The story of Ta Songa

August 10, 2013  |  By Gugu Ncapayi , South Africa


Photo : pxlcookies/

If someone is over 60 years old and has no friends, no lover, no children and no one to share his home with, that person is probably not very happy…

Ta Songa was my neighbour when I lived in Settlers. I had known him since I was a child and, till this day, I don't know what his real name is. Everyone called him ‘Ta Songa’. He didn't like to speak and even if someone asked him a question he just gave a short answer or shook his head. One thing he always did, though, was smile.

I never saw Ta Songa chat to anyone. During the holidays when people got together with their families and friends, not once did I see him with company. In fact, my grandfather invited him to join our family's celebration a few times, but he always refused.

I often saw him sitting in front of his house, leaning against the wall and simply gazing at the sun. I was very interested in Ta Songa, mainly because I thought there was something wrong with him. My curiosity got the better of me and so I asked my grandfather… My grandfather told me I was wrong. ‘Ta Songa used to be a very lively person,’ he said. ‘Since his family died in an accident he doesn't like to talk.’

As a young boy, the truth about Ta Songa shocked me. I spent hours trying to imagine what he would look like and what type of person he would be if his family didn't die. All I wanted to do was make him happy, but I didn’t know how.

I soon decided to acknowledge Ta Songa with a smile, every time I saw him, and in return he did the one thing he always did, smile.

Sympathy is when we feel sorry for someone, but don't necessarily do much to support that person. Compassion, on the other hand, is the human quality of being moved by the suffering of others and doing something about it. Compassion helps to ease the pain of another person and is about actions and not words.

As a young boy I didn't feel I could offer Ta Songa anything more than a smile, but a smile was better than nothing. As small as it was, it was a compassionate gesture. If everyone in the world would be a little more compassionate, the world would be a better place.

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