Well OK. I’m lagging behind a bit, and my gifts are a bit unusual in some cases!
Sunday, I got that stain out of DH’s favourite shirt. Monday, my gift was a little more complicated. Since my Dad has died, we’ve had a terrible experience with the executors of his estate. It’s a long story, but suffice to say, that in South Africa, the law states that the executor’s fees may not exceed 3.5% of the value of the assets + VAT. And the banks in South Africa, who make a big song and dance about drawing up a will for you “for free” and keeping it “for free”, charge the maximum no matter what. So e.g. if you have just bought a new house (you haven’t paid a cent off) and a new car, and you die in a car accident, the banks will remove from your estate 4% of the value of the assets, regardless of any loans. To many people, this amounts to their life savings in the form of policies etc. I have a HUGE issue with this. Let me just mention firstly, that my Dad had his will at one of South Africa’s top private banks. He was about to change it, the will was over 20 years old. He was about to do what I recommend everyone does, and that is make a family member the executor, so that they can hire someone to wind up the estate, and pay them for the actual work they do and not some random percentage. My Dad’s estate has so far taken more than 18 months to wind up, and we are not near the end yet. Why? Because there is no incentive for this bank to complete this process when they are earning interest on someone’s cash. Sure they are paying us interest, but I can guarantee that it is not the same high interest that they are earning.
Enter the Erin Brockovitch aspect to my personality. There is no ombudsman for the estate industry, but we have in this country a magazine called Personal Finance, whose editor also writes on personal financial issues for the major newspapers. I have huge respect for this man, he is like a tiger, fearless in publicly attacking institutions and even entire industries who operate less than ethically. Step one – I have contacted him and he has responded. I’m busy putting together a letter detailing all the information, and I hope that he will print a scathing article. Or at the very least, encourage people to do what I mentioned in bold print above! So my Monday gift, is a gift to South Africa. To be honest, I don’t plan to stop until the law is changed, and the blood sucking leeches in the deceased estate industry are forced to actually do some work for their living.
Tuesday’s gift was a simple one. I gave R10 to a beggar. More than I would usually give, but nothing to write home about. Yesterday – well that’s where the lag begins. I have excuses, the usual time related ones, but excuses are just that, aren’t they.
I have learned a little from this experience. I have learned how much of every day I spend doing things for other people, things that I never viewed as gifts before, and which meant that I also wasn’t always gracious in doing them. And what’s the point of doing something if there is even a whisper of resentment, or just plain habit. How about feeling blessed to be in the service of someone else?
There is a woman in India called Amma. She is the hugging saint. She hugs thousands and thousands of people in one sitting. Up to 50,000 people in usually a 23 or 24 hour time span. During that time she does not eat or go to the toilet and take a break. Her philosophy is that we should centre our lives around selfless service, what they call seva in India. Make everything you do a gift. When you wash the dishes, clean them as if God is coming for dinner. Because God lives in each one of us, and so you are blessed to be allowed to serve another person.
I’m not sure what Thursday’s gift is yet. It may just be a charity donation, since there’s a yoga class tonight that can’t be missed…