“If you want peace, work for justice”- Pope Paul VI.
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (12 June 2022) – Once upon a time, in the small village of Nottingham Road in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands, there was a nurse, a farmer and a caravan park owner.
*Spoiler alert: This story has no handsome prince as it isn’t actually a fairy-tale. This is real life. It could be nothing else – as our heroes are three women.
And in the land, there was a devastating pandemic, and many people in the small community faced starvation. So, the nurse, the farmer and the caravan park owner got together and said: “What if we ask the people of our community who have food to give to those who do not,” because they acknowledged that hunger is an injustice that no human being should have to endure.
They put out a call, and people came in their numbers. Farmers brought produce; the local chariot club (well, Land Rover actually) provided transport. There was space for everyone who wanted to give what they had in their hands, and everyone felt a sense of belonging. 3,500 people were fed each month during that horrific pandemic.
But that is not the end of our story.
A fire ravaged the community on a cold and wet mid-winter night and left many without shelter or clothes. The three women got together once again: “What if we ask people who have extra clothes to give them to those who have lost theirs” because they knew that nakedness and cold is an injustice that no human being should have to endure.
A small “shop” was donated, and clothes came pouring in, and those who had no clothes were clothed.
But that is also not where our story ends.
Aware of the conditions people had to live in, they got together again: “What if we invite people to collect bags of litter which we will recycle,” because they understood that living in poor conditions is an injustice that no human being should have to endure.
They approached the matter with great dignity because they realised no human being should live without dignity. In exchange for a bag of litter, people could come into the shop and shop for what they needed. People were fed and clothed, and they felt a sense of dignity, and the community began to look better.
The nurse, the farmer and the caravan park owner opened a non-profit called Love Notties. They feed, clothe, beautify the community and, in their words, “fill the gaps”.
But according to the late John Paul VI, what they are actually doing is creating peace.
Every day, Missy Hughes, Sandra Berning and Julie Howe get up and commit themselves to countering – in whatever small way they can – the injustices that exist in deeply unequal societies. And when we get this right, peace is the result.
Did everyone live happily ever after? No – because this is real life. There was looting and littering and hunger and cold. Maybe there always will be.
But the nurse, the farmer and the caravan park owner continue to work for a just society where all can live peacefully side-by-side – as one community.