Sharon and Seth's Grandmother
In order to put yourself in this grandmother’s shoes, you have to enter a world of profound imagination, because her life experience is so far removed from anything you’ve likely experienced in the states.
Imagine that you’re close to 80-years old, that you’ve been a widow for longer than you can remember, that you grow almost everything you eat in your small garden beside the house, and that you walk 3-miles one-way to fetch water. Because you’re old and have had a hard life, you have to find a place to sleep near the waterhole; 6-miles is too great a distance for you to cover in one day.
You’ve never felt highly-valued because you grew up in a culture that places a low value on women and children. Some tribes value their cattle more than their women. Men have never sought or heeded your opinion. You’ve been taught for so long that you’re less valuable than a man that you believe it without question.
You’ve raised your own family, and now, because AIDS has claimed the lives of all of your children, you’re raising their children. But you’re tired. You wake up with aching bones every morning because you sleep, with your grandchildren, on a blanket that’s spread on the dirt floor of your mud hut. You don’t own a mattress. Maybe you never did.
You don’t sleep well—not just because you’re old, but because your body is stiff; you feel cold; you’re always hungry, and the chickens who sleep in the house (so they won’t be stolen) wake early and make noise.
You’re sick. It might be your age combined with the fact that you’ve never had decent medical care; it might be the flu or a common cold; it might be that you’ve had malaria so many times your body is worn from its ravages. Whatever the case may be, your sickness combined with your age, constant hunger, lack of clean water and oppressive poverty have worn you down until you’re beyond tired.
Do you long for death? Even if you don’t know Jesus, does it seem like a sweet release from the responsibilities that you face everyday? What motivates you to continue drawing breath? How do you get up each morning and go about your chores without any relief in sight?
These are the questions that were plaguing me as I sat on a rock outside her crude mud house talking to this old-beyond-her-years grandma.
She’s a farmer and the drought was much too long this year. She has nothing to feed her grandchildren. A distant relative teaches at the school they attend and gets their fees waived. When they need shoes or clothes she sells a hen to get money to purchase the necessities. Soap isn’t a necessity. They don’t have any. They don’t take baths or do laundry regularly because water is such a precious commodity. They need it to drink—to survive.
Living Hope was able to ease some of the burden this grandma faces by taking in the two grandchildren who have been staying with her for the past year since their mother died. I’m happy for Sharon and Seth. They will get education, the message of the gospel, three meals a day, soap for bathing and laundry, lotion for dry skin, toothpaste for brushing.
My heart aches for their grandma. Even though her burden isn’t as heavy, she’s still hungry; she’s still sick; she’s still poor. At least she’s not sleeping on the floor anymore, thanks to the mattress purchased for her by Living Hope, but what is a mattress in the face of her desperation?
And always the nagging question: could I do more?