November 15, 2009

Hearts of Gold

It was Sunday, Nate was still far from finishing the work he needed to, and he was leaving that evening for China. He was stressed, and anxious. We both knew that if he went to his office, the next time we would see each other is at the airport. So we decided to both go work from his office to be next to each other. We were driving down James Gichuru road, less than 10 minutes from our house, when we saw a man lying on the curb, his head partly on the main road, on the other side.

At first i thought he was drunk, so did Nate. But we slowed down nevertheless.  His arms were raised in what looked like rigor mortis and he had white foam coming from his mouth. We immediately knew that he wasn't just another drunk, he was sick, probably epilepsy. All the while people kept walking by him, other jumping over his body. He looked as dead. There was one of those rapid security response van less than 200 meters from where he lay. We drove to them and asked them if they would call an ambulance. They looked at as like we were crazy. We backed up our car to drive back to the man, and some Indian guy also stopped to talk to the security guys. He also asked for an ambulance. The security men went on lying in the back seat of their van.

Nate drove back to the man as i called Safaricom directory service to give me the number to Kenyatta or Nairobi Hospital. As i waited for the phone to be answered in Kenyatta, we sat in the car... scared. What if he is dead, Nathan asked me. I don't know... i said. What do we do? He asked. Do we take him to hospital? I think we call Kenyatta and tell them to come for him. If they pick their phones... I said. Nathan responded 'Or we call a taxi and pay them to take him to hospital.

Kenyatta picked their phone what seemed like 5 hours later. I told them about the man and the foam in his mouth. They told me they had no car to send. WHAT? anyway, i don't know what i had expected. Nathan saw him move. He was getting up.

We got out of the car and went to him. He sat down shakily, looking around him like he was lost.  I asked what his name was, whether he was sick...

He told us that he had just been released from Muthangari Police Station. He was walking home to Kawangware (approx 10km). He showed me his epilepsy pills, told us that he had already taken them but he had not eaten for days and thought that is why he got the attack. He did not even know how long he had been lying there. He then asked us if we had any bread.  It was around 11am.

Nathan gave him 500 shillings and told him to wait in the shade. We got into the car and drove to the gas station's hop. We got him milk, bread, lucozade... When we handed him the food, he looked at us with a look i have only seen in a child. He made to gave Nate the money back, Nathan told him it was his. All of it? He asked. Yes, Nathan said.

We left him eating and drove to Nathans office. As i sat next to Nate in the car, i couldn't help but think what a good man i have, and what a prefect match for me. Despite the fact that he was backed up to a corner with work, yet to finish packing for a 4 pm flight, he still made time to stop, check up on man he did not know and help. I have a heart for suffering people. Its gets to me so much. Many are the times when i have taken my jacket off my back and covered a sleeping kid on the street. In 2003, while in college i used to walk home, almost for a year so that i could buy food for this family that used to sleep outside Kenya Archives. The mother was sick, she had 3 kids. The oldest was 7, the one i first met. She asked me for money for food, i told her if i give to her she would use it for cobblers glue. She told me that she was not like the rest. And if i didn't believe her, then instead of giving her the money, but the food myself. So i walked with her to Kenchic and got 2 packets of chips. That's when a packet cost 25 shillings. Thus a tradition was born.

Every evening, on my way from college, i would stop by where her mother usually slept, talk to her (i might have looked crazy sitting next to this family), hold her youngest who was about 6 months old and watch people walk by, other without as much as a glance. At 7pm, i would go with the 7 year old to Kenchic, get french fries and sit with them as they ate. One evening, about 9 months later, the family was gone. City Council had made a surprise visit and taken all the street families (the ones who could not run fast) and locked them up. I checked to see if they were back every day. They never came back. Till now, when i find myself near Kenya Archives, i find myself checking...just in case they came back.

When i thought of the kind of man i would like to spend my life with, that is one thing that i always thought i had to compromise on. A heart for people. The capacity to deny yourself for the sake of another. For me, it comes effortlessly. Maybe its a curse of my name. A good curse, but also one that places a heavy burden upon me every time i see suffering and have no way of helping. It keeps me awake at night. Makes me cry just by thinking about it. Most people i told about how much people suffering hurts me could not understand it.  So i kept these little things i do for the helpless to myself and never told anyone. Until Nate. Because i saw the same struggle in him. The strong guilt of having while others don't, and not because you are more deserving.  The man who would understand and share with me the need to help others, to go out of your way to be the angel someone has been asking for. And that Sunday, we both surprised each other. He couldn't stop saying how much he felt that he had fallen in love with me all over again, and i was feeling the same too. He had showed me a side i knew he had but had never seen. And i knew i had found that man. And he had found that girl.

We talked about Andrew, (who we had just helped). Maybe he was thief, maybe a gun-wielding robber. But that did not matter, he was a human being at that moment. We had helped save a life and that all that mattered...

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