We ALL add value.
The cool Cape breeze took the edge off Spring, as I stood on the corner of Wale and Buitengracht streets, in Cape Town on a Sunday morning. I was next to a liquor store and a large rectangle of beautiful flowers - attended by two flower sellers.
The middle-aged Muslim couple graciously sold me a few single flowers for a surprise early morning gift for Arthie. A beautiful Protea and a white lily made up my tiny present.
I greeted the couple in Arabic and then continued in Afrikaans. They were truly awesomely humble and we connected with each other. Whilst we were chatting a Xhosa man came out of his liquor store and laughingly said, “They don’t know that you also speak my language!” We chatted for a while in isiXhosa as we had the day before.
Just then a man came out of the Subway shop and greeted me in Shona – again I responded in his language. We too had chatted when I bought supper, on the previous night.
The flower seller asked how many languages I spoke. I told him and he asked, “How did you learn in all of these languages? I explained that I learnt through Walkipedia and Talkipedia. I then explained that we are surrounded by people who know so many things – and their home languages are the foundations to building relationships. So I learn from them.
The woman then said, “It is ok for you clever people – but us dumb ones, we could never do that.”
I felt a deep sense of sadness as I looked at her and asked. “How many languages can you speak?” And I slowly gleaned from her that she spoke English, Arabic, Afrikaans and a little bit of Xhosa. I then said, “There are many people who have been educated in Universities that can only speak one language. How then do you see yourself as dumb?”
She smiled her sad almost toothless smile and said “Ja, maar ek IS dom.” (“Yes, but I AM dumb.”) Again the sadness crossed my heart.
I then asked them if they had children. “Yes”, came the response. “7 children.” I asked if they had raised them well, with good values. “Yes”, they said. “Our oldest is in university and the next one is finishing school.” I asked again, “And did you do this all on your own? “Yes. Just us.” came the response.
I asked, “Then, how can you believe that you are dumb?”
Once more I slipped in another question, “Is this your own business? And how long have you been doing this?”
“Ja, this is our own business – for 27 years now.” Came the proud response.
I then said, “Most small business are lucky to survive for a year, or two. In fact most people go to University to learn how to work for a boss. Yet you have been successful and raised a family of 7, off this wonderful and beautiful business. How can you say you are dumb?”
They looked at each other and a glow of humble pride lit up their faces.” And she looked up at me, with a beautiful smile and said, “Ja meneer, miskien is ek nie dom nie. Miskien is ons nogal slim! Shukrun.” Yes, sir maybe I am not dumb. Maybe we are really clever. Thank you!” I saw a beautiful peace light up their faces, as I responded with “Afwaan” in Arabic.
I then left with my flowers, knowing that our interaction had given a new sense of hope and happiness to a couple who had never seen within themselves their true value. And their value is huge.
We never know the true stories behind the people we meet. We may judge them by their appearance and the downcast looks upon their faces. We need to look deeper to find the true person and martyrs in our streets. There is great value in everyone and it is that diversity that we can all learn and grow from!
I am so glad that I decided to buy flowers on that day.
Brian V Moore