* Olefile Masangane shares that the best things in life really are free. *
Before I knew that this was an English proverb, I was captivated by a song by Janet Jackson and the late Luther Vandross, “The Best Things in Life are Free”. The duo sings about how love cannot be bought but it is freely available.
The proverb suggests that there are things in life that do not only come through hard work and sweat. Certain things come to you without an exchange of money or valuable possessions.
But in a world of capital gain this seems too good to be true. It appears that there are losers and there are winners. When we look at our country, we can’t help but feel demoralised by the amount of people living in abject poverty. Many of our people find themselves living on the fringes. More and more broken families are giving way to children growing up in impoverishment.
Before I depress you, let me take to Lehurutshe, Zeerust, a little peri-urban area in the North West province where I grew up. Before Luther and Janet graced us with the beautiful song, before I discovered its meaning, I had a practical encounter of this proverb in my life.
My mother was a poor domestic worker who worked hard to raise her 7 children and 2 of her late brother’s children. She was also illiterate. When I was doing Grade 1, she started attending night school to learn how to read and write. She then applied her ability to write straight into her vegetable business, which she funded through her weekly wages. Every afternoon when she came from work, she would send us into the community to go and sell vegetables, coupled with the stern warning: “Boys and girls, go and sell. If you don’t sell, you don’t eat.”
These words were enough to inject a sense of purpose and urgency in us. It was this training that led my late cousin and I to start our own sweets business so we could buy shoes in order to avoid the cold winter.
Looking back now, I can fully concur that the best things in life are free as my mother, at no cost, was able to teach us how to catch fish for ourselves. Through her example I have been schooled in many subjects: communication, people skills, accounting and business management. I actually went to varsity while still in primary school, thanks to the lessons taught by Ma Nkosi.
My hope is that I should teach this value to my son as he grows up. My hope is that I shouldn’t buy his love but that, like my mother, I should teach him valuable lessons that he can pass on to his children. Just the other day he wanted a kite. It would have been easy to go into a store and buy one, but I decided to teach him how to make his own kite with string, sticks and plastic. Even though our kite did not fly, we celebrated the fact that we were able to make one from scratch! The best thing he got out of this was the gift of creativity. And it was free.
Olefile Masangane is a facilitator on the HEARTLINES Values & Money campaign.