Hope in a queue

December 24, 2014 § 1 Comment

If you pay attention to the mass media or hang around on social media, you’d be forgiven for thinking that South Africans are constantly at war with each other, that we’re a hotbed of racism and hatred, and that there’s no hope.

But today I stood in a queue in a bottle store, and that queue gave me renewed hope for our future.

It’s Christmas Eve, you see, and everyone in the mall beyond the shop’s entrance looked a little harried. You could feel the stress, the busy-busy-busy of the rush to buy those last few things for tomorrow’s celebrations. But in that long queue in the bottle store, South Africans of every hue and persuasion were smiling and chatting.

One woman laid a calming hand on the forearm of another, a stranger who looked like she could cheerfully murder whoever was giving her alcohol shopping instructions on the other end of the phone. The security guard behind me assured another shopper that if required, he could drop his beers and draw his gun in an instant. An older gentleman on crutches in front of me advised a student on where to find the cheap plonk he was after. I pondered whether to buy a cinnamon or orange-flavoured liqueur for someone else’s party.

And all the while we shuffled patiently forward, waiting our turn and making way for those trying to shop in fairly cramped quarters. There was no aggression. No-one scowled or pushed or shouted.

South Africa has its problems, yes. We have things we need to work on. And there is still racism and discrimination of other kinds. The poverty and power and land issues need to be sorted out. And that’s just for starters.

But I think we’ll be okay. Because on the streets and in the shops, we know how to pull together. We know how to get along.

We just have to remember to do it, and not pay too much attention to the doom-and-gloom that fuels the media.


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