Guilt

We have two Zulu “domestic workers”  here, Zanele and Thandi.  Thandi does all the yard work and gardening  for us on Tuesdays.  She has seven children and many grandchildren but it was hard to find out much more because she speaks almost no English.  Zanele however speaks English quite well and is able to translate for us.  She has two daughters; the youngest is 6.  She does all the cleaning, dish washing, and anything else I want her to do while she is here on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  They, like most black South Africans, do not have cars, so they both arrive at 7am after taking numerous taxis and walking a significant distance.   They take a “tea break” mid-morning and a short lunch break.  I am supposed to stock “Jungle Oats” (I would call it mush), tea, and bread for them.

For a person like me who is passionate about black/white race relations this arrangement is uncomfortable.  Maybe not as much with Thandi because her work is less obvious to me.  She is outside and I am not used to mowing the grass and working in a large garden anyway.  But Zanele comes into our home, cleans up our messes, clears dishes from our table, washes them and puts them away, makes the beds if we have not done it yet and makes them better if we have, washes the floors, cleans the bathrooms, etc. etc.  all while I am sitting there with nothing to do.  There is nothing left to do; she does it all.  She quietly goes about her business, taking her breaks outside, out of sight in the back.

On Thursday it was quite hot.  I played games with Ruthie and then took her in the pool.  After getting out, we sat next to the pool and watched interesting birds while we ate a snack.  I could see Zanele mopping the kitchen floor, and I felt guilty.  I felt guilty that she was doing all my work while I played, guilty that between her own work and many jobs she probably does not get to sit and play with her six year old, and I felt guilty because in a way I like this arrangement.  It is pretty nice for me that I don’t need to clean bathrooms or mop floors.

I rehearsed in my head all the things I know are true – that without work at our home Zanele and Thandi may be a part of the 50% of black South Africans who are unemployed, be unable to feed their families, and may fall victim to the hopelessness that plaques their neighborhoods.  However, it still feels wrong.  The $12.50 we pay Thandi, and the $13 we pay Zanele does not seem like adequate compensation for a full day’s work, especially since they need to use a significant percentage for taxi fare.

For a variety of reasons, we can’t change their pay rates.  However, we can feed them and drive them home!  So, Tuesday we invited both Zanele and Thandi to have lunch with us at our table.  I would guess this was the first time they had a meal with white people!  We bought the South African version of pot pies and welcomed them to join Brian, myself, and all three girls.  They were hesitant at first, but it was wonderful!  They laughed at our Zulu and we talked about our families.  After lunch they went back to work, but it felt better.  I hope they thought so too.

zanele-thandi-lunch

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5 Responses to “Guilt”


  1. 1 Angela January 23, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Sometimes I think kindness can lift a spirit more than money. Hope you have more moments like that with them.

  2. 2 Kylie January 24, 2009 at 2:46 am

    I appreciate your honesty. I hope you continue to see the other ways that you can bring them a love maybe they have never heard of or seen. We’re proud of you and love you.

  3. 3 Jennifer Wright January 24, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Kristin,

    I remember my friends in the Phillippines feeling the same way. I will pray you continue to find ways to show love. Lunch was a great idea! You are helping them. I think this blogging will be very therapeutic. Jennifer

  4. 4 Mom January 25, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Since you were a young girl you have had a burden for less-fortunate people. We can see God using this as you are in So.Africa to show His love. This trip is no “accident”. I think it will be very satisfying to you and benefit all you come in contact with. We are proud of you all!
    Love you, Mom & Dad

  5. 5 Ruth Lloyd January 26, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Kristen,

    I have been praying for you and just got on your site today to read some. This post made me think of something I read this morning from Michael Craven at the Center for Christ and Culture.
    Here is the link – http://www.battlefortruth.org/ArticlesDetail.asp?id=320

    I will pray for ways for you touch these ladies’ hearts in a way that they never experienced before, a way that shows Christ’s love to them.

    Love
    Ruth


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