A good Samaritan left R4444 for a waiter who was given just R4 as a tip, after being horribly abused by other customers.
East London, South Africa – A SPUR waiter who was left a R4 tip from teenage customers from “hell” says he was shocked and in disbelief after a local traveller stopped at the restaurant to leave him R4 444 tip and a note.
Jared Ruttenberg – a South African travel writer – was on a writing assignment just outside East London in the Eastern Cape a couple of weeks ago. During his visit, he was deeply disturbed to discover an incident that had taken place a mere kilometre from where he was staying.
Xolani Mbalo, a local waiter, experienced some verbal abuse from a group of teenagers and was then left a R4 tip and with a derogatory note saying it was for “hungry Africans’.
Recently Ruttenberg listened to an interview with Teju Cole, who paraphrased social activist James Baldwin, saying “to be conscious is to be in a state of rage.” The incident left him very unsettled and enraged.
“I knew that I wanted to do something about it. I first spoke through the incident with a few friends and then a journalist who had reported on the story. I shared my frustration, and also an idea that I had.”
Before leaving East London to fly back to Cape Town, Ruttenberg stopped at the Spur, with the intention of meeting Xolani. Unfortunately, he was not on shift when he arrived, and so Ruttenberg left a note, and a tip that had been collected from eleven friends – including three people across the globe that he had never met.
Here’s what the simple note read:
“Xolani, I’m sorry that I was not able to meet you today. Please accept this small tip of R4444 ‘for hungry Africans’. Because what this country needs more of, is hungry Africans.
Hungry for knowledge.
Hungry for justice.
Hungry for hope.
Hungry to know that they are seen, known and valued.
Please know that you are seen, known, and valued. Please don’t let the bigoted actions of a few make you doubt yourself or doubt that there are good people out there. This tip is from a group of eleven people, none of whom know you or even each other – but wanted to express their frustration but also support for you.”
Mbalo was left shocked and in disbelief when he got the note. He told News24 that he has kept it and keeps reading it “just to keep myself motivated”.
“I was shocked when I got the money, I saved a little bit of the money for my graduation next month. I would like to thank them. I appreciate it.”
But Ruttenberg is not sharing the story to attract self-attention.
“It would indeed be a chilling chastisement of our times if people had to be honoured for doing what is right. That should be a given. I’m also fully aware that giving money in this instance doesn’t really solve the larger issue and may just be dressing a wound.”
His intent in Xolani’s case is to annex his unfortunate narrative with a second, and hopefully better ending. Ruttenberg was reminding himself – and hopefully through those few words, a few others – that we don’t always have to accept the status quo. In fact, religious and creedal systems aside, it’s a simple civic duty to stand for what is right, particularly when it involves standing up for those who don’t have a voice.
Ruttenberg is fully aware that some of our deeper societal problems cannot be solved by merely giving money. He believes rather wholeheartedly that the solution to poverty lies not in the deep pockets of cheerful givers, nor the well-oiled machinations of well-meaning programs. Rather, through changed and transformed hearts.
We live in an age where it is no longer enough to simply be good – we have to do good. Through ordinary people’s hearts being broken by the reality of poverty, allowing themselves to be transformed and then placing their heart, hands, and feet in intellectually and relationally uncomfortable places. By not making sweeping statements about how others should be acting, or how they should be thinking, without first listening to their story.
“I vividly recall being silenced by a quote from Shaun Johnson’s The Native Commissioner: “If you could read the secret history of your enemies, you should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostilities.”
I long for a time when there is more listening, deeper understanding, and heart transformations that lead to transforming actions – but more than longing for it – I’ve decided to create it one small act at a time and thankfully I’m not alone.
That’s why we left a R4444 tip.”