Friday, January 16, 2009

A Lesson Of Love

The first time I see Alous she is balancing a large tray of glass dishes on her head. She smiles at us in a friendly matter her white teeth glowing against her dark skin. Her hair is done in a hundred perfect little braids. She welcomes us politely to Pignon. We nod at her and smile our welcome since we can’t speak any Creole yet. Since the camp is still waiting for a stove, she has agreed to cook for us indefinitely. She knows how to barter for food at the market and cook over a fire, something we don’t know how to do yet. We give her $200 US dollars to buy food for the week. Each meal she makes is nicely done and comes with a variety of different side dishes. She also makes almost double of what we eat but she never serves the leftovers. Within 3 days she’s used all the money and makes motions that she needs more to buy food. We reluctantly give her more and try to explain that we don’t need so many different dishes or so much food, but she doesn’t seem to understand. Everyday we get a large variety of food and double the amount we need. After two weeks, we feel that we just can’t possibly afford having her cook for us. Since the camp manager says they have a stove available for us now and one of the missionary wives offers to take us to the market, we decide to start cooking for ourselves. Alous seems disappointed but doesn’t say anything. I feel bad, but there is no way we can afford to have her keep cooking for us. When she sees us she still greets us but it seems like she tries to avoid us. I feel slightly awkward around her. Several weeks later we are looking for a babysitter so I ask one of the local pastors who speaks English. He phones around and comes back several minutes later. Would you mind if Alous babysits he says? “I guess”, I hedge, I still feel slightly uncomfortable around her but I don’t have a reason to say no, so I hesitantly accept. The decision to hire Alous as babysitter doesn’t become any easier when Jayden screams every time he sees her. Every morning when I bring him to her he screams and struggles. If he manages to break free he runs away as fast as he can. I have mixed feelings. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. I feel bad for both him and Alous. As time passes I decide to let Jason bring him and that seems to work slightly better. At least he’s not screaming as much. Slowly things change. During class I hear a lot less crying and when I go pick him up he seems fairly relaxed. Another team comes and Alous cooks for them but still offers to watch Jayden. She holds him on one hip the entire time as she works. He likes that. At 25 pounds, I can’t do that when I work!
Now, this morning I can’t find Jason so I decide to bring Jayden again myself. As we approach Alous her face breaks into a large smile and she greets us warmly! “Jayden” she says and holds out her hands! Amazingly he lets go of my hand and runs to her and throws his arms around her neck. They walk off happily together leaving me in the dust. Hours later I go search for them since it’s time for his nap. I find Jayden on her hip as she feeds him fried spam! (the teams’ lunch) He loves it and protest when I take him. She smiles at me and gives him one last hug. Later that same day after dinner, I give Jayden a bath. Just as I’m putting his pajamas on Alous comes into the main house to pick up the teams dishes. “Santi chevey li” (smell his hair) I say to her. She smiles broadly when she smells the Zwitsal (Dutch baby shampoo). “Bon” (good) she says. Jayden leans his little head towards her and kisses her soundly on the nose. “Zanmi mwe” (my friend) Alous says. I smile as my heart fills with love and gratitude. God commands us to love one another, but the love that I had been unable to communicate a little child had been able to. How humbling. The Bible says, He uses the weakest means to do His Will. Love one another.

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