Go on, apol­o­gise!

Riana Scheep­ers’ fa­ther taught her how to han­dle un­de­served ac­cu­sa­tions.

Home (South Africa) - - BACK PAGE - Riana ri­anas@mweb.co.za

TThere’s one thing that drives me crazy, and that’s lit­ter. I hon­estly be­lieve that our coun­try would have far fewer prob­lems if we all could live in spot­less sur­round­ings. Some­one who has re­spect for them­selves, their en­vi­ron­ment and their fel­low hu­man be­ings won’t lit­ter. Re­spect is a good place to start to make the world a bet­ter place.

Those who know me well, know that I pick up the rub­bish that oth­ers so care­lessly scat­ter. When I go for a walk ev­ery morn­ing, it is al­ways with a plas­tic bag in hand. As I walk and pick up cans, bot­tles and plas­tic bags, I pon­der what it would be like to be ap­pointed as the Min­is­ter of Lit­ter. Be­lieve me, South Africa would be lit­ter-free within six months. And many peo­ple would be given hefty fines. Or end up in jail.

The other day, while walk­ing along and pick­ing up lit­ter, the plas­tic bag I had with me soon be­came full. It hap­pened to be rub­bish col­lec­tion day, with all the lo­cal house­holds’ black bags out on the pave­ments. When my rub­bish bag be­came too heavy to carry, I stopped at the near­est black bag, un­tied it and dropped my bag in­side.

Just then, the home­owner came out­side and saw me. She was seething be­cause, nat­u­rally, she had as­sumed that I was one of those peo­ple who tear open garbage bags to rum­mage through them. She started yelling at me. I tried to ex­plain that I had just picked up a lot of rub­bish from her pave­ment and that I sim­ply wanted to add the de­bris to her black bag, but noth­ing would con­vince her that I wasn’t a vul­ture.

In the end, I sim­ply walked away as she yelled and threat­ened me in all kinds of colour­ful lan­guage. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.

As I walked on, I re­called how my fa­ther had han­dled a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion.

My dad is the soft­est, kind­est per­son I know. He has a big heart for oth­ers, of­ten to his own detri­ment. For years, he ran a butcher shop in a ru­ral vil­lage. One of his cus­tomers was an elderly lady who was good friends with my grand­par­ents. My dad, who had grown up right in front of this lady, loved her. This lady, let’s call her Aunt Mara, had ob­vi­ously not kept up with soar­ing meat prices. She reg­u­larly went to the butcher shop and bought five rand’s worth of meat. My dad knew that she didn’t have much money and that she cooked a meal for her­self and her house­keeper with that small por­tion of meat. He would take her money, but each time saw to it that she re­ceived more meat than needed for one meal. One day, Aunt Mara again en­tered the shop, deeply dis­tressed. She asked my dad if she could talk to him in pri­vate. Yes, he said, lead­ing her to his of­fice. And out came Aunt Mara’s many years of ac­cu­mu­lated bit­ter­ness. She said she had tried to ig­nore it for a long time but it could no longer carry on this way. “What can no longer carry on?” my dad asked. The fact that he had de­ceived her for so many years with her meat pur­chases, she replied crossly. My dad was ab­so­lutely dumb­founded. “Your par­ents,” said Aunt Mara, “were won­der­ful peo­ple who wouldn’t steal a cent, but it doesn’t mean you may steal from an old per­son.” My dad was still con­fused. “Ev­ery day, I buy meat for R5,” she added, “and then when I get home I weigh it. One day it’s a kilo­gram, an­other day it’s more than a kilo­gram, an­other day it’s barely half a kilo­gram. How dare you de­ceive me like that?” When my dad told me this story, I laughed. I couldn’t be­lieve what I was hear­ing. But what I re­ally wanted to know was how he’d han­dled the sit­u­a­tion. My dad, dear man that he is, humbly apol­o­gised to Aunt Mara. And ev­ery time there­after, he care­fully weighed out a kilo­gram of meat for her. And charged her R5. I learned a valu­able les­son from my dad. That woman who was so mad at me is free to yell as much as she likes. But the more I think about it, the more I think I should go and apol­o­gise to her.

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