Last night was the big combined end of year poker game for a group of mates i had been playing poker with once a month. Thirty plus people and a long evening of challenging competition planned.
In a nutshell, i had all of the best cards but got completely bad beat three times and ended up being second person out with Val still representing and looking set to continue for a good while.
She suggested I head to Canal Walk which was fairly nearby to go and watch a movie so i took my leave, completely frustrated and muttering about bad beats under my breath.
The Brownie, The Muslims and the Shared Connections
Canal Walk was buzzing. With queues of cars heading in and out of the place at around 9pm i decided that a movie might finish too late [Fantastic Beasts had a 1am end time] and so found some coffee and some sugar and then looked for a place to sit in the food court.
The first thing i noticed was just how [amazingly] representative the crowds were [and there were crowds] although by that i probably mean not overwhelmingly white. Majority coloured actually with a few black and white people scattered amongst them.
i finally managed to find a table and after a few minutes a middle-aged coloured man asked me if the seats next to me were taken and i said, “Not at all, please come and sit” and so Faizel brought his wife and teenage son and came and sat near me and started eating their supper.
Breaking the Ice
i love people and i love conversation but i’m not one of those people who tends to start up conversations with strangers. But for some reason last night, i asked them if they came there often and if this crazy amount of people was normal or was it a Black Friday vibe.
Forty minutes later i had to head back to pick Val up at the poker where she had sadly been blinded out by the bigger chip stacks. Was not going to be the big Anderson 1-2 we had hoped for. Ah well, next year…
But in that brief time i had gone from being frustrated and annoyed to mesmerised by a conversation with a muslim couple that i discovered i had so many connections with.
“My wife Val just ran this thing called The Justice Conference.”
“My niece went to that conference.”
“i hang out with the St Johns Anglican church which is part of this thing called the Parish which is a collection of six Anglican churches.”
“My boss is part of Christ Church Kenilworth which is one of those Parish churches.”
We spoke about where we grew and schooling and the recent Rustenburg crisis and what needs to happen in the schools and the work that Megan and i are looking to do there. And about technical skills in schools [Faizel is a plumber] and even the fact that this family were heading out to a bicycle shop that evening that is across the road from where we live to pick up a bike.
Hope for the Beloved Country
Words don’t do it justice, i’m sure. But it was beautiful. And yet another glimpse of that elusive rainbow [although there seem to be a growing number of those recently] as strangers connected at a table in a busy mall and just took a moment to see each other and recognise some connections and common vision for the country.
When Rustenburg pupils are asking, ‘Are black teachers real teachers?’ and brothers are being interviewed on Cape Talk to try and make some sense of their sibling’s racist beach rant and online people are being defensive about their privilege or calling for colourblindness it can feel like we are so far away from where we need to be.
But when i remember who was sitting around our Thanksgiving table and think back to echoes from the Justice Conference, when i look around me at St Johns on a Sunday morning or across the coffee table at Century City, then i start to wonder and even believe that maybe, just maybe, we are closer than we think.
And into the Future
i want to commit to starting more conversations with strangers. i really wish we had exchanged details so we could sit around a dinner table together and i could introduce them to Val and we could get to know each other better. But it’s okay that we didn’t. That moment was enough. As long as there are more moments like that.
Some of them will grow into bigger stories. And hopefully all of them will add another piece to a bridge and maybe even usher in a glimpse of that rainbow.
i couldn’t imagine an evening that started with so much promise and quickly descended into bitter disappointment being redeemed so very easily. And being far far more worth it than if i had gone on to win the entire evening. i would have without the shadow of a doubt ended up with less than i walked away with last night.
Come on, South Africa. We’ve got this!