Face #9: Jan

A security guard at the estate where I live.

Jan loves jazz. He wears a shiny black cap on sunny days. He always rubs his hands together and nods when he greets people. He is tall and lean. Gangly with a caramel complexion. Serious eyes peer at me from their wrinkled cases. But he very rarely smiles.

We greet each other every day. He rubs his hands and nods. I can hear his strong accent.

“Have a nice day.”

One day, I was on my way home from university. I was playing some jazz music in my car. I arrived at the estate gate and rolled down my window to greet Jan. Suddenly a wide toothless grin burst onto his face.

“You like jazz?”

“I LOVE jazz Jan!! Do you like it too?”

“I do! I do!”

When I arrived at the gate about two days ago, I was playing jazz music in my car again. I saw that Jan was on duty and turned the music up. I rolled down my window.

“Here’s some jazz music for you Jan!!”

“Ahhhh!”

And there he stood. Smiling that rare smile.

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Face #8: Elsemarie

A woman in my psychology class. She is a free spirit. She is brown eyes and colourful scarves. A tinkling laugh and curiosity. A student. A mother. A friend.

I was sitting alone at one of the coffee shops on campus. I looked up from my book to see her floating towards me. A smile on her face. The same clip holding her hair behind her left ear. It is generally rather awkward when you’re at a coffee shop and you see someone you know…who you don’t really know. You get up to say hello.

*Should I invite her to join me? Will she want to join me? What if she came here to just relax by herself? I should ask. Should I ask? What if she feels pressured?*

“Hello there! I know you! Yes! We’re in the same psychology class, aren’t we?”

“Hello! Yes! Yes we – ”

“Ah, I thought I recognised you! Are you having lunch?”

“Just drinking some coffee and – ”

“Alright! Well! Shall we sit together then?”

“That sounds lovely!”

We chatted for about an hour. About her first degree and her current degree. About her passion for learning. Her passion for helping people. Books. Reading. Her family and children. About my hopes. My favourite things. Family. Music. Tea.

She absolutely loves random facts. She loves learning about things which enrich life. I remember one fact particularly well because it just struck me as applicable to life in general. I want to share it with you!

“Whenever you feel down, detached…slightly disconnected, you must go outside after a lightning storm, find a patch of grass and take off your shoes. Sink your feet into the grass. Feel it. You will feel rejuvenated.”

I smiled. Something about that tasted so fresh, so free.

I cannot remember all of the details very well, but apparently the lightning fills the earth with a kind of chemical ‘zing’ which goes through your feet and into your body. These chemicals re-energise the body and the mind. It was something along those lines. Something wonderful.

So when you’re feeling too caught up in life…perhaps all you need is a lightning storm, a patch of cool grass and bare feet.

Face #7: Grace

The beautiful lady that works at our house. She loves colourful earrings and eye shadow. Her hair is intricately braided. Her smile absolutely brightens my day. Her smile would brighten anyone’s day. She bounces when she walks and sways when she hums. She is rhythmic joy.

Grace came into my life a few months ago. And what a blessing she has been. She is the epitome of the fact that the little things count. I think I loved her from the day I met her. She shines.

On a Wednesday morning a couple of weeks ago, I walked into the kitchen in my pyjamas, a half-asleep gollywog. I am sure you have those days when you wake up and you just don’t feel good. Perhaps a bad dream. Perhaps a broken heart. Perhaps you have been hurting for a long time. Perhaps you just had a really bad day yesterday.

I walked into the kitchen sad.

“Hello my darling!”

She wrapped her words and her arms around me.

I cannot express how loved I felt at that moment. She was light and love. She is light and love.

On Friday, I was studying when she came to say goodbye. She looked so beautiful!

“Bye Gracie!! You look so beautiful!!”

She lit up like a Christmas tree.

I could have sworn she laughed and swayed all the way to the door.

It really is the little things.

Face #6: Kevin

A guy in my English class. Kind eyes framed by hipster spectacles. Button-up shirts and hair gel. A broad smile. Small build. Big personality. An even bigger heart.

We had been in the same classes for about two and a half years before we met at a mutual friend’s 21st birthday party. He was confidence, energy, openness. He came whirling into my atmosphere. The laughing face with the serious eyes. A complex paradox.

A former stranger became my friend over cups of conversation and coffee. His story explains his serious eyes. His attitude explains his smile. He has not had it easy.

But it is not my place to share his story.

I would like to share something he told me the other day.

“Instead of judging people, why don’t we try to understand them? There’s no room to love when you judge…You know, Kirst, that way, we can change the world for the better.”

I once had a headmaster, Mr Sabine, who used to sit with us and tell us stories when we were in grade one. I can only remember one of the stories and the end of the story went like this:

“When you give other people lots and lots of love, you just land up having so much more love to give. So, if we give love to other people, imagine how full of love the world will be!”

I remember that story every time I see Kevin.

Kevin is that story.

Face #5: Nelisa

A beautiful little darling I encountered on the streets of Pretoria. She is innocence. She is inquisitive brown eyes and rosebud lips. She is exquisite openness. She is plump cheeks and little reaching hands. She is wonder.

It was a warm breezy afternoon. Nelisa was sitting in her pram. She was observing the changing world buzzing around her. She was all eyes and gleeful abandon.

“Hello little one!”

She put out her hand. How could I not take it?

She wrapped all of her fingers around three of mine. She squeezed and giggled.

“You are too beautiful!”

Another squeeze.

I chatted to her mum while we held hands. She was watching me the entire time.

Analysing. No judgement. Just observation.

When it was time to go, she wouldn’t let go. Those sweet sticky fingers were stuck to mine.

As we get older, we rarely lift up downcast eyes to connect with another. We do anything to avoid that passing moment of decided vulnerability.

Not only little hands need to reach out.