Janet and Nelson didn’t appear to have anything in common except that they died on the same day.
Nelson was a multi-lingual black male political activist that had done some serious time. Variously alluded to as an evil Marxist and a troublemaker, or a saint and a national hero, Nelson was known by all of the world. Janet was a white female hairdresser from Dalveen. I don’t think anyone ever accused her of being a trouble-maker, but her kindness and openness to the good in humans around her was, in comparison to most of my workmates over the years, absolutely subversive.
Janet and Nelson both refused to talk negatively about other people whose values and ideologies weren’t the same as their own, although I think Janet’s shoe collection probably had more in common with Winnie’s. I have never met anyone who dressed so spectacularly from op-shops and garage sales. The boots in particular caused me much envy.
Janet helped people see good things about others, and her stories were always hilariously funny, with a positive slant. My particular favourite was her recounting of how her husband, an old-car fanatic, insisted on buying an ancient gas-guzzler on a trip to the States. The thing kept breaking down, and strangers kept bailing them out. One passer-by drove them fifty miles to a town where they could get replacement parts. A service station attendant lent them his car to go and find tools. People put them up for the night. ‘Americans are so friendly’ she marvelled , but I think perhaps it people wanted to help them, to polish the shiny, glistening energy field that surrounded Janet.
Optimism, relentless positivity and refusal to hate are rare.