Tuesday, April 24, 2012
a passion for service
Today's guest is my favorite doctor. His kindness, compassion, and life of service are a beacon, not only to those he serves, but to those of us with whom he shares his stories. If you don't know Maithri Goonetilleke yet, get ready to fall in love.
Mynah is my friend. Her frail body reminds me of the fever trees that grow by the side of the road in many parts of the Lubombo area. Slender and delicate, and yet strangely luminous, unmistakeably alive.
Known for her quiet strength and a wide unforced smile, she has lived her 74 years in the red dust hills of Makhewu.
Mynah had five children. All of them contracted HIV/AIDS during their lifetimes.
One by one Mynah watched them suffer and die. And as each one passed away, she took in their children, her newly orphaned grandchildren into her little cement home with two rooms.
At last count there are 17 children staying with Gogo Mynah. Two more are on the way.
One day, while out walking with my friend Make Nomsa Bhembe, we stopped at Mynahs house and saw the children playing barefoot outside.
We thought we would stop by and say hello to our friend and maybe play a game with the children.
As I walked into her house, the faint scent of urine hung in the air. Thats what happens when 17 children sleep together in one room. A little baby was fast asleep in the corner.
Mynah was standing by a dusty, yellow wall, her whole attention focussed on something she was holding in her hand.
"What’s that?" I asked, smiling broadly. She jumped. Startled by my presence. After greeting us with a fond embrace, she answered.
"Gogo are the rats bothering you?" I asked. Nomsa translated.
"No. The rats are ok. This is for me!” She laughed.
“For you?” We were both concerned.
“I would not take it. Don’t worry. Its hard sometimes when all your children have died. When every day you have to look after 17 babies. I feel like theres no point sometimes.
“What stops you Gogo?” Nomsa asked.
“The children. I hear them playing outside. I know they need me. I am all they have in this world.”
“So this is a decision you made a long time ago Gogo, to never take this rat poison?”
“No.” she continued in Si Swati shaking her head –“ It’s a decision I make every day. Every day I think about it. I know exactly where it sits on the shelf. But every day I hear those children playing.”
So I say to myself “Not today.”
From Siteki with Love,
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