I had two dates with crime last week, and although they jolted my emotional safety belt, they ultimately were experiences that gave me a lot of hope. How so? They showed me that, despite the general lament about its disappearance, ubuntu still exists in our society.
Here’s what happened: Last Sunday, my neighbour looks out of her bedroom window and sees two heads bobbing up and down by my car, which is parked on the street, in front of her door. In hope for a quick buck, two guys are in the process of cutting off the cable ties securing my hubcaps. My elderly neighbour bangs against her window glass and shouts at them but by the time she makes it out of her front door, the thieves have made off with the loot.
Now, my neighbour is one of those amazing South African women who cannot be discouraged that easily. Having lived in our neighbourhood for the past 60 years, she shuffles through the streets in search of the thieves, putting word out to the entire community of which she is a respected member.
Before you know it, the guys, unable to sell their loot because they’re in the spotlight, are caught red-handed. Minutes later, they are busy at my car again, this time putting the hubcaps back onto my tyres — under the careful supervision of my neighbour.
A few days later, a friend pays me a visit and while we chat in my living room, we hear the unfortunate noise of shattering glass. When we open the front door, we see that two guys have broken the back window of his car in search for hidden goods. We shout at them, but they threaten to shoot us and run off. Their iron crowbars are also rather discouraging.
Although it is almost midnight, a variety of neighbours come out onto the street to find out what the racket is about (one of them even in his pyjamas). Immediately the one jumps into his car in search for the criminals, while another one (who just moved into the neighbourhood and I hardly know) offers to go on a ride with my friend in search for his stolen bag. The police, of course, which we called immediately, don’t come.
A window was broken and a bag with expensive clothes stolen and never recovered (and yes, he shouldn’t have left it there, but one is always smarter in hindsight, right?) but that night neighbours became friends. Now you might think this is naïve (or that I’m living in the wrong neighbourhood) but it confirmed for me that, despite of all the negative stuff that happens, there are a lot of great people living in this country. And it restored my hope.