When the world is getting ready to sleep, I keep my eyes open and see the extraordinary in the ordinary. That’s what happened last week as I drove home after work. I tend to be more alert and observant at night for safety reasons. And sometimes, I see things I may miss during the hectic daytime traffic.
At around 8.45pm on Phoenix Highway in Durban, I noticed two women and a man walking home in their uniform from a popular retail store. Yes, it was late but that didn’t seem to bother them. They smiled and spoke as they walked. They appeared content. And it got me thinking a little deeper…
It cannot be easy. They, in all likelihood worked 12 hour shifts; to earn some extra money in the midst of the festive season. And after that long day, they will likely have responsibilities at home too. But they persevere. They work hard to earn an honest living and to provide the best for their families. As sons, daughters, mums, dads, grandchildren and breadwinners, they are everyday heroes and heroines. Their families know and value their sacrifice. Isn’t it time that we as society do the same?
You will see them working those long shifts as you shop this holiday season. You may make a snide remark about long queues or even snap at them out of anger. Instead, stop and smile. It can only brighten their long day and make them feel appreciated. Remember, they too have families at home that they could be spending time with. But, they choose to work to build a more meaningful life for their families in other ways – like being able to pay for school fees, uniforms and little spoils for their children.
Too often, we judge people by their job titles and class them in a hierarchical structure. But even those higher up can be guilty of wrongdoing and corruption, so is that really the best approach? We need to respect those who work honestly, irrespective of their job title. No job should be seen as menial – whether it’s the formal job market or the informal sector. In fact, while many have the luxury of taking time off during this time, these workers in a range of fields, including in emergency services, keep the wheels of our economy turning.
They deserve to be saluted.
Another assumption that society often makes is that these workers have little or no education. This is South Africa 2018. The reality of unemployment means that even successful graduates cannot find jobs in their chosen fields so they look at plan B, C or D rather than being idle. It takes great will-power to do so.
So how about being a little less judgemental and more understanding towards others? It’s not just for the festive season but what we all should aspire to in 2019 and beyond.
It’s about lifting others up instead of dragging them down. And as a dear friend reminded me today – don’t look down on anyone unless you are admiring their shoes.