their ‘spit and polish’.  For that moment we connected, shared some words and maybe even a laugh.
There is something to be said for lifting someone’s spirit, seeing them walk off with a spring in their step, walking a little taller, a little prouder.  So simple we thought when we set out on our project, yet so rewarding.  We did make a difference for that person, not just for that moment.
As this will stay in my memory bank forever, I am sure it will leave a lasting impression in the minds of all who participated. A humbling experience indeed.
Melaney Beneke
Boston City Campus and Business College Polokwane
Branch manager

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