The Diary of an Itinerant - Thoughts of a woman, on a woman*

Wanjiru Mungai
Posted September 21, 2010 from Kenya

I am sleepy but will not lay my head down to sleep ‘til I tell my day’s story of awe.

It is lunch time, and I come home to find the cleaning lady doing her business to make sure that my home is clean. I admit it, these days I am spoilt.

I insist to share my lunch. She sits, patiently. This woman whose face tells me that she has seen a thousand nights of trouble and sorrow.

Eat Mama – eat…

And she does. I apologise the food is not much – ripe bananas, a meat pie, peas, carrots and rice. It is a lot, she says, and I think she means it.

Mama, Eat Mama.

I am speaking to all the struggling women of the world. She wants to clean my room.

No mama – sit. Let me brew some tea for you.

Drink mama, drink.

I speak to her, and to all the struggling beautiful mothers of the world – for all are beautiful indeed.

She tells me that four of her six children have since died - all of them sons. What pain! And her husband left her for another woman who has since borne him sons. And that the sons he wants to take pride in are a drunken batch. She tells me that these sons of her husband’s irresistibly beckon death – what with their drinking merissa (local brew) like it was the living waters! A death which, she tells me, will surely come.

A week has gone by, she tells me, since a merissa convert (one of her husband’s sons from his current marriage – her stepson) moved into her house. This boy tells his step mother that his own parents have disowned him. For a month he was admitted in hospital, and neither came to see him. “I thank God for you’, the boy says to his step mother, ‘because were it not for you, I surely would have died of hunger!)

I have to go back to the office. I give this my cleaning Mama Twenty an equivalent of 7.5 USD. It is unexpected. She wants to weep. She tells me the story of ½ a dollar – her one way fare each day, for she takes three buses for each trip, and that today, had I not offered her the money, she would have had to walk all the way home! She tells me that the money is for her a sure sign that God does never deserts her, that He always keeps in step with her!

I laugh that she is so happy!

As she sips her tea, in my halting lingua, I tell her to encourage her two daughters to excel in school, because they will help her in her old age.

I tell her that my parents are happy now, and well provided for, in spite of the harrowing poverty we had to go through.

‘God bless/help you’ she tells me, over and over again. And I am grateful.

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Comments 1

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Jennifer Baljko
Sep 29, 2010
Sep 29, 2010

Hello, What a moving story. I love how you put the reader in the room right there with you. I can see the two of you sharing tea, and talking about your day. It never ceases to amaze me how random acts of kindness (in your case, giving this woman some food and a bit of extra money) can have a such a profound effect on another person's life. Best, jenn