In November of 2009 my friend, Nicole, wrote to me and asked a question. The question put into play a chain of events that has just culminated yesterday. It went something like this:
"I was wanting to ask you about an idea one of the nurses I work with had. She was interested in getting money together to send a couple of kids from Johannesburg who would not normally be able to go to the World Cup to one of the games. (My first thought was Portia and the boys) So my question was, do you guys think this is possible? Are tickets still available? (If we were able to raise enough money, I'd want to include enough for a ticket for a family member/friend male escort since it's sure to be crazy there.)"
I emailed back: " World Cup tickets: they are sold here based on lottery. You buy a chance to get your number called...and the ticket prices are pretty steep. And, as you know now...the games will be a frenzy...and the seats that are available would probably not be appreciated by the average young kid- white or black!! I will look into it, and let you know.
An alternative to consider (and one that most kids would probably prefer) is to buy a FIFA soccer ball...world cup series. The kids here have soccer fever and most do not have a ball. They make them out of plastic shopping bags....you remember! "
I let the matter kind of drop after I found out the ticket price (and the frenzy that accompanied it) until I talked with my friend, Bonnie, who runs Hlanganani, a non-profit here in Johannesburg that supports AIDS orphans in the township. As I told her Nicole's idea, she asked if I had considered Lebo and Honest...and Terry, her husband said that Nicole should purchase them in the States, since the USA wasn't selling the tickets at the rate that the rest of the world was.
It made me wake up and re-think things. If the tickets were to go to Lebo (16) and Honest (19) they would genuinely appreciate them. They also were Makhura's...Portia's cousins, and that addressed Nicole's first idea. I also thought of Chris, a young man who was like a son to us, but not an AIDS orphan. It turned out, after a complicated series of events that it all happened: and at the hands of generous nurses and interns from Nicole's workplace.
To brief you on the magnitude of what was offered, please allow me to gush a little. American nurses are selfless. They generally care for their patients with all of their hearts, especially if they are pediatric nurses, like the ones Nicole works with. In addition to all of this, Nicole works at a University hospital that never turns away people for the sake of money...which increases their benevolence. Most nurses and interns are well paid, but supporting families, and even if they are moved to give usually do so locally. So, the thought of all of these nurses and interns coming together to gift these tickets to kids they had never met in South Africa moved us all.
When Honest and Lebo heard, they were floored. We later told Chris he would be coming with us.
At our World Cup party Friday night, our house exploded with enthusiasm and delight...all of the folk cheering for their beloved Bafana Bafana. BUT when most people left, we unrolled every sleeping bag and blow-up mattress in our house and made beds for our three guys. Portia, Darrel and Ebby would sleep in the spare room. After a nights sleep (during one of the coldest nights in Joburg this year) the boys woke up ready to go...all bathed and dressed by 7 a.m.... the game started at 2.
After a breakfast fit for a king and face painting for everyone, Mario took all of them to Ellis Park in the heart of Johannesburg. There, they prepared to watch Argentina (ranked 7) vs. Nigeria (ranked 19). They were among the elite of the world, viewing the game live and in person.
Mario said the noise and enthusiasm was deafening (he kept his ear plugs in the whole game) but that the guys wore faces of enlightened understanding about the game, the players, the field. Such a once-in-a-lifetime gift for these young men... it was a delight to hear about later.
I spent the day relaxing and hanging out laundry, happily inside of my own home with no one but Zuzu (my dog) around.
The MVP was definitely the Nigerian goalie, who managed to keep out most of the attacks from the favored Argentinian team, but in the end Argentina prevailed, 1-0.
The boys made their way to Diepsloot, their home and the township of our heart...after the game. Mario came back, exhausted and grateful. It was quite a day. One that will live in our hearts forever. One inspired by the generosity of people who have never met these precious young men; one frozen in the grateful expressions of young men who got to see the World cup on African soil.... one given by God for us all to enjoy.
Check out the end of the game here: You can see all of our guys enjoying the last seconds: