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By: Bethany Pitt

Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright and winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize for literature once said, ‘The greatest of evil and the worst of crimes is poverty. The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that is the essence of inhumanity.’

How many of us wake up each morning with a goal to get through the day and get what we need done in order to make our lives the best they can be for us, as an individual? We are blind to the suffering and struggles we see around us on a daily basis. Many of us drive past main intersection s and look through the guy begging at the stop street, with his badly spelt and badly written cardboard sign that screams poverty and desperation. We turn away in irritation at the guy who tries to make a living for him and his family by selling fake branded clothing or illegal dvd s. So quick are we to judge him, yet so slow are we to wonder what we would do if we found ourselves in that situation.

While we rejoice with a family member or friend over the birth of their new-born baby; in the room next door there is an unwanted baby, often HIV infected, unable to be cared for and left in the hands of a social worker. While we fill up our petrol tanks at the Engen station at 3am in the morning, after a party, there is the petrol attendant who has been there since 7pm that evening, paid very little but often thankful for the job. When we read Cosmopolitan, Men’s health and Glamour our minds are filled with the images of what the consumer world offers. We lust after these things, yet we forget that 50-60 percent of our population is below the national poverty line. This percentage being the highest listed within the percentage range, their staple diet consisting of mealie meal and bread. For most of these people it is a struggle to get one nutritionally balanced meal on the table a day.

A poverty stricken area

This is the world we live in. This is the stark reality of South Africa, one country on this continent. We blind ourselves to the daily problems other people face less fortunate than ourselves. We cripple them even more by our pretend indifference towards them. We turn our backs on our fellow human beings.

The truth is for many of us, life is about living in the fast lane. We don’t want to look at what others around us may or may not be doing or what they may or may not have. We want fortune, privileges, fame and comfort. We don’t want to face the harsh realities of life, those specifically of poverty and weakness. It takes us out of our comfort zones. It forces us to think and to realise that life is a struggle for many people, including ourselves, and that this world is not perfect.

Yet, reaching out is actually a simple act of kindness. It is choosing to put someone else above oneself. All around us we see ways in which people and organisations are reaching out. What about looking into helping out in an orphanage one Saturday a month in your area? If you love children and enjoy working with them, this could be a huge benefit. Getting hold of an orphanage’s number and giving them a call to ask if they would like some volunteer work doesn’t take more than 15 minutes. What about your local SPCA? Often we know exactly where these organisations in our area are and they are constantly looking for some form of volunteer work to help with their overflow of animals. Tutoring underprivileged children in your area is another form of outreach you could turn too. Many organisations have been formed to challenge the poor education standard South African children are experiencing, especially those who do not have the resources to overcome it themselves. Finding such an organisation in your area could enable you to make more enquiries into such a venture. These are just a few ways to start looking around to get involved in making a difference and bettering someone else’s life besides our own.

Isn’t it time for a change? Isn’t it time we seriously challenged ourselves to be a part of that change and to be a part of the empowerment of other’s lives? To be the difference we wish to see?