Beyond

We each have our own burden to bear, and our own demons to fight.

Of this fact, I am personally very aware, especially of recent times.

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My family and I have been buried under a mountain of troubles in recent weeks. From uncertainty as to the permanence of our home, to the three weeks of hell with 5 break-ins (where we chased the bad guys down the road), to the 10 or so horses from our herd that are sick and we are trying to nurse back to health (it’s been pretty touch and go with at least 3 of them, and the road ahead looks long), all of which has affected each of us in different ways.

We’ve been so inundated and buried in our own troubles that we almost forgot there is a world out there, beyond our back yard.

But despite it all, one always needs to keep things in perspective, and for this, I have tried to go out of my way to hear other people’s stories too. Because we all have a story, just not everyone sees our story. And it is healing to the wounded soul, to both be able to talk about your problems, as well as to expend yourself to help others.

Of the stories I’ve heard, a few stand out to me as particularly difficult situations, far far worse than my own troubles, and yet those in those situations just seem to keep trudging on.

I would like to share just one of those with you today….

A man whom we shall call Jack (not his real name for interests of his protection) whom I met recently. This man has a family with 3 or 4 children, the youngest is 7. He used to be a bank teller with a comfortable life in Zimbabwe some years ago. However when the economy in that country collapsed, they no longer had banks and he no longer had a job. For a while he was able to make do with a banana plantation, trading  bananas for other necessities. However the government there was getting greedier and greedier, causing such high taxes on so many things, both locally produced and imported goods that the cost of living became too high to survive on his little banana plantation. So he left his wife to carry on with the bananas and he came to South Africa looking for a way to send money home. How he got here, I was too heart sore to ask.

He has been here now for 8 months and besides finding a couple of odd jobs, nothing is currently available to him. The life of an immigrant is hard! Especially here in South Africa in recent months. His current living conditions are sleeping on the couch, in the lounge of a distant relative. His meals, if he’s fortunate enough to get a meal that day, consist of bread and polony. He cannot catch public transport for two reasons, the first being personal safety due to xenophobic attacks, the second being the fear of deportation – the police are checking passengers on all public transportation at the moment . His family phone him every now and then, his little boy begs him to return home, saying “daddy, we don’t want stuff, or money, but we want you”

My heart cries for him.

I remarked (possibly, probably unkindly and definitely unthinkingly) that would it not be better back home for him, could he not at least just survive and be with his family, instead of the trouble he has now?

This mournful and broken man says he wishes he could return home, but it’s not that simple.

Why not?

Because he cannot go by normal means, he has no legalities here. So if he takes public transportation, or a cop stops him and asks for documents, he will have none. The result being that he will get deported to Zimbabwe. But South Africa will not take the people they deport to their home, they will left on the border. Zimbabwe in turn collects the people and because they tried to “run away from home” without paperwork, they get fined thousands of dollars (not Zimbabwe dollars, U.S. Dollars!), of course most of these illegal immigrants haven’t got that kind of money, so they instantly get thrown in prison until the fine is paid, which of course one cannot pay from in the prison.

For the few illegal immigrants who do find work, the employers are normally nasty, underhanded people. The kind that pay maybe R60 a day for a 12 hour shift in terrible working conditions. They get given extra jobs and cruelly treated, as though they are lower than dirt.

I hear of Jack’s story, and I know, I know it was true. I’ve seen others just like him, I’ve heard rumors of it, and upon further investigation, I found his story to be painfully legit. However this sad person, who wears time on his face, and a heavy heart on his sleeve says this not to ask for money, nor pity, but purely because he was asked his story. All he wants, just like thousands of others is to work hard, earn a hard day’s labour and feed his family.

We all have our demons to fight and our burdens to bear, best we don’t get so engrossed in our own troubles that we forget others have troubles too.

Look beyond your own issues, and see the issues of others, lend a helping hand, if only it be a listening ear and a hope of a brighter future to tell about!

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