Georgina Guedes

Take a walk on the bright side

2013-04-25 15:24

Georgina Guedes

I read an article on News24 this morning about some angry shack residents in Mfuleni in Cape Town setting fire to a crèche, because the city officials had demolished their shacks, but left the crèche standing.

It makes no sense!

I read these kinds of stories with a mix of horror and disgust. At least in this instance, no one was hurt and the shack fire was put out pretty quickly. But what were these people thinking?

That to hurt and possibly kill someone else’s children would teach a lesson to the city officials?

That their resentment of the crèche would be effectively communicated by attempted murder?

That they would succeed in any way in gaining sympathy (not notoriety) from their actions?

When I try to work through the logic of this, and try to understand their motivations (as sympathetic as I am to the fact that they have so little to start with, and now have even less), I am left with the bitter understanding that we are a damaged society (and a lot less sympathy in the wake of their actions).

It’s the kind of thinking that can inspire agoraphobia – locking yourself in your house, relating to only your friends and family, putting literal and figurative walls up around yourself so that you are not damaged by the society you live in.

Chin up!

But then I remind myself that there’s a lot of good out there. That although the bad news clamours from our headlines, if you dig a little deeper into most publications’ daily news, there are usually uplifting stories of man’s humanity to fellow man (or animals or the environment).

You can scrounge for these by looking for the small stories at the back of the newspaper, or the lesser-read ones online (or News24 helpfully lumps them together under a tab called Good News for your convenience), but they won’t give a true reflection of life out there, because journalists are, for better or worse, dedicated to rooting out the bad news.

Instead, the best place to look for good news stories is out in the street. When my husband and I take our two children and our dog to the park every night, we meet with a wide variety of people from different walks of life. Because we’re park regulars, some people have got to know us, and because our children are unrivalled in their cuteness and friendliness, strangers greet us as well.

I’m not saying that a greeting is an act of kindness, but it’s these small interactions with people outside of my immediate circle that remind me that most of the people out there are just the same as me – they want what’s best for them and their families, but not at a cost to the rest of the world, they’re warm and compassionate and they take joy in the happiness of others.

So yes, there are problems in South Africa – I’m the first to admit to that. But when the problems start to get us down, we should take a walk in the park and remind ourselves that there are a hell of a lot of people out there who are kind and gentle and good, and we don’t have to travel too far to find them.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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