Today Tatani invited us for tea as well. This is another of Ruth Ann's friends. We brought the Ryboos tea and butter biscuits and Tatani boiled the hot water and provided the hospitality.
Ruth Ann is a teacher. And today she was teaching me. She brought me to meet her dear friend who lived in a different neighborhood from her English friends to see the other side of life. What I noticed was a poor, poor dwelling that was swept clean, organized and cared for in the most simple way. It was not messy, just poor. There was a TV and a fine stand for the TV, one photo of family on the wall, curtains with red embroidered flowers decorating a wall and window, and two sofas and one large chair assembled so that friends could visit. The kitchen was in perfect order with no dirty dishes in the sink, pots and pans put away and a handy microwave on the counter. Tatani's two grand-children stayed near watching us with large dark eyes, smiling, enjoying the tea biscuits we all shared. As we had tea in this environment that was so normal to my host and so very foreign to me we chit chatted about everyday things. And Thatani told me about Ruth Ann's son, Joe.
This is really Joe's house. It has been for about 14 years. Joe bought this house as a very young man inspired to help the people of South Africa. He decided the best way to help was to live with them. Being a white man it was not easy to buy one of these government owned "homes". In order to do so he had to have a black family live there with him. He invited this woman, her husband and their seven children to live there with him. They were homeless. This gift became Thatani's home for these past years. Joe lived here for a couple of years befriending the teenagers in the neighborhood teaching them to use computers and musical keyboards. This kindness lead to a community center being open up the street where he eventually moved to lead "World Changers". Thatani believes that Joe is like and angel that arrived into her life while he also "helped many, many people."
This is where the laundry is done....
Impressive.....it took me a bit to gather my thoughts as the Ryboos tea left my cup slowly sipped with these women. Ruth Ann came to live here with her son to find out what he was doing. She did not resist, she joined in. Quite remarkable. Quite remarkable. And now I had the pleasure and honor to meet her friend in a place I had never been or thought I would be. Yes I could feel it was an education, a lesson more powerful than I could understand at the time. It filled my heart with a warmth. I felt the love and the empowerment of touching in to real poverty.
Next Ruth Ann took me to the community center created by Joe. It is now run by another organization as World Changers has moved on to a larger center providing life skills lessons designed to help lift young people out of this neighborhood and into jobs and new futures.