The memory of this moment in my life is between the year 1987 and 1988, my age would have been between 4 years and 5 years old. We were in between houses, it had not been long arriving in the township, and we were staying in house number 148, my late grandmother’s house.
This is the stand where my father built his mom a house, with the house came a two roomed house at the back of the main house. My whole family stayed in this two bedroom house my father, my mother, my elder sister, three brothers, my sister and me. I have no memory of elder brother in this point in time of my life.
This two room house had a wall which was shaky. I would learn over the years that the reason it is shaky it was because it was a single line wall. Normally when building a house, a two line wall is built to maintain depth and to protect the wall from strong winds from falling. This wall fascinated me a lot during our entire stay in this house. And so I would from time to time, place my tiny hand against the wall and start to shake it, in my mind, I was shaking it enough to see the movement but careful enough not to overdo it to fall. I have no idea how knew when enough was good enough. I was just being a child playing silly games. I would later in my life go into this 2 bedroom house, which is still there intact, to test the walls, the fascination I got with the wall is still stuck with me today.
One of my most profound memories from this house is that of my elder sister cooking cabbage, this I know for sure, that, that is the day that I fell in love with a fried cabbage, crunchy enough to be edible, salty enough to taste and it went with uphuthu. We would sit down on the floor sharing on an open plate legapha and everyone would dig in, and my goodness cabbage never tasted so good. To this day, I love this type of cabbage and to this day, I can eat this kind of cooked cabbage.
It was between these years that I first learned that I have the “ small voice” , I learned during this time of my life that there is something or someone who can speak to me and I knew within myself that I must listen to this person. It was between these years that I had a sense of knowing that the “small voice” had good intentions for me. This I knew how, every time the voice spoke, I was elated, my mood changed, my life would be full of hope. I knew I was hopeful, when I would hop around singing and shouting with nothing special, just me being happy self, singing to myself. I knew I was hopeful when sweeping the floor of this two roomed house, with holes between the cement and the floor. I was very hopeful when looking up the roof inside the house and seeing the stars. I was hopeful.
From the very young age I had a sense of responsibility, I was the child that would clean the house, clean everyone’s mess and never complain. I had my way of doing things and if you cared to ask, I would share with you why I was doing things the way I did.
So one mid- day, I decided to go take a bath, taking a bath in my child hood meant taking what we referred to a “waaskom”, boiling water in the paraffin stove if we had paraffin , mixing the water inside this waaskom and taking my waaslap and wash myself. I know for a fact that taking this bath with warm water was luxury because a few times saving paraffin for cooking was priority than having a warm bath.
On this one beautiful sunny day, I was done with my bath, I had put vaseline on myself from my face, arms legs and decided that because it was mid-day and I was till planning to go and play, I would waste the Vaseline on my cracked feet. I figured why waste the hard earned vaseline on feet and toes that are still going to get dusty again? So it made sense to me and out I walked to some elders who were sitting on the window pane in the front side of the main house.
To my surprise, they asked me if I was done bathing, I answered, confidently and said yes, the laughter that came from that moment….. and somehow I could read their minds, I knew they were looking at my cracked feet and wondering how on earth could I say I have taken a bath with such feet. I was waiting for them to ask me why, but they never did. I felt a sinking feeling… Immediately, something inside me, this something I refer to as the “small voice” said “do not be sad, they don’t know why you spared the Vaseline, to you it is a way of saving the Vaseline, but they do not know how you think, do not be sad, when you grow up, you must seek understanding, always ask why people do things, don’t assume like they just did with you”
Needless to say, I went back with no instruction from them, put on some Vaseline on my feet and the whole time the voice was comforting me. So I picked my chin up and out I went, when I passed there, I had a certain posture I carried, I did not ask for their validation to that now I am ok, I just passed, with a warm face and the voice kept saying, when you are older, don’t this to other kids and I went about my playing business.
On that day, I chose, I chose that I will be a kind of person that does not laugh when people do stuff, I will seek understand, I will ask where I do not understand, and I will seek clarity when I am confused by people’s actions. I had it in me that this was the right thing to do.
Fast forward to the future, I believe this is the essence of my being, I believe that what the voice was telling me, would be the core of what I do in my life. I have learned that part of what the voice was telling was what I have come to define as “giving people the benefit of the doubt”
In my life and career today, I am given an opportunity to build, and as I have come to see, no one builds anything, if their words tend to destroy. As I said, I am optimists; I am a believer that something good is in each and every one of us. I walk this earth intentionally and my intention is to build. There are so many ways in which we can kill and destroy a person’s self-esteem and I believe the “voice” saved me from that feeling of feeling inadequate, I had an opportunity to walk away feeling I don’t know how to prepare myself properly, I could have thought that why on earth didn’t I put Vaseline on my feet.
But a complete opposite thing happened, I was sure in my decision of not putting on Vaseline, just because they didn’t ask me why, didn’t mean I was wrong in my decision. This was something powerful and profound for a 4/5 year old me.
So that day I chose to believe in people