Having lived in Mossel Bay for nearly a decade and a half, I am reminded on a regular basis of the town's village-like spirit.
Moving here from the detachment of a city, Mossel Bay's sense of community was to me as a welcome embrace.
I recall the day I stood in the pharmacy, waiting at the baby clinic to have my then infant son weighed. Upon overhearing that I still needed to get to the post office, an elderly gentlemen politely offered to post a letter on my behalf, since he was on his way there. I didn't know him from a bar of soap, nor had I ever seen him since – but my letter found its destination.
Having worked in the local media for half of my years in Mossel Bay, there are many "regulars" that drop in with notices and news. Due to the natural process of life, they have come and gone over the years.
Earlier this week, one of these regulars dropped by to announce his stepping down from serving as chair of a community organisation, focusing on the youth, after almost 40 years.
"I am living on the years of the Lord," he says. Aged 75, he is referring to the scripture in Ps 90:10: Seventy years is all we have - eighty years, if we are strong; yet all they bring us is trouble and sorrow; life is soon over, and we are gone. (Good News Translation)
He explains that all his life, he has instructed his children on the importance of honouring their parents "so that they too may live on the Lord's years". With a wry smile and the softness of understanding grace shining from his eyes he says: "They are starting to listen now."
Rushing through the rest of the week, I bumped into a senior law enforcement officer, soon to retire. Wishing each other belated compliments of the season, she mentioned a talk she, an inspiring speaker, was asked to do at a local school, where as the year started, a learner assaulted the principal.
Her formative years were very tough, she says, yet this did not stop her pursuit of success. Her talk, it seems, echoed the sentiments expressed by my "regular".
In Paddle against the flow, the most recent addition to my book collection, Douglas Coupland writes about how bad young people are at taking advice. He ascribes this to a "protective coating surrounding them called youthful cluelessness". Due to this, they go through life, winging it, with often disastrous effect "and suddenly they are forty-five and it's all over".
"The point is that there is no point in giving advice," Coupland writes. But this leaves the question – what do you offer people instead? "The answer is you try to inspire. Inspiring people is far easier than trying to give earnest advice, especially to people in the post-pubescent phase of neural wiring which makes them especially susceptible to powerful inspirational words."
However, he continues, the best thing about advice, is that it saves you time, which unlike money, cannot be retrieved. Saving someone time, Coupland argues, in practical terms, "is the greatest gift one human being can give another".
Advice and inspiration. Both are loaded ideas, Coupland concludes.
If, in the spirit of Ubuntu, it is true that it takes a village to raise a child, Mossel Bay has a fair chance. But are we up for it?