Finding small mercies where we can

Published Mar 17, 2024


Durban — In the face of so much bad stuff going on, it’s time for another gratitude list.

Top of the list is water. I am very grateful for our crumbling infrastructure and water outages.

No, really: there are areas in our country that have none, or next-to-none, for days, weeks and months. Those people have zero reason for gratitude, but a recent outage in my area was a cosmic klap around the head.

Happily, a few weeks ago I had rotated most of the 5l containers kept for emergencies, so all the couch residents had enough to drink. Showering and doing dishes, not so much, but not venturing beyond the back door has some benefits. The dogs don’t care if the human smells a bit or if the dishes aren’t done. Then the water came on again and we were all delighted, until it went off again a couple of hours later, before we had refilled all the bottles.

Having to eke out what we had left was a grim reminder of the people who do this daily and how quickly we become used to flushing, bathing and “rinsing” dishes or hands without thought for saving this precious life-giver.

It was an added burden because of the recent overwhelming heat.

I was really concerned about running dry and not being able to provide for the furry couch dwellers. They can slurp up more than 10 litres a day when it’s hot and it was distressing to see them panting through the days.

On average, I drink about five litres of water every day, diligently following the recommendations from health folk and those who warn that the “elderly” are vulnerable to dehydration and heat strokes.

This brings me to admiration for my Muslim friends: giving up food for Ramadaan is tough, but forsaking a drink of water in our summer takes real faith, willpower and endurance. Much respect, and many blessings to all.

When the water finally came back on (until the next time) I stepped straight into a cold shower, stinky clothes and all, and used a few days’ worth to try to cool down. Washing me and doing laundry at the same time seemed like a good trade-off. I didn’t even need to turn the geyser back on and use electricity.

We welcomed the mid-week respite.

If we’d had to succumb to load shedding and we’d lost the fans, without exaggeration, it would have been the end of me. And without the mosquito pads, the fleet would have been ridiculous. So I even appreciate the exemption provided by the bloody strikes. But not the piles of refuse.

One thing I am immensely grateful for is that we do not live in a war zone. Reading Why We Kill by Karl Kemp – some of which we bring to you as an extract today – was horrifying and savagely disturbing. Although it may feel like we live in some kind of war zone, we really don’t. The cruelty of deprivation of Palestinians and the unspeakable destruction in Gaza, the continuing brutality in much of Ukraine and killing fields in many parts of Africa because of hatred and geopolitics is humanity at its very worst. It’s heartbreaking.

So I am exceptionally grateful for the people in the world who try to make it better, even in small ways, to preserve hope for the human condition. They are there; we just have to find them and tell their stories. And find gratitude, appreciation and small mercies wherever we can.

Independent on Saturday