A thousands sparks not one big bonfire

When the paper arrives of a Saturday one of the first things I look for (after the obligatory sports section and the latest Hugh F-W recipes) is the Weekender. This small, seemingly trivial section provides an ever changing kaleidoscope of the weird and wonderful of everday folk. A few months ago I was even surprised to see someone I know appear in it, resplendent in a full Mapei cycling kit. Much as I like Tim, admire his musical knowledge and adore his sense of humour, that outfit is not one to gently welcome you into the weekend at the breakfast table. But then that is the beauty of this column. Each week, another interesting life made up of many small pleasures and indulgences shared with us all.

And so this morning I read about Keith Manning, 57, a taxi driver from London. As I read I liked the sound of Keith. He says he has soul, he’s a bit of a raver and together with his brother, cousin and friend goes to “‘big people’s’ nights now… Raves for oldies”. His siblings all drive taxi’s creating a taxi rank outside his mother’s house. And he likes to help his flower seller friend at Columbia Road market so he can chat up the girls.  A colourful character enjoying life to the full, I think you would agree. Some might say hedonistic. But wait a minute, the penultimate paragraph reveals a hidden depth to this character:

We’ve always holidayed in the Gambia. At first we were doing touristy things at the Senegambia beach, but we got to know the people and learned how the other half lives. They’re very poor there. I had the idea to start building wells in the villages. It costs only about £200 – pocket money for us. Now building wells and collecting old clothes and toys has become an excuse to go over and visit.

So here we are, from being western holidaymaker with a notional family connection to a family making a difference. As Keith says, what is pocket money to him makes a huge difference to the people he’s helping.  It made me (and MrsAB) think.  Whilst often we struggle to look for our big impact on this world, the real differences are made bit by bit. Can you imagine what the world would look like if all of is did something similar to Keith?

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