Samaritan’s Feet South Africa, as an organisation, was in a bit of a pickle earlier today. Mind you, at this stage that simply means Mark and Caroline Collie were in a bit of a pickle. But really it was a big pickle.
You see, the shoes we were expecting two weeks ago have been delayed and delayed and delayed. Between customs paperwork, rail strikes and slow moving vessels, the ETA for us getting into the crates has been reassigned on what has sometimes felt like a daily basis.
Thanks to these delays, our most recent plan was to drive a car load of shoes up to Bloemfontein for one of the first distributions, which is happening next week. (The very first one was supposed to take place this week, but has been postponed because of these delays.) This tripÂ would’ve saved some money and made sure the shoes were where they needed to be when they needed to be there. But these plans, too, were thwarted. Which may have been a good thing because there are a lot of tourists on the roads right now who don’t know anything about driving on the left. In the aftermath of yet another change of plans, were were left with a booking for a car rental — more like a big ol’ van rental — at about Â£300 ($440/ ZAR 3,363) and we no longer hadÂ any need for said van.
It was too late to cancel the booking, and we considered amending the booking to make it shorter, just so that we at least wouldn’t be charged so much. Then I decided to call Car Hire 3000 (it’s a UK company, but we got the best deal with them, and we still have credit in the UK) and explain our situation.
So I found myself this afternoon, with Joseph on the other end of the line.
Joseph took down my details, and then I explained our dilemma. We now have to freight these shoes up to Bloemfontein, as soon as we get our hands on them, (hopefully Monday) but we can no longer drive them up because there are more distributions happening here next week, the shoes are delayed, we’re welcoming a Samaritan’s Feet team from Brazil Wednesday, and lots of other stuff. (Including my brother’s visit!) And if we still have to pay for the rental, while we have to pay to freight the shoes up to Bloem and Rustenberg, we are left holding two expensive bags, with the cashflow for only one. For a charity just trying to do some good ’round these parts it is really painful to say, “Well, Â£300. It was nice knowing ya.” Especially when you do the math on how many barefeet you could shoe with that cash.
After a moment, things didn’t seem hopeful, but Joseph put me on hold and went to speak to his manager. He came back on the line and said:
We’ll cancel your booking and you’ll receive a full refund in the next few days.
It was Christmas and Joseph played the part of Santa Claus. And I was teary-eyed as I asked his name, thanked him profusely, and said, “God bless you, Joseph,” before getting off the phone.
We all get these opportunities — to hear someone else’s story, perhaps to choose not to follow the “protocol” set by our office or even our society, and to show kindness, even to a stranger.
It was a privilege to be a recipient of such kindness today.
So to my Joseph, (and Joseph’s manager) and to all the other Joseph’s showing this type of kindness — thanks. You may never know how much a little kindness means to someone else. It may be a small decision at that quickly sweeps across your desk. But to someone else it can be a pair of shoes…a message of hope… or a moment of joy needed at the end of a long day.