He really just came by to pick up a pair of shoes for his wife, it should have only been a two minuet trip to our house, but hours later as we all walked out he was hopefully filled with much more.
9 am Saturday morning a knock came at our door; I opened it cautiously to find a strange man standing in the hallway. “I’ve come to pick stuff up,” he said. I looked at him rather blankly and holding the door only slightly ajar. “Your friend Hannah has stuff for my wife,” he tried again. I still didn’t budge or open the door any wider. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” I said apologetically as I did a very uncultured thing and closed the door on his face.
An hour later while I was out at the store buying milk the same guy came up to me “have you heard from Hannah yet? I really need to get that stuff before I leave this afternoon.”
“Hannah is at school taking her final exam. You need to talk to her first,” I said firmly.
“What’s your home phone number?”
“I don’t know” I shrugged as I marched past him.
Before I made it back home he had once again accosted me on the street, entreating me with basically the same plea to get stuff from my house. Before leaving for school in the morning my roommate had not mentioned that a man might come by to pick something up. I wasn’t about to just let him go through her stuff and take whatever he wanted. He tried once or twice more that afternoon to come by and knock on our door. After a while we just started to ignore his knocking.
In the evening my roommate Hannah returned. I asked her if she knew who this guy was or what he was looking for. “Oh yeah” she said almost as an afterthought “I left some stuff here for his wife… You know the women I introduced you to the other day whose baby was in the hospital.” The sentence was barely out of her mouth when once again the now familiar knock sounded on the door. “That’s likely him,” I said getting up from the chair and this time going to open the door wide.
“Hannah is home” I said ushering him into our living room and encouraging him to sit down. “She just told me to expect you, sorry about the confusion earlier”. I started to rush about and get tea on the table for our guests. Before he had time to drink half of his first bowel of tea my roommate had returned with our ‘take-out’ food (sounds fancier than what the plastic bag filled with a big plate of chicken really is). “Please stay for dinner, there is enough for everyone” we encouraged him.
We asked politely after his wife and how their son’s doctor’s appointment had gone. We learned that the doctor had given them very little hope that their son would ever be able to function normally… the baby is already a year old but can’t really support his own head. You could hear the sadness and hopelessness in this father’s voice. He and his wife had made the more than twenty four hour journey from their small farming village up to the big city so that their son could get some of the best medical care this province has to offer. They had pinned all their hopes on the fact that the medical university hospital would have some treatment… and now they were heading back deflated. They were heading back having spend a lot of the families money on tickets to get here, hotel and food for two week while they were here and of course hospital bills. He felt like he had nothing to show for it, their baby was equally sick as when they arrived.
We didn’t have much to offer, but tried to encourage him as best as we could. Men in this culture don’t often sit and patiently listen to unmarried women like myself. But his heart was so empty, so broken and he so needed to hear someone cheer him up that he sat there eating and listening for a long time. After a while he said “please let’s all go out and get something to drink”. We were unsure if he just wanted an excuse to leave or if he really did want us all to go with him. Before leaving he picked up a pair of shoes from Hannah for his wife and we all headed out the door. He kept thanking us for our encouragement and even told us that if we were ever in his small town we had to come to their house for dinner. We exchanged numbers and promised to call if we were ever in his area. As we walked by a convenient store he asked us all to wait just a second as he ran inside. Five minutes later he came out proudly carrying an armful of supper sweet “Redbull” energy knock off drinks. “This is a very good beverage” he says graciously as he handed each one of us a bottle.
As he extended it towards me I had two simultaneous reaction; the first being “Oh, I hate this stuff,” followed quickly by “This stuff is pretty expensive, a guy from a poor farming village like his doesn’t have enough money to be wasting it all on buying us drinks.” I tried to refuse, but he pushes it back in our hand and used the traditional “It might be small, but this gift is from my heart” line. Those words have become so common place here that sometimes they start to sound empty to me… but I could tell this man really meant it. He had nothing to give, his family’s home was far away, they were leaving the next day, but he wanted to say thank you. I thought about telling him to keep the energy drink and enjoy it on the bus ride home. I realized had a choice, I could continue to refuse his offer, knowing it was more than he could really afford to give, or I could humbly accept that this man was just trying to find a way to say “thank you”. Sometimes it is hard to be humble enough to let someone else show you love and care.