One day I was deeply troubled by all the evil in the world, so I decided on the spur of the moment to adopt a donkey, writes Susan Erasmus. You have to start somewhere.
None of my efforts so far have brought about peace in the Middle East, harmony in South Africa, or an end to general human suffering or poverty. And I was trying so hard.
But every now and then comes a time in your life where you have to accept your limitations, and do what you can, where you are, with what you have.
So I adopted a donkey.
Right. The form was easy enough to fill in, I was at the donkey sanctuary in McGregor, and I had just been paid for some editing work I had done one grim weekend, so was feeling flush. (Neither the feeling, nor the money ever lasts, alas.)
And, let's face it, R50 a month was not too much to pay for getting the feeling every now and then that, on some level, you are making a difference to someone - anyone. Even a donkey.
I have always been suspicious of the motives of charitable types. Now that I am one of them (admittedly on the very fringes as R50 is not exactly a staggering amount), I know that when all else fails, you can feel better about yourself, because you have paid for one donkey's hay for a few days. Baby steps, as they say. All philanthropists have to start somewhere.
More about the donkey: her name is Spokie, she is grey, ancient, has knock-knees and was reed-thin when she was rescued from a life of deprivation and hard labour somewhere in the Overberg. I certainly didn't choose her from the catalogue for her looks. I just thought she too deserved a chance to find out what it meant to be cared for.
The donkey sanctuary, Eseltjiesrus, regularly sends out newsletters and progress reports, so within a few weeks I had a photo of a donkey on my desk. Other people do pics of family members, kids' drawings, soft toys. I just have a postcard that says "Keep calm and carry on". Now I have a photo of my donkey too. Every time I ask myself why I work at all (which is about every second day), I look at the photo and the answer comes through loud and clear: "To help pay for Spokie's hay".
But here's the thing. I recently found out that she no longer eats hay, as her teeth are now beyond the ministrations of the donkey dentist. She is now on a diet of soft food.
It was clearly time to visit, as I suspect Spokie might shuffle off this mortal coil in the not-too-distant future.
So it was off to McGregor for a night. And no, this is not one of those TV ads where the animal recognises its former owners/benefactors/playmates and comes leaping and bounding towards them all happiness and light.
Spokie – no longer thin and miserable - stood next to the fence in the shade trying to keep cool in 32-degree heat. She lifted one eyebrow as I approached and promptly proceeded to pee on her hoof. That was actually enough for me. In life you need to take what you can get. She seems happy, and has formed part of the donkey herd, of which there are now 19. All of them have exceedingly grim histories, but their lives are now different.
Every time I watch the news and feel tempted to do myself bodily harm, I think of the fact that there's some corner of a field in McGregor that will be forever Spokie's. Works for me.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, April 2012)
Visit the Donkey Sanctuary's Facebook page.
Spokie when rescued
Spokie one year later