Hero Hubs and I live in a nice and safe security complex here in Gordonâ€™s Bay. Most of the people who own property here only use it for a month or so out of the year. Most of the people who do live here all year long probably rent. Like us. You guys have seen pictures…itâ€™s a pretty little neighbourhood, regardless of how long you’re hanging around. The Bear and I often enjoy a stroll around the harbour, him on his car, me toting along a snack Iâ€™m pretending is for him that Iâ€™m actually eating while hoping no one sees… and sometimes going for a walk here feels like a brief holiday.
But beneath the surface of our pretty wee neighbourhood, there are things that really get under my skin.
See, thereâ€™s this gardener, who I would like to call… James. He covers the grounds of most of the complex, works hard, takes the rubbish up on Mondays for pickup, is kind and friendly, and goes out of his way to help when he can. Once when the water was out in Gordonâ€™s Bay, HH crossed the street to buy a big jug at Pick nâ€™ Pay (the one where I got those magical pictures so cheap.) I ran into James when I carried some trash downstairs to the bins in the basement parking and mentioned that we had water if he wanted to come up and get some. Within minutes he was at our door and we filled a big bottle for him to take with him. And I realised if we hadnâ€™t offered him water, he probably wouldâ€™ve gone without it for that entire ridiculouslyÂ hot and sunny day.
We had a tough day a few weeks ago that you mightâ€™ve recognised if you were following along with the comments of this post. I was especially upset because there are some ladies who keep the floors and windows of the complex clean, and a while back one of them was pregnant. I would like to call her Beatrice. Beatrice was off for a while, and we assumed she’d had her baby and was taking some leave. Then she was back at work, her smiling, friendly self again but we’d only seen her in passing and not had the opportunity to speak.
On this particular day, HH and I were having dinner and he shared that when he was out for an errand earlier heâ€™d given Beatrice a ride to the taxi rank. He asked how the baby was doing and she shared the news that the baby had died. The doctors said it was of natural causes and she didnâ€™t really know why it had happened.
I can only assume poverty, poor sanitation, perhaps even lack of education played a roll.
But all the pictures of Beatrice smiling and playing with the Bear and waving to him as he strolls by suddenly whooshed past my mind in one big tidal wave and I was a mess of tears and could hardly finish my meal. HH apologised for upsetting me (which was certainly an unnecessary apology). A few days later I tried to tell her how sorry I was, and I felt like a blubbering mess.
Our dinner continued as HH shared that heâ€™d had a conversation with James where he discovered that James makes 350 Rand per week. That is less than 50 US dollars. Including toiletries and diapers, I probably spend almost double that just for a weekâ€™s worth of groceries. And we donâ€™t eat none too high on the hog. He probably only has 300 Rand left after paying for transport to get to work.
Here are the reasons I struggle not to be enraged by this. James works for a company that is contracted in to keep the grounds of our friendly secure Pleasantville tidy and green. He has asked the homeownerâ€™s association (made up of some people who live here all year and some who donâ€™t) to consider paying him directly instead of paying the company, but they arenâ€™t interested. They would rather the paperwork be outsourced, Iâ€™m sure. So it’s likely that someone is making good money off Jamesâ€™s back, while he fights to make ends meet with a family of four.
Why doesnâ€™t James find another job? might be your first question. Because This is Africa. Unemployment is currently at three gabillion percent. Iâ€™ve already told you that we pass guys by the dozen waiting for work on the side of the road day in and day out. A sorry job is better than no job.
A couple weeks ago Jamesâ€™s bike was stolen. That probably means he has to pay extra taxi fare (and taxi fare is HIGH) just to get to work at this poor-paying job on time every day. HH and I have been hoping to find a deal somewhere so that we can bless him with another bike. But sometimes it just feels like thatâ€™s not enough.
The trouble is, if my outspoken, overprotective American self tries to speak up for James, I wonder if he might be out of a job for it.
But how far down does the rabbit hole go? How many millions of millions are in these situations? The people who made the shoes youâ€™re wearing? The people who harvested the coffee for our morning lattes?Â Or just the guy who keeps the grounds tidy for the people who ride by in their Mercedes and Ferraris?
And even if heâ€™s the only one…isnâ€™t he worth fighting for?
*Tomorrow, before anyone starts to slay me, or in case there are concerns, Iâ€™ll explain why Iâ€™m not a communist.