About 4 months ago I had a post on my Facebook feed with a new tag (for me anyway). Those of you who live in South Africa may recognize it.
Some time earlier in the year a South African decided he was fed up with hearing and reading all the horrible stories that seemed to dominate the news and so he began a new group asking people to post positive stories of people connecting with people on Facebook.
And so it started. One after another we joined the group. One after another people wrote of incidents in their life where they met and helped or were helped by people they did not know.
Over Christmas someone issued a challenge – when you eat in a restaurant, double the bill so the tip you give is equal to the cost food you have eaten. Some posted their till slips on the feed – a few gave hundreds, but the ones that made me cry are those who had a cup of coffee and tipped the value of that. Imagine working so hard in a restaurant and being given a tip of R30 (or whatever currency is yours) for a R30 bill. The response was amazing. People posted pictures – customer and waitron, beaming. It brought people together who may not have exchanged the time of day, giving them names – an identity. Will that waitron ever forget that customer? Or the customer go into that restaurant and not greet the person who had waited on them previously?
People were helped by others in practical ways too. Strangers stopping for strangers, carrying parcels for those who were struggling, changing tyres, the stories go on and on.
Our school year starts in January and many people lay the children’s school uniforms aside and pay for them at the end of the month. Imagine their delight when they discovered #ImStaying group members had been into the shop and settled the bill. Often these kind people were not there when the clothes and shoes were collected. But the staff were – and they knew the story – and the photos of beaming staff and delighted customers flood the group posts.
Yes, we have our problems. Yes, there is still crime and bad news events happening. Some cynics may think this is a mere place to blow a trumpet. To say, ‘look how great we are.’
But it’s building bridges. That’s what the group is doing. Building bridges, between rich and poor, black and white, old folk and children. Giving us a chance to become the rainbow nation we have yearned to be. Often the stories are posted by the recipients rather than the people who have reached out. It’s not a ‘look at me aren’t I great’ fix. It’s a ‘look at the people who live here – aren’t they great?’
The #Imstaying is giving us hope. For now, in a few short months, the group has over 1.1 million members, the last I heard. One man started it. One man. And what a difference he has made. People are talking about it. It has made us more aware of others’ needs, whether physical, emotional, intellectual, financial and encouraged us to reach out to help.
So, when all is said and done, if I can be a positive part of this movement and move it towards 2 or 5 million members (imagine 5 million bridges being built!) then #ImStaying says it for me. In fact, I’ve got to go – I have a bridge to build.