Generosity vs charity

My wonderful nanny, Noloyiso, has just moved her 10 year old son down to the Western Cape from where he’s been living in the Eastern Cape with his granny (her mum), like so many other families where the mother/father/both have to work far away from home in order to earn the money required to support the family.

It is school holidays at the moment (so my 3 year old son, Daniel, is at home with my 11 month old daughter, Isla) and so I suggested to Nolo that she brings Zukhanye to work with her the next few days before she goes on leave. She agreed and they both arrived here this morning.

Daniel immediately fell in love with Zukhanye. He is a charming little guy with bright eyes and a dashing mohawk. The two of them have spent the day playing themselves half to death, with not a harsh word between them. They have bounced on the trampoline, done circles on the back stoep with the two (motor)bikes, built sandcastles in the sandpits, made a house under the table on the front patio, played with all the toys, read books, and even caught a few zees when all the excitement got too much and they succumbed to sleep.  They shared lunch, strawberries, toys and giggles, and seemed to find a way of communicating perfectly, even though Danny can’t speak Xhosa and Zuki can’t speak English. Danny howled when it was time for us to take Nolo and Zuki home, and his last words before he drifted off to sleep tonight were ‘I love Zukhanye’.

Why, then, have I had this prickling sense of discomfort the entire day? All I had thought by inviting Zuki around was that it would be nice for him to be near his mum after almost a year of not seeing her, that it would be nice for her to have him in her sights rather than wandering around Khayamandi with some ‘cousins’, and that for Danny it would be nice to have a buddy to play with. And of course the fact that I love playing ‘happy families’ so somehow for Nolo to have her little boy and my little boy (her usual charge) together, it would all be a bit lovey-dovey.

I was gripped by how very much, how sickeningly much, we have. The size of our house, the fact that when I said to Danny to show Zuki his (Danny’s room), I knew that it is twice the size of Nolo’s entire ‘house’ (container). The fact that I was the fun one who was playing with the kids while Nolo cleaned the toilets and mopped the floor. This perpetuation of the stereotype of the white ‘baas’ and the black ‘worker’. Every thought that I had about how much Zuki would enjoy the various things that we have on offer here, was counterbalanced by the realisation that we have so very much, and that perhaps, instead of having the desired affect of making Zuki happy, it would make him sad for all that he didn’t have. Danny with his dozens of toy cars, and Zuki mesmerised by just one. It made me want to pack them all in a bag for him, but then again made me shudder at the thought of giving this beautiful, proud child the impression that he was a charity case.

I am probably overthinking this, but wow, especially in the run up to Christmas and all the mindless overspending that goes with it, it has made me stop and consider how much we take for granted and how very, very much I have to be grateful for.

And I hope that for Zukhanye the fact that he is with his mum at long last is good enough for him, and more than makes up for any lack of toys, trampolines, books etc. I’m sure it does.

Advertisements

One thought on “Generosity vs charity

  1. I know exactly what you mean, and there is no place in my head that I can find comfort from this nagging puzzle of guilt, embarrassment, gratitude and the relativity of “lots” and “little”… Thank you for highlighting this issue, that so many of us in SA hardly give a thought. Just realising it is the first step. (And boycotting Christmas spending is the next for me…) xx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s