When I was a young girl, around 12 or so, I met an old man whilst walking to 7th Street in Melville, a man whose lesson I would remember forever. After walking for over half an hour, first the thrilling downhill and then the burning uphill.
I was finally approaching the end of the uphill, almost at the Café made famous by the into on 7de Laan, a south African soapie, when I bumped into a friendly elderly man. The old man with grey hair, brown pants and a yellowish golf type shirt held a basket of fruit and vegetables in his hands.
As our eyes met, I said, “Afternoon Sir” and he responded with a warm “hello” and asked where I was going. I had explained that I was walking to the shop and then looked at the basket and said “Sir why are you carrying a basket of fruit and vegetables?” The old man uttered the words that I would never forget: “My girl, give and you will receive and always have”, I looked at him, wondering what on earth that had to do with the basket. He continued “I have fed people in need since I was a young man and I have never ever gone without”. I asked him what he meant by that, and he explained himself. He told me about him not being a wealthy man and not ever having a lot but what he had, he would give to the needy daily. He went on to tell me that some days there would be more hungry mouths to feed than food he had to give. He said that these were the days that he would wonder what he would be eating that night because he had given all of his food away. “Somehow, my girl, I have never gone to bed hungry for just when I have thought that it would happen, food would arrive for me.” Completely confused, I did not understand and shyly muttered: “I don’t understand, how does food just arrive?” He told me that it would arrive in different ways, sometimes his son would pop past and bring him food, unexpectedly or his neighbour would bring him over a plate of her delicious cottage pie. He said that it did not matter how the food arrived but that it always did. He said when you give, you will always receive. He said that he had never gone to bed hungry and that his heart was always happy.
The old man explained that he goes to bed happy every night in spite of losing his wife years before. He offered me an apple and I took it and went on my way. As I bit into the sour apple, I repeated what he said in my mind “give and you will always have”. I was rather baffled by how he food would just arrive; however his story has remained in my mind until today.
The bible says in Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
As a young child I was friendly and always wanting to meet new people. I would go to the neighbours and help them with their gardening and I even became wonderful friends with neighbours. My friend and I used to baby sit the two little girls across the road, we were spoilt rotten by their mother, Lizelle and adored the little girls, Amber and Amy-lee.
After school, I went to work with my aunt who worked at a special needs school and helped one of the teachers for the day. I would help my mom and of course still make sure to drive my sister up the wall.
In my adult years I have done everything from teaching Sunday school to volunteer for the SPCA, to feeding the hungry and assisting at orphanages. And of course, my biggest sacrifice, the gift of a second chance in life to my foster children. Through all the years, I have always remembered the old man’s words.
The old man’s words have come to me on many occasions, some days I would not know how my family and I would be eating that night and I would think about the lesson the old man had taught me. His lesson was one that proved true over and over in my life. When I thought that I would not make the next two days, suddenly I would receive. Once a friend paid me back money which I had forgotten about, once a tax reimbursement and sometimes just a friend coming over with something for dinner.
My life with two extra teenagers in my life has not been cheap and has not been easy but it has been incredibly fulfilling and I have never not had. I have given, and I have always had and never gone to bed hungry.
I smile as I remember the old man, his sun blotched, wrinkled face, blue eyes with thick framed glasses, his grey messy hair and his wide smile. The man had given since he was a young man and had lived an incredibly fulfilling life. Giving had given him joy, even after the passing of his beloved wife, and he had lived a life rich in blessing and gone to bed happy every night. I smile as I remember the lesson he taught me and how his lesson has followed me all these years. Thank you, Sir, for your lesson, changing my life and for remaining in my mind to this day, I will never forget your words or your joyful smile.
Friends, I now pass the incredible old man’s lesson on to you. GIVE AND YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE.