Coming from an average white afrikaans middle class back ground, I enjoyed certain privileges all my life. Having been stuck without transport this past week literally changed my world. I haven’t always had it easy. But I certainly had it way easier than the majority of people I share our country with. I have a very liberal outlook on life and my fellow humans. And I have never been comfortable with the “white afrikaans middle class” label, because we can say and do and be however we want, that is the label we are given. I consider myself open minded, friendly and kind and approachable. But this past week (and I know it’s only a few days) completely changed my point of view on quite a few things.
We as the white middle class love to sit back and complain about things. And we are literally complaining with the proverbial white bread under the arm. My bus rides this week again re-affirmed my strong belief in the power and importance of community and how important it is for the survival of mankind. Let me tell you a bit about my experiences on the bus this week.
Firstly we all love to say how we don’t have proper public transport in this country. I strongly disagree with that. We do have proper public transport. It may not be a luxury liner with aircon or a C class Merc but we DO have public transport. Yes the bus is not going to drop you right on the doorstep of where you want to be, so you might have to actually walk a few metres, it will involve getting rid of a few hangups but might also help get rid of that few last kilograms. But the point is we DO. Taking the bus is an awesome experience, and it’s surprisingly really convenient. The busses (so far in my very limited experience) has always been on time, it’s quicker than taking my own car, cheaper than taking my own car and it involves absolutely no stressing. When I get to my drop off point I’m chilled, relaxed and ready to face the day at work. Our public transport system works.
Now let me explain a bit about the rest of my experience apart from the practical. I have always said that I love our country, and I love Africa. There is something special about this place and if you are open to it, you can feel the rhythm of the heartbeat of Africa pulsing through your veins deep down into your soul. We come from a divided background and neither side of the fence really understand each other, or make the effort to. We are all very quick to generalize. Our country has the most amazing people and we have much to teach each other. My experience these past few days taught me much (more than I already know) about embracing people with open arms, about friendliness, about love, about consideration for others and about acceptance to name but a few. My experience on the bus is but a micro experience but it helped me grasp, catch a slight glimpse of the greater sense of community that most of are not a part of or even aware of. Even living the way I do, even though in my street we have a little community that is not common or part of most people’s experience. Where we all know each other, we help out where we can. Even that is a limited experience. If we can let go of our stereotypes and our hangups and look past the boundaries of our white picket fences. We will get to know and live in a whole other world. A world where a perfect stranger will lend you a helping hand, strike up a random conversation, share a meal with you, give you a Rand when you are short, give a hug or a smile, or just sit in companionable silence. Where there is giving without expecting anything in return because there is a deep knowing and understanding that somewhere, sometime it will indeed be returned.
My short time on the bus this week, opened my eyes to that world. And that is the world I want to be a part of.