File picture: Supplied

American religious leader, Thomas S Monson said: “Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values.”

I lived up to the above words on Monday evening when I found myself “trapped” in the Pretoria CBD.

In the 26 years of my life, it was the first time I was spending my Christmas evening away from home and my family.

But, duty calls.

So, as my cousin dropped me off at my place, I saw two beggars that are always around our flat entrance. They looked sober and in distress, and so was I.

“Ola, Merry Christmas. Please buy us something to eat for Christmas. Please Bro.” They pleaded with me.

I told them that I will be back shortly, and we will sort out their dinner. It was after 7pm.

I realised at this point that I am saddened by petty things. I had Christmas breakfast and lunch with family. I was with my loved ones and I was showered with lots of love. These two particular guys and many others across the country were shown no love, even if it was for a little while.

I grabbed my wallet and went downstairs to look for them. I could not find them for a few minutes, and as I was planning to camp on the empty street to give them 20 more minutes to show up, one of them spotted me and came running.

“O boile Bra-yaka (you are back my brother), thank you very much. The other guy went to the other side, some guy promised to buy us pizza down the road.”

He indicated which side they went and we followed him there. I was trusting. He suggested that we wait for him at an intersection, and we did. Within five minutes, he spotted his friend walking towards us more than 50m away in a fairly lit Pretoria CBD.

I was impressed and surprised by their relationship and brotherhood. They trust each other and they look after each other.

We hooked up and made our way to the nearest restaurant for a sit-in. We ordered our meals, and after a short while, began to tuck in.

Instantly, their faces were glowing. I understood from our conversations that they haven’t been in a restaurant in ages. From that minute on, I had a little bit of an epiphany. I realised that family is not strictly blood, family is love.

I was away from my blood family and relatives, but the love and warmth I felt, received and shared with those guys was genuine and heart-warming.

I listened to their stories and I was heartbroken.

I don’t know what is it about Christmas Day that makes people reflect on so many things that are priceless. These guys haven’t seen their families for over two years. They kept repeating these words: “I want to see my family. I want to go home Bra KayBee. I just want to be home.”

With tears running down their cheeks, they really had a longing to go back home. There was so much remorse in their voices. They desperately wished they could turn back the hands of time and do things differently. Unfortunately, that is not how life works.

I promised to go check on them after a few days, and to see if they still feel the same way about going back to their families.

One of the guys, who’s home is really not that far from Pretoria, asked me to send his mom a simple “Merry Christmas” text from him. I asked if he knows her number by heart, and he started calling the numbers out.

I dialled the numbers, and the phone was answered by a sweet calm voice. Indeed it was his mom. I introduced myself to her and explained how I met her son and we had a good chat for 10 minutes. I then handed my phone to him to speak to his mother. He was crying hysterically on the phone.

I then remembered Denzel Washington’s words, in one of his commencement speeches. He said: “The most selfish thing you can do in this world is to help someone else. Because, the gratification, the goodness that comes from it, the good feeling I get from helping others.”

I agree with him. In the same speech, he said: “Don’t just aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference.”

I had a meaningful Christmas evening. I hope you too made a difference in someone’s life.

A Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. May it be a year of making a difference in others.

* Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement (YMM). E-mail [email protected]; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Star