In late February Himself entered one of his writings in an Extension writing contest. His piece was in the 'memoirs' category. It tells the story of Grace, a Maasai woman we met in Kenya.
A couple of weeks ago he received notice that he had won second place in the competition!
‘A Woman Named Grace’
Sometimes things happen that one can’t anticipate. This happened to my wife Teri and me at a most unusual time – broken down alongside a road on the savanna of Kenya, Africa. Actually, we weren’t even on a road; we were in the middle of nowhere in some semi-desert scrub land in the Rift Valley of Kenya on our way to meet a Maasai child that we sponsored thru Compassion International. In the more remote places in Kenya, you don’t drive on a road – you just drive. And it usually isn’t you driving - you are driven by a Kenyan assigned to a vehicle who seems to know where he is going...at least in theory. (Good thing he knew – I swear we passed the same anthill or wildebeest herd a dozen times!)
Driving along the bumpiest terrain I’ve experienced, we rode in our Land Rover hanging on tight. Too dry for mosquitoes, the land was prime for dust and no matter how clean you started out, you arrived at your destination dusty. Not that ‘your’ sponsor family would notice – they live literally in the sticks. Their African huts were made of sticks, grasses, ashes and cow dung. (In some of the drier areas you can’t even get mud...hence sticky cow dung which helps hold things together.)
Besides our driver we had a Compassion rep named Jim and a tag-along older man named Moses. Though a native Kenyan, Moses was a city boy who had never been ‘out there’ in the wild of Kenyan countryside. Indicating that he wanted to go, he stated that “it was like being on vacation” being out in the wilds at the bottom of the Rift Valley! All we had been requested to do was to pay Moses’ daily wage of $7 for his usage from his usual employer. We gladly did that.
Somewhere along the way we broke down. Great... Don’t recall just what went wrong but soon there were Kenyan behinds sticking out from under the vehicle - all of them saying the Swahili word for “Hmmm...” Not a good sign. Teri and I? We found an acacia tree to sit under to get out of the sun. Once cooled off we would wander around looking at exotic rocks, plants, and things that slithered. Then, raising our gaze from the ground, off in the distance we saw a small family settlement called a ‘boma’ - an enclosed camp of Maasai natives and their animals. (Maasai families slept with some of their animals right in their hut.) From this boma we would occasionally see wide-eyed curious kids, but they mainly stayed hidden and would not come near us.
Running out of things to look at, I fished out a soccer ball we were to give our Maasai child, ‘Ntikoisa’. Compassion rep Jim was all for booting it around with me because one, soccer was popular for these people and two, he was as bored as I. A city boy also, he left fixing the vehicle to Moses and the driver who were still going, “Hmmm...” Teri? She watched us for a moment...and then her eyebrows started going up – which is ‘hmmm...’ for her. Why? Because every bush around had thorns. Informed by Teri that, ‘If ONE thorn punctures this soccer ball, an American AND a Kenyan would be in trouble’, Jim looked between Teri and me. Recognizing the universal sign of ‘woman-with-hands-on-hips’ as trouble brewing...the soccer ball was soon put up!
Eventually Teri noticed a Maasai woman slowly approaching our disabled Rover from the boma compound. This woman had been slowly walking back and forth for some time, finally stopping a good distance away while watching us intently. Teri watched her just as intently. Then Teri waved. That’s all it took and soon she and her infant son were over to visit. Just then help arrived from the nearest village along with the headmaster of the Compassion center and this headmaster soon found himself translating as these two woman from two different worlds...shared.
This Maasai lady explained that she’d seen our crippled Land Rover and had felt helpless to do anything to assist us. Initially seeing only men from a distance she was afraid to approach. She then explained that she had done the only thing she could think of – she prayed for us. However, when she saw Teri wave and realized there was a woman with the group, she felt it safe for her to come over.
These two women talked of families, children (including baby strapped to her side), goats and husbands. Too soon the village mechanic had the Rover fixed and it was time to move on but before we left this woman removed a beautiful beaded bracelet from her arm and, catching Teri by the hand, slipped it onto Teri’s arm with the words, “Remember me”. With the same words in return Teri removed a bracelet that she had made back home in America and gave it to this woman.
As we drove off this Maasai lady – full of poise and grace, waved goodbye. This woman’s name? Grace. A woman named Grace.