A few years ago, I was sitting on a big rock a few meters outside of my parents’ home, crying.
I was well into a messy divorce and far away from a place I had called home for almost ten years. I had no idea where I would end up living next, or if I would still have my children by the time the divorce was finalised. I missed my circle of wise and caring friends who always offered empathy and a cup of tea when I most needed it. I was in a mountain of debt. My career-one that I had worked so hard for years in university-was in shambles before it even had a chance to take its first baby steps into ‘the real world’.
The earth beneath my feet was dark and loose, coating my open toes in a film of dust. I can’t remember what I was wearing but I’m pretty sure I had walked out with a huge, red Maasai blanket wrapped around my shoulders. My face, buried deep into my dusty palms, was wet with tears.
“Tiga kurera, mama” I heard a gentle voice implore over my hunched back.
I looked up and rested my blood-shot eyes on a shriveled old lady dressed in a dirt-caked dress and tattered shoes. She was bent over from the enormous load of wood that she was carrying on her back, presumably freshly cut from the forest nearby.
“Do not cry, my dear” she repeated gently in the native KiMeru language, “Whatever you are going through right now, you will overcome. You will be fine.”
Her mouth curled upward to reveal a toothless smile and her eyes, twinkling with kindness, crinkled up. I smiled back and took a deep breathe. I wiped my tears and she looked at me deeply, as if to say that she understood. Almost instantly, I felt calmer and more hopeful; as if a ray of sunlight had suddenly escaped past a mass of dark, grey clouds. Then she turned around and walked off.
I got up and stared at the old lady hunched over that heavy load on her back, her figure getting smaller and smaller as she made her way up the dusty road.
Years later, I am fine. In fact, I am the happiest I have been all my life. Yet, I wonder what happened to that old lady: Is she still alive? What is her story? Did she ever wonder about my story?
I will always be grateful for that moment: the gift of unquestioning grace during one of my darkest days; a reaffirmation of hope from a random stranger, who no doubt, had a much more difficult life than mine. Whenever I remember to, I ask God to bless her wherever she may be.