Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The People at My Door - Mary

Mary and her baby knocked at my door one Monday in January. With her were a teenage daughter and the daughter’s friend. They told me they had come from a village some distance away and were looking for piecework in exchange for food. We gave them about two hours’ worth of work in the yard and promised them three small bags of mealie meal.

Two hours later the three ladies had transformed the front yard and accomplished as much as we usually expect from a full day of work. We fed them lunch, gave them their bags of mealie meal, and thanked them for doing a great job.

The next morning they were back. They had found an abandoned house to stay in for a few days. Mary asked to continue working for food, and the girls asked to work to earn money for school fees. We assigned Mary jobs close by in the back yard while the girls took slashers (blades with handles) and began cutting the four-feet tall grass in the empty lot behind our house. By day’s end the two girls had cut more grass than the three college guys who had worked the previous day!

They continued with us for the rest of the week. Mary and the baby stayed in the yard, where Mary weeded and edged every flower bed. Her baby played happily on the driveway or stayed tucked into the chitenge on Mary’s back. I never heard him cry or fuss. The girls slashed grass and did other chores, always working hard and often singing as they labored.

On Friday Mary and the girls were ready to go. School had already started back in their village, and they needed to go home. We paid them generously with bags of mealie meal and cash for school fees. They were delighted as they set off on foot.

Our yard looks better than it ever has, thanks to Mary’s work. As I walk through the grass and enjoy the flowers I often wonder about Mary. I hope she has enough to eat and that the girls are doing well in school. I expect them to be back when the school term ends--and there will be another knock at my door.

Our house after Mary's work

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