Initiatives such as Mandela Day encourage citizens to get involved in community service. This is the way forward, says the author. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha

Max du Preez says he has discovered a cure for the feelings of marginalisation and pessimism the middle classes suffer from.

I have discovered the miracle cure for the depression and feelings of marginalisation and pessimism so many of the middle classes – and especially the white minority – suffer from.

No, it doesn’t come in pill form and it’s not the Banting diet. That only makes you thin and causes withdrawal symptoms because you’re no longer allowed scrumptious Italian pasta dishes.

I have seen this cure work in practice several times the past few weeks.

This isn’t just superficial anecdotal evidence – I saw it work on hundreds of test subjects. It’s like magic. The secret? A simple two-step solution.

Step One: Stop moaning, stop worrying about angry political rhetoric, stop fretting about the corrupt and inept government of the day.

Step Two: Get involved in communities around you; give freely of your energy, time and skills to make others’ lives better.

A warning, though. This is infectious. It doesn’t only make you love yourself more, others start loving you. It defies all the laws of science: the more you give, the more you have.

Two weeks ago I travelled to Bethlehem in my home province of the Free State to talk to a group of people fundraising for a school for seriously disabled children called Pathways.

I walked into a venue of about 200 people, almost all white, with one or two exceptions all Afrikaners. Farmers and business people, doctors and lawyers, dominees, estate agents, insurance brokers and so on.

I thought I knew these people. They’re clones of my parents, my uncles and aunts, the Afrikaners I grew up with in the neighbouring town of Kroonstad – not all pleasant memories.

It turned out that although it was the initiative of mostly Afrikaner women, this school is mostly catering for black township kids from the region. It provides a loving environment with very special equipment, facilities and staff.

And there I sat, watching the men and women from the eastern Free State reach very deep into their pockets, raising a huge amount of cash and pledges of fixed amounts per month for a year for salaries.

The school doesn’t get any financial support from the provincial or national government.

The school makes a huge difference in the lives of the children, but it also gives their parents the freedom to work and to have a life other than caring for a desperately needy child.

But, it was clear that it made as big a difference to the people who are involved in the initiative, even to those who just gave some of their money.

I spent an evening of joy and cheer with these people – a very different experience to that of other groups of whites I meet regularly who only want to bitch about Jacob Zuma and predict that we’re becoming Zimbabwe.

Caring about others, getting involved with the lives of people other than their immediate neighbours enriched their lives immensely.

And then, last Friday, I met Theo and Angie Krynauw in Hermanus, two extraordinary bundles of irrepressible energy and love of humanity. They have worked absolute magic at the once-struggling Qhayiya Secondary School – watch this video and see for yourself: http://theoangie.blogspot.com/search/label/Videos. If we had just a thousand more Theos and Angies the past two decades, South Africa would have been a very, very different place today.

They invited me to speak at a gathering of like-minded people from the area – the group doesn’t have a name, Theo calls it the “Just Get On With It” group. Restaurant and guesthouse owners, business people, an art gallery owner, a filmmaker, business people and retirees sat in the restaurant where I spoke, bubbling with energy and commitment to share and make a difference.

Happy, positive people.

I heard of township youngsters doing well at university with locally organised bursaries, of new youth centres being built, of training and internships given to young people, and other projects.

The secret of the Bethlehem and Hermanus initiatives, I think, is that it isn’t about charity or buying off your conscience or whiteys doing stuff for blacks. It’s about partnerships, about sharing and getting involved and making your area a happier place.

I wish I had more space to also tell you about Louise van Rhyn’s Symphonia for SA and its flagship project, Partners for Possibility, making a real difference in our education system. (Find out at www.pfp4sa.org. )

Take the medicine, my friends, and shake off your pessimism and grumpiness. Live a little. It could even make you smile at the new round of electricity blackouts.

There is more to our land and her people than corruption, maladministration and a weak president.

There is a lot of suffering, resentment and anger still in our society.

Don’t expect politicians to deal with it. It’s a job best left to us citizens.

* Max du Preez is an author and columnist.

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