Scary stories from a lovely place
I am, as my friend Ellie would say, poorly sick.
It’s times like this that I really miss South Africa. There we were a part of an excellent community of friends and neighbours who worked hard to look after each other. Here our friends and family are definitely helpful, but they aren’t close in proximity. So things can be organised, but spontaneous acts of mercy are difficult when everyone lives a good half hour’s drive away.
During life in Jozi these elements of community life showed themselves in various forms. There was the lovely but mundane – giving and receiving meals, taking muffins to someone’s house (the nicer the icing, the more serious the trouble), borrowing and loaning cars, buying groceries and the most appreciated last minute babysitting. My favourite instance was when I was sick and we decided to get pizza for dinner instead of worrying about cooking. A few minutes later a friend rang and asked if we would like some home-made pizza for dinner! Not just that, but when the pizza came we were also given chocolate and a bottle of wine.
Sometimes though, because we were living in Johannesburg, the instances were a bit more extreme. Taking friends and their homeless boys to hospital, helping to pay for a wedding, setting up people in a new home, or the night when Stephen saw a friend parked on the side of the road, stopped to see what was happening only to discover the friend was helping a guy who had been stabbed. Or the time at a poker game when a guy smashed windows with his hands (not because of his cards) and Stephen volunteered to drive him, gushing blood and all to the hospital.
I know a lot of this can’t be replicated here, and it’s not just because of the distance from my friends and the lower crime rate. Even if, or hopefully when we make friends in our local area and with our neighbours I don’t think there would be this same level of dependence upon each others time and kindness. Life in Jozi necessitated this kind of communal living because it was a hard place. It’s easy to feel here that no one has any problems or needs help, or to offer it could cause offense or confusion. Since we arrived here in Australia I’ve appreciated the loan of a mobile phone, babysitting while I was in hospital and frozen meals after Oisín was born – all from friends. And I hope to return those favours sometime.
I hope that we can experience something similar in expressions of friendship and kindness as we did during life in Jozi. Looking for opportunities to express that would be a start.