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When sugar babies were our heroes

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GREY MUTTER: I have not really been visiting shopping centres and malls for a few weeks now; I would just pop in and out quickly, so I have not had the time to check if there are any winter blanket drives going on – for humans and our furry friends at the SPCA.

Picture: Ebowalker from Pixabay

UNLIKE youngsters in the Southern and Western Cape, we here in Kimberley lived charmed lives. Up here in the Northern Cape, we are not too familiar with those week-long rainfall spells that’s a regular occurrence in that neck of the woods during winter.

Now, while the kiddos in the south accepted their lot when it rained, sometimes we up north had the luxury – when the rain was really pelting down – of some concerned parents seeing it fit to keep their dear lambs safe and dry at home; and an unexpected day off from school was a kind of special treat.

But children in the Cape would take it for granted that when it rained it would be up to them to keep as dry as possible as they made their way to school; they just adapted to the soft, soaking, misty rain.

It’s amazing how adaptable human beings can be.

Now, our teachers must have been cognisant of the fact that laaities in the Cape had no choice but to attend school come rain or shine, and therefore were pretty unsympathetic towards those precious pups that were kept home because of a little rain.

I also suspect that they were a bit envious, seeing as they were under contract to be at work come rain, shine or no lus.

It wasn’t therefore unheard of that the term “Sugar Babies” would be bandied about when the children who had taken a ‘rain-day’ eventually came back to school.

Even the cruel taunts of the envious educators couldn’t tarnish our admiration of those classmates who were lucky enough to get to stay out of school while they were perfectly healthy. They were like heroes for a day; we would huddle around them during break discovering what they had done all day, not being at school.

Yet, while we admired them, we also envied them, but consoled ourselves with the belief that, by staying away from school during a rainy day, they were compromising the ability to adapt to adverse weather conditions.

And on that point, this week, I had an interaction with someone who seemed to have adapted to the biting cold weather in a remarkable way.

The young man that occasionally helps us tidy our garden, pitched up for work on Tuesday morning seemingly oblivious to the icy wind that had me wearing my fleecy gown over my clothes while sitting inside.

It amazed me that he was wearing a T-shirt and a light jacket and yet seemed quite unperturbed.

However, something started nagging me and I eventually decided to give him an old jacket of mine. Now, when I say ‘old’ I mean really, really old. Granted it was my warmest and my sentimental favourite jacket, but I bought this army parka at Popes Sport in Jones Street back in the late 80s … it’s THAT old!

Of course it was faded and the cuffs had started to fray a bit, but I could pull it on wearing just a T-shirt underneath and be insulated against the cold. None of my newer, more stylish jackets have that ability – with them I usually have to layer up in really, really cold weather.

However, what made me realise that giving my beloved parka away was a good idea was when the young man I handed it to said, “Lyk my die laanie het geruik ek kry koud!” (It seems to me like you could smell that I was freezing).

No, I am not tooting my own horn to demonstrate how kind and generous I am. Actually, I am familiar with what Matthew 6:1 says. Yet I am trying to say that this young man, though chilled to the bone, seemed to have been resigned to his situation.

He had probably decided that to earn some money working in the icy cold, and having to walk home later that icy afternoon was his lot. I suspect that he was expecting nothing better, and getting a nice warm parka must have been a welcome bonus.

From what I observed, the jacket made a bit of a difference on that freezing Tuesday. It further lightened his already pleasant demeanour.

However, on Tuesday night, it occurred to me why I had held onto that ancient parka for almost 40 years. It wasn’t only a jacket to me; on the coldest winter nights I would place it across the foot of my bed and, thanks to its weight and insulation, it kept my tootsies nice and toasty through the night.

Ai tog! Anyway, though it’s going to take some getting used to being without my prized tootsie warming parka from now on, at least I console myself that there’s a young man who this winter will be a bit more insulated against Kimberley’s biting cold.

Speaking of which, I have not really been spending too much time at shopping centres and malls for a few weeks now. I would just pop in and out quickly, so I have not had the time to check if there are any winter blanket drives going on – for humans and our furry friends at the SPCA.

I would like to assume there are; and if so, maybe some residents in our city can consider parting with a blanky or a jacket to brighten, and probably warm up, someone’s day.

Motivational author Brian Tracy put it this way: “In life you can never be too kind or too fair; everyone you meet is carrying a heavy load. When you go through your day expressing kindness and courtesy to all you meet, you leave behind a feeling of warmth and good cheer, and you help alleviate the burdens everyone is struggling with.”

So may we all be warm this winter … especially in our hearts.

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