Mandela Day needs to be Mandela year

I am an avid supporter of Mandela Day. I fully believe that rallying people to do a thoughtful thing on 18 July will show them how easy it is to care for others (humans or animals) and will make them realise how much these gestures are appreciated and how they really can uplift society.

True to  expectation Mandela Day 2016 was a very positive day across the country. Food parcels were handed out, libraries were opened, blanket drives broke Guinness World Records and  cups of coffee were handed out to people who do thankless work in the cold. Many, many, many other things were done and as a nation we will collectively pat ourselves on the back. Thanks Madiba for being an inspiration for something so diverse and meaningful.

I was part of the coffee drive I organised with some of my colleagues. I bought some coffee, organised some urns and spent my 67 minutes handing out hot coffee and tea to car washers, security gaurs, wastepreneurs, fruit sellers and security guards. Most were surprised that someone had thought of them, it made me feel good that we could say thank you to them for the often thankless work they do in the cold. Of course I feel good.

What has bothered me ever since yesterday morning though is that a single cup of coffee and biscuit handed out is only a moment in time for these people. I don’t know what I have done other to say “thank you” and “your work is appreciated”. Yes, on some level that means something. It’s a little boost for everyone, but what about today, tomorrow, a week from now. While I spend quite a lot of time working towards charitable donations / efforts I feel like Mandela Day  has come and gone and in many cases the impact is not long lasting enough.

There is a line of thought that believes that one Mandela Day can inspire people to make every day a Mandela Day. A Mandela Year, year after year, that is what we really need. So, I have thought of some ways you can try and be kind to those around you more often:

  • Make a sandwich or two every day and hand this out to a wastepreneur, newspaper salesperson or car washer you come across on your commute to work. If you can’t make it daily then try for weekly at least
  • When you go out playing Pokémon Go take your, or your neighbour’s dog for a walk. Better yet, contact a local animal shelter and ask if you can take one of their dogs for a walk
  • Separate your plastic and metal waste from your other waste and put in on top of your rubbish bin for the wastepreneurs. How would you like it if things you needed for work were thrown in the dustbin?
  • Treat car guards and parking meter operators as you would treat anyone else whose office you are entering. They are the CEO of that street, they should be treated as such. Same goes for cashiers. If you were treated as a servant (service industry) every day at your own work place you’d be grumpy too. Don’t forget about the lady who washes your hair or does your nails in the salon.
  • Go to that picnic or festival night your local dog shelter, nursery schools, recreational centre or nursing home has organised. It’ll probably be fun. Your few bucks for a picnic spot and some entertainment will go a long way
  • Support restaurants and recreational facilities in your neighbourhood. If you support them, they can stay open and employ people and you’ll have no vacant properties just a few blocks from your house. Less safety concerns and a great community spirit = winning.
  • Call your granny. In fact, write her a letter she can read whenever she misses you. I send post cards to my mom every day when I travel overseas. They only arrive well after I’m home but it reminds her that I love her. If I still had a granny I would write her too
  • Support local handymen. Obviously get a good reference but you might meet a reliable guy who uses your money to support this whole family
  • Do your very best to not slam down the phone when you realise you’ve just been called by a telemarketer. I always listen politely to their introduction and then firmly say “no thanks”. If they carry on after that I interrupt with “I don’t need what you’re offering. I’m ending this call”. I like to think it takes the edge off. They’re just doing their job
  • Tip well for good service. Let the manager know if you’ve received bad service. If things don’t improve it’s their loss when you don’t go back
  • Tip car guards and petrol attendants
  • Donate old clothing and everything else. It’s amazing what it useful to charitable organisations. Donate books to your local school. Books can really change the world.
  • Choose a charity to support every few weeks/months. I periodically donate to the South African Guide Dog Association and send dog food to Dogtown every 6 weeks or so once I’ve accumulated enough eBucks to buy and get free delivery via Take A Lot. Nothing is easier
  •  Donate an annual box or two/three/four/twenty to http://www.santashoebox.co.za. It’s a great cause. Club in with a few friends if you need to – it’s really worthwhile. When you donate put a few extra small items in the box and also write the child a short note to make them feel special. That note can impact a life in a very positive way – it’s nice to know someone really thought about you, even if you’ve never met that person face to face

There are many, many, many other things we can do but these are things I feel like “normal” working 9 – 5 people can do without too much effort. These are really small things that can make a positive impact on the souls who are often the most overlooked in society or taken for granted. If you’re able to organise town clean-ups or go paint houses at orphanages then please do that too but for most of us the small things done constantly will also help a lot.

You can set an example to your family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, the world. Madiba Day yesterday. Joe Soap day, every day

Start today.

What are you doing this Mandela Day?

As you probably know 18 July is annual Mandela Day. In case you don’t know, Mandela Day is an internationally celebrated day where people commit to spending 67 minutes helping others/doing charity work and just generally making the world a better place.

The sceptics will say that nothing is achieved in 67 minutes and that every day should be Mandela day. They are right that every day should be spent considering others and doing what you can to help your fellow man or animals and environments in need. Small things every day will make a big difference. However, this event has proven that just 67 minutes of commitment by enough people can make a huge difference to those in need. Especially if those 67 minutes are done in shifts by several groups across a whole day.

Working together 67 minutes can clean a whole neighbourhood, build several wendy houses, fill thousands of food packages, rally enough people to donate a lot of food and clothing and have a lot of puppies and their kennels washed.  The key is to make your 67 minutes meaningful and to work hard during this time.  Murals will be painted, vegetables gardens planted, children played with, libraries set up. All by you committing just 67 minutes of your time.

Mandela Day helps the needy but it also rallies communities and makes you feel good about yourself and the guy shovelling dirt next to you. It allows us to reconsider what’s important in life and how a little can go a long way. Mandela day gives hope to the desperate and makes them realise that other people do care and that all is not lost. A lot of Mandela Day projects empower people and their communities and so the results can be seen years into the future.

So, find a project that works for you. You can either think of your own or you can visit http://www.mandeladay.com/ where organisations are listing their ideas and want lists and you can just slot in with what they’re doing.

I’m starting early this year and have already committed to donating blankets to  Twitter Blanket Drive Africa  (@TBDAfrica), Volunteered to Santa Shoebox (www.santashoebox.co.za, @santashoebox)  and aim to give out 67 cups of coffee to street vendors and car guards on Mandela Day because I appreciate that they’re standing out in the cold to make an honest living). It’s that simple really.

Get involved no matter where you are in the world.