There is so much need in the world.
I sometimes look at the state of my town and people around me and heave a deep regretful sigh. Mark Booysen also saw the needs of those around him. He too heaved a deep regretful sigh.
And decided to do something about it.
Mark had been working in the navy as a chef for twenty years. His life had the normal ups and downs, but he should have been content. Yet he wasn’t. ‘Is this what life is all about?’ he asked himself. When he lay in bed at night, he tossed and turned. There had to be more to living than this. He felt as if his life was a waste. What had he accomplished? Nothing of any importance. If he only had a year to live, is this how he would wish to spend his life? The answer was a resounding – NO!
He resigned from his job.
“What are you going to do? You have no qualifications. You are throwing your career away. For what? Please tell me, for what?” his boss demanded.
Mark had no answer. But he had a faith. He knew that God would show him what to do.
He got in his car and headed east. He ended up in the green valley of George.
He and an old friend, started up a ‘meals on wheels’ business. Unfortunately, due to a disagreement, their business folded and they parted ways. Mark was in a turmoil. He had a landlord knocking on his door, he had to live and jobs were few and far between.
“God”, his heart cried out, “I’m in a town I don’t know, I have no job, I need to eat, I need to live. Help!!!”
Mark endured a very dark time in his life. So much so, he contemplated suicide. That would put an end to the sense of failure and nothingness that seemed to envelop him. He was at the point of committing the act, when he seemed to hear a voice in his head. This voice softly whispered: “You are more than your circumstances, Mark. So much more!”
The overpowering feeling that suffused Mark was a life changer. That whisper of God’s seemed to blow away the mist of despair that surrounded him.
He looked up and out.
Mark sold his car and after paying off his debts, gave complete strangers small gifts, flowers and chocolates. By doing good, he began to feel better. But he needed a proper job. Mark ‘let his fingers do the walking through…’ Facebook! And he discovered a quadriplegic, Rudi, needing a carer. Mark needed no qualifications for this sort of job. He just needed to care. Meeting Rudi’s kind nubile eyes inside a paralysed body, Mark realised that he had found a ‘home’. He had someone to care about. Rudi provided Mark with solidarity that had previously been lacking from his life.
“Rudi gives me a sense of family, worth and purpose,” he remarked, “I am now where I am supposed to be.”
He and Rudi have been together ever since.
Every morning Mark takes a shower and this is where he and God have their chats.
His Lord said to him: “Okay, you’re settled now. C’mon, time to get to work!”
Mark then began to put his ‘shower ideas’ into action. He set up a Facebook Page called Feel Good Friday. It is here that he promotes ‘HIS’ ideas to the world.
During this time he received a message from Stephanie Young, another George resident who helps others through her #LoveInAction initiative. She had seen his Facebook Page and wished to meet up. They got together at a regular haunt of mine, Beans About Coffee and clicked instantly. They agreed to combine forces. She would be the social media guru and he the ‘man on the ground’. The team was formed. Now – ACTION!
Mark was very aware of a problem that befell underprivileged girls. Their families battled to put food in their mouths, never mind affording sanitary towels. On Feel Good Friday he appealed to people to help him collect enough sanitary towels for the girls at a school in Thembalethu.
“Would you find it in your heart to lend a helping hand, PLEASE? I just spoke to Mr Cona, the Principal at Thembalethu High. I offered to host the Feel Good Friday “Girl-Friday” at his school. I thought he would have around 200 female learners. He dropped a bomb shell on me! He has 814 girls attending his school! My plan is to offer these girls a cup of hot soup, and hand them a box of sanitary towels. I am in serious need of donations of sanitary towels and soup ingredients. I truly need your help! Please everyone, I beg you to assist me in this?
Donations can be dropped at my home.
May you be richly blessed!”
414 boxes were donated and Mark bought 400 boxes himself. He maxed out his credit card while doing so, but it was worth it. He felt an incredible joy coursing through him as he watched those 814 girls devour their soup. He couldn’t help smiling in the shower the next morning.
“If I was able to, I’d give you a high five, Lord”, he laughed, “you would receive one right now!”
Mark noticed the homeless sleeping on bits of cardboard outside the municipal buildings. While having a shower, God again spoke to him.
“I think it would be great if you could organise sleeping bags and a good meal for all those homeless people.”
“Lord, you know I’m broke at the moment and I don’t see how…”
“You could sell your lap top computer. That would give you a little more money. And also you could ask for help again. And don’t worry, I will see that things work out!”
“Yeah, I could do that, Lord, but…blast, I’ve got soap in my eyes! Hold on…okay, what was I saying, ah yes…Lord, have you seen how many men and women sleep out there at night? And you want me to provide sleeping bags and a meal for how many? Lord? Lord…? Blast it, you’ve gone. Okay, okay, I’ll see what I can do!”
Mark once more used his Facebook Page to get his message across to people who might be willing to help.
“My wish is to positively touch the lives of the homeless. We have all seen them. There are 40 homeless souls that we know of sleeping on street corners or wherever they can find a dry and safe spot. I humbly ask you to join me in enriching their lives. Our Feel Good Friday goal is to provide each of them with a sleeping bag. A snack pack consisting of: a sandwich, a juice, fruit, peanuts and a chocolate. I am still sourcing discounts but as it stands now we are looking at R350 per person. I need your help, good people of George. Please join me in spreading the love…”
There were mutters of: “Ag, they’re just a bunch of drug addicts and dronkies…”
Mark’s response was: “None of us is without sin, without fault. In a country so full of negativity, I think it is our duty to send out love and warmth. As a child, I watched a cartoon, The Care Bears. Whenever they confronted a problem, they would shoot out rays of love from their chests. I am a Care Bear. I CHOOSE to fill this world with love instead of negativity.
I ask you to be a Care Bear too!”
Once again, Mark’s shower chat to God paid off!
Forty homeless people were given a sleeping bag and a food parcel. The Eden Lions assisted with the handing out of the provisions. It was a rainy, windy night and they had to drive up and down the darkened streets seeking out the homeless. They often scuttled away in misunderstood fear, only coming out when coaxed.
Mark recalled one old man, he didn’t scamper away with his provisions. He accepted the sleeping bag and his packet of eats in an almost regal manner. Putting them down, he put out his gnarled hands and clasped Mark’s warmly.
“I see you!” he declared, “but God sees into you,” the old sage pronounced. “Continue to give to God.”
Those words reverberated for Mark. Too often we focus on what we want, on what we need. Our focus is the wrong way round. We should rather focus on what we can give to God.
We don’t realise how blessed we are. On his last initiative, feeding curry and rice to 70 hungry children, he felt a small tug at his jersey. He looked down to see himself confronted by a small six year old child.
This tousle haired boy looked up at Mark and asked in a hesitant voice: “Please, will you be coming back at Christmas?”
Mark crouched down to speak to the boy. “I could do. Why? What would you like?”
“I…I would love a piece of chocolate.”
I am so humbled by the path Mark has chosen. We should all strive to do more good in this world and improve the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves. By coincidence, just after I met Mark, my Bible Study gang discussed the word ‘good’. We determined that all good ultimately comes from God. Perhaps Mark’s initiatives should be renamed:
‘Feel God Fridays!’