Clem Sunter

A boy and a wheelbarrow

2011-08-03 14:00

My wife and I had just driven out of a village on the north-western border of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve when we came upon an interesting sight. A small boy was filling potholes of which there were many that we had to negotiate in our old Discovery. He had a wheelbarrow and a spade and was taking sand from the side of the road.

He was all by himself and when we passed him, we counted around 20 potholes that he had filled in. At the end of the straight, we turned right into the gate of the reserve and, as we were filling in the forms, we looked back at the lonely figure intent on his work. We decided there and then to go back and compensate him with a small amount of money and some fruit. He had not asked for anything and he was surprised to see us return.

He gave us a smile as he leant on his shovel, and nodded as we told him that if he continued with this work ethic, he just might make it to the top of whatever he chose one day. I know all this sounds patronising; but the greatest civilisations on Earth were built on the kind of individual initiative that this young boy was showing. He had not thrown his hands in the air and said he couldn't on account of his impoverished background. Nor had he put his hands out and said he needn't because he was entitled to welfare. He basically had said to himself that he could and would add some value to society whether he was paid for it or not.

He was putting to shame all those overpaid business executives who threaten to move on if they are not remunerated according to some inflated international benchmark. He was showing up all those bureaucrats who add absolutely no value but believe that the public should bow and scrape to them. He was providing a welcome contrast to all those tenderpreneurs who would have immediately put the spade down after you had passed and made your donation. He was shining a light on all those holders of high office who, with the gift of the gab, manage to conceal the fact that they never walk the talk.

Despite the probability that the first 10 overloaded trucks coming down that road would annihilate most of the good work that he had done, that young boy for one moment had done something positive. If his example could be repeated by a million others and then another million others, the impact would be truly astonishing. Chain reactions have to start somewhere. A butterfly has to flap its wings to cause a puff of wind that leads to a hurricane.

So, just for once, suspend your cynicism that all revolutions are only for the worse. Imagine the unimaginable that all citizens will have the freedom and resolve to do one small thing to improve the quality of life in this wonderful country of ours. It all starts with a boy, a wheelbarrow and a dream.

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