When Jacques Roelofse offered to buy a homeless man a meal, he had no idea his selfless act would to teach so many South Africans to be a little more grateful.
The elderly man, known as Mr Mike, is a regular at the Wimpy Hartebeespoort, where he has been receiving a cup of coffee every evening for the past eight years.
On a random Wednesday, Jacques Roelofse and his son went to the restaurant to grab a bite to eat, and decided to buy Mr Mike a meal, anonymously.
“He sat down and the waiter brought him a glass of water, and the way he was communicating with the waiter, a person could see that he’s a regular there.”
“So after a while I called the waiter and asked, ‘What’s the story with this guy?’ and he told me, ‘It’s Mike, he stays here in the veld but management of Wimpy Harties is giving him a cup of coffee every afternoon after 17.00’.”
Roelofse then asked the waiter to give him a plate of food and asked the waiter not to disclose that the meal was paid for by him.
When the waiter brought his plate of food, Roelofse said the man smiled and said a very long prayer.
“It was just a smile that broke out, he even wanted to tip the waiter, you cannot believe it. I was amazed,” Roelofse said laughing.”
“He took off the glasses and he prayed over the food. But not a hurried little five second prayer, it was more than a minute and he didn’t care who was looking at him and I just realised how ungrateful we sometimes are.”
“Here is a guy who’s apparently lost everything in life, it doesn’t matter what happened and why he is on the street, but he still takes time to thank God for a plate of food that he received.”
Roelofse said the man’s reaction to the meal helped renew his own sense of gratitude.
“The lesson he taught me is being grateful because we moan easily, don’t we?”
Roelofse is a pastor at Galilean Evangelical Ministries and works as a shift supervisor at Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, North West.
He uploaded a picture of Mr Mike on his Facebook account on Wednesday night, by Thursday afternoon his account was inundated with friend requests, inbox messages, and messages on his wall praising him for being a good Samaritan.
“I was definitely overwhelmed. I work on the mines here by Marikana so my phone was off most of the morning. But when I got up from underground and I switched it on, I just saw this response.”
“I actually had to go out of the office and hide myself in the bathroom because I was crying,” he laughed.
“Look what is happening to this guy’s life. It’s just a small post that takes you five minutes, you put it up and it impacts a person’s life like that and people are just jumping on the thing and driving it forward.”
Taki Nekhumbe, who is a manager at the Wimpy restaurant, said the elderly man had been visiting the store for eight years. He would come in everyday between 16.00 and 19.00 and read all the newspapers. Sometime during the winter season Nekhumbe decided to offer the man a cup of coffee.
“He was sitting there reading a newspaper, and then once you get to speak to someone you get to know them, so I just gave him a coffee since he had been sitting there for more than three hours.”
“Then it started being a ritual, all the managers did it anyway because it’s just a filter coffee, it’s not going to bankrupt anyone,” Nekhumbe said.
He said someone offered to buy Mr Mike a meal at least once a month.
“He was excited and surprised. He was very happy, he felt blessed in a way. When you get a meal like that once in a while, you feel blessed.”
Nekhumbe was not sure whether he would tell Mr Mike about his sudden rise to fame on social media, saying he was a private and proud individual.
“I was thinking of it because another lady called me… offering a Wendy house and things like that, but then I explained to the lady that he doesn’t like things like that.
“You have to go through him like a friend, you can’t just say you want publicity, you have to know him from a personal base. That’s the type of guy he is.”
He said he had tried to find out what had led to the man being homeless but had had no luck getting any information out of him.
“He must be 50 or 60. He worries me because he’s old and alone. He says he stays in a tent, but I haven’t really gone up there.”
“Next to our Wimpy there is a foot walk that leads to the bushes, so he stays up there. He says he stays in a tent, so now and again the school kids would walk there and steal everything from him.”
“So he comes with a big bag and all his resources…it’s like a big camping bag with his plates and everything in there because they steal them. It’s not good,” Nekhumbe said.
Two days later, nearly 3 000 people had liked a the Facebook page created after Roelofse’s post went viral.
Some had asked if a bank account could be opened so they could donate funds to ensure that the man was able to get a meal a day.
Nekhumbe said the owner of the restaurant was yet to confirm who would be opening the account and managing it.