Reach out and help

Two months ago while away from home and not having much to do after field work, I decided to take a walk in the surrounding neighbourhood in which our BnB was located. I had intended to do a short trek as I had done the previous day. I however ended up taking a longer route which actually involved a number of inclines- given the hilly nature of the area. This was just after 17h30 going on to 18h00 and it was getting dark.

As I was making my way up the second (and steepest of the 3) incline, I saw an old woman in her late fifties to early sixties walking slowly up the hill in evident pain. To top it up she was holding a lot of small pieces of luggage. I stopped and asked her where she was going and she said "isibedlele" in reference to the hospital which was at the top of the hill.

I asked her if I could help her and I took the bags and started walking up the hill with her. Because I had been walking at a fast pace I only realised after a few metres that she was actually trying to match my pace. I had to slow down and told her she didn't need to walk that fast. She slowed down and we walked at a more leisurely pace.

On our way there was a foot path which was a short cut to the hospital entrance but because it was much steeper, I decided it would be better for us to continue up the winding road. At one point I realised that mama was short of breath- I told her if she wanted to rest it was okay and we could stop for a bit...I was still young and energetic. She was really relieved and we waited for a bit. It turned out she might have been holding herself from requesting for us to stop thinking it might appear as demanding given I was helping her.

It turned out she was actually coming for an eye examination appointment for the next day. She was going to sleep the night. In 2003 she had a cataract removed from one eye and she was now coming for the other eye to be checked. All the time we were walking up, all I had in mind was that it was a privilege for me to be able to help mama. Though I had met her a few minutes earlier, I took it as she was my own mum. When she told me about the cataract, it even hit closer home as my mum had to undergo an eye operation in 2006 to remove a cataract. The eye got an infection and it ended up having to be removed.

We eventually reached the top of the hill and she was quite appreciative for the assistance rendered. As she thanked me in a mix of Xhosa and Sotho I actually found myself responding in Shona saying "muchitendeiko"- akin to "don't mention it."

Lessons learnt

1) At times you might be led to go on a different route, walk further and encounter more challenging circumstances only because along that route there are people you are meant to meet and be of assistance to
2) Once you meet these people, see how you can be a blessing to them. Engage them with a view to assist them with whatever need they have which you can attend to.
3) Be patient, walk and work according to their pace. Don't be in too much of a hurry that they are not comfortable to do things as they are best able to
4) Take time out to assess and ensure they are still okay so that you don't strain them wanting them to reach particular milestones prematurely