It was Sunday afternoon in Cape Town. I started the day at a church in Muizenberg near the Capricorn Township. I spent the afternoon walking through the flea market and planned an evening hanging with some kids from Capricorn. Ryan, my host, told me earlier that some of the kids asked him if they could come over to watch a movie. Ryan “Brown” Dalton had been a missionary in Cape Town for 10 years. He is what I like to call the real deal. Every “street kid” in Cape Town knows him by name. He speaks Afrikaans fluently and had even spent 16 days of Activism living on the streets.
Ryan had lived in the Muizenberg area for a while and has a relationship with many of Capricorns kids. Capricorn is a smaller township in the Western Cape. It houses about 10-15,000 people. It is a mixed site with the predominantly race being Coloured. It hosts some Black South Africans as well as Africans who have traveled down from northern countries. It was initially an informal settlement. Now considered a formal settlement it is made up of shacks and not so well built homes.
The evening with the kids would teach me a great lesson. Upon entering the gate of our community the kids are harassed by the security guards and neighbors. The scene had become a common occurrence here with each visit. The guards, Coloured themselves, find the kids to be an unwelcome threat to the neighborhood. Ryan argued with the guards a bit about their racist attitudes. He had become known by the kids as their protector. They tell me often of times he had stood up for them and fought on their behalf.
The kids walk in like normal kids unfazed by the treatment towards them from the guards. They are hosted with cookies, Ryan baked the night before, muffins and coke. They take their seats at first beside me on the couch and in just seconds I am overwhelmed by the smell. An overtaking odor that I cannot ignore. The kids live in shanty houses in the townships. Some do not have running water in the homes. Showering is a luxury some cannot afford. Most have spent the day in Muizenberg begging and have not bathed in days. My first thought is, oh hell, I have to sleep here!
The smell began to engulf the room. I went to the bedroom to fetch my laptop and when I returned the smell seized me. I took my seat and began to write. As they watch their movie I wanted to go to the room to escape the smell. I knew I had to stay seated. I thought can I hug them and be with them like I don’t smell the stench from the clothes they have worn at least all week long. Can I sit through this movie and not think my head will have to lie exactly where they are sitting. I knew the scent would be left as a reminder. It’s in this moment of shear honesty with myself that I realized how jacked up I am.
I sat across the room writing and as I wrote I observed. I watched as one shared with his younger mate a muffin. There were many on the plate but he took one and broke it and gave it to his friend. They each made sure the other had snacks. I watched as they share the same water glass from the sink although there were many to choose from. One would drink and then fill the glass for the other. They sat stacked one on the other laughing and talking enjoying the movie and I see it just as real as I see them, they live the kingdom.
It is also in these moments while looking on that I understand, “Theirs is the kingdom.” A phrase that challenges the core of what motivates me. Have I become so detached that I allow a persons disposition to hinder my interactions. I wonder how often I have been so bombarded with what offends that I miss the opportunity to participate in something greater. I realize I have so much to learn. They have become my teachers. Therein is the Kingdom. These children leading the way.