This morning I gave a balloon to a toddler. What joy and pleasure when she ran back to show her mother what she had gained. The mother smiled and thanked me for the gesture. This happened Sunday morning at the Wimpy at Bergview near Harrismith.
I had to spend the night there after a second breakdown en route back from Pietermaritzburg. The events of the previous day could have caused me to react far differently toward the toddler. Many people see toddlers as a real bother, not I, not this morning.
I again realised that it is when we are under pressure that our true character shows. What will come out of you? Sweet honey or sour lemon juice. I thank God that in this instance this morning it was good nourishing honey that was produced.
Too often, however, pressure can produce sour lemon juice that will scrounge up your face when tasted. It will surely take the smile off your face when sucked on. What do you do under pressure? What do you do when financial pressure is put on you? Do you produce honey or lemon juice?
There was a young man that occupied the adjoining room in the motel on the fateful day. When we arrived at about 11 that night he greeted us with crying eyes, bare bodied and with blood streaming from his head. He was fired from his job on Saturday morning, a fate far worse and more devastating on his life than my double car breakdown.
Upon receiving this devastating news he went out on a binge with friends to spend the little amount that he had received as severance. He entertained friends who later turned on him and bashed his head in, a SAPS officer told me later. He wanted to lay charges against them but SAPS cannot take charges from an intoxicated man. This was a new lesson to me. It made me realise that when you are drunk you have no rights as you can be charged but not exonerated. A good reason to stay off the stuff, or to at least not consume too much in one sitting. A lemon incident?
This reminded me of “Gary the bog roll salesman” that I met in 1985. This is what his business card read when he presented it to me with pride. I then asked him about the story behind the slogan.
He too lost his job at the time and he knew with the state of the economy at that time that he had little hope of finding another job soon. He looked at the small cheque in his hand and realised he had to make it stretch as much as he could.
He went to Makro to see if he could find something that he could buy and sell at a profit. He walked in and saw piles of toilet paper specials, those that come at 50 in a pack. He cashed the cheque in and bought all he could with the little money he had, packed his car to the brim and went into every small business in Germiston and sold his packs at a profit. He went back and bought more.
When I met Gary he was into his second year and was able to sustain life off a cheque that could not last two months if it was spent on normal living expenses. Toilet paper sales sustained him.
This is in stark contrast to the Bergview drunk who after Saturday night will not have enough left to see-out Christmas. The same situation, two different results: the second dripping with honey that brought a smile to the faces of those he met.
All of this culminated in a life lesson that my son and I learnt and shared on the way back to Johannesburg in a rental car. It is this: reserve immediate opinions and do not commit to what can and cannot be done. This opinion will prejudice all future action, as no one is born a toilet paper salesman. His reserved opinion empowered Gary to do things he never would have thought possible. His mind was clear and open the morning he walked into Makro.
How to make sense of who you are will come when you are under pressure. Decide now that you will allow honey to ooze from you, not lemon juice. And remember, financial pressures are the worst kind.
My year started badly and I can remember telling my wife that this year will be a very good year. It is never about how it starts but how it ends. For us 2014 was an excellent year, not out the woods quite yet – but soon!
Many life experiences over the years have taught me that there is always good at the end of a dark tunnel; and, often it is the negative that works for the good (sometimes best) in our lives.