Her name is Esther. She is 25 years, has four children but you would still confuse her with a 13 year old because she is small bodied, keeps her hair short and still looks innocent. She is dark, literally dark, and with the biggest smile ever.
Now there are several factors that make Esther to be one of my favorite house helps. One if you do the calculation, her eldest child is 13 years meaning Esther got pregnant at the age of twelve or even 11 years. She is from Githogoro slums, and that basically explains everything about her childhood. She once told me that the first time she gave in to a man was the first time she got pregnant. At twelve years, Esther was a kid who deserved education and protection, but life in the slums hardly cares about anyone’s welfare. Girls are raped at very young age, children engage in crimes for survival at a young age and the pathetic conditions there render many children hopeless.
So to me Esther represents majority of the mothers (or fathers) in the streets,mothers whose innocence was robbed when they were very young and woke up to realities of being a parent unplanned for and unexpectedly. To me she represents a young girl trapped in a mother’s expectations and age. To me she is the classic example of that girl in Kibera, in Mathare or any other part of the world , in slums, who never had a chance to grow and by the time they discovered wrong from right they were already married, either from desperation or because that’s what the society wanted them to do.
Another reason why she is my favorite is that there is no single day she has ever treated me with no respect or as if I don’t belong. And for a young person whose grown up in a situation like mine (a story for another day) that matters a lot. She is always giving me this big and heartwarming smile. And of lately I find myself asking her for help basically in anything I want in the house, because she does it wholeheartedly.
Another reason I like Esther is because I feel like I am the only friend she has and can open up to. A lot of people judge her, even her colleagues. This arises from the fact that her favorite pass time is drinking local brew. They say she drinks heavily every time she is not in the house working. And it’s majorly the reason why she was transferred from the Shamba to come work in the house, because mum was told she was not taking care of her children well. Well, here is a problem I have with many people, why tell the boss what your fellow colleagues are doing outside office hours? Does that make you a better performer? Will you be given their salary even after they lose their job? To me that is pure jealous and malice, and so I automatically took sides with Esther to protect her, to sweet talk mum about her so she is not fired because she almost was. Luckily it has worked. And I have made mum see the other side of it, that probably Esther is depressed and all she needs is a little bit understanding and time to find herself, otherwise some of us struggle with less important issues in life and they get us depressed sometimes to the point of us writing just to pass time, issues like our parents not being there for us. Some of us were Lucky to discover ourselves and grow before someone took advantage of us but we still feel broken, how would we react to life if we got pregnant at 13? Get depressed of course, and drink ourselves silly to temporarily forget the life and realities you have to wake up to everyday.
So of lately Esther and I have become very close. Despite our different worlds, something unites us and makes us feel like we are each other’s best friends, something the world cannot explain. Maybe it’s the fact that our life journeys have something tragic that happened when we were young and we are so much trying to run away from, yet we are not aware we are running in the first place unless somebody who is courageous enough tells us and we start thinking maybe he or she is right. Maybe we are indeed hiding. Maybe it’s because we both understand the deep cuts and marks challenges of these world can leave, or maybe it’s because pain is universal and it leaves you wanting to help and every time you can’t you feel like you have failed. But whatever it is, I thank God for our friendship, and I am intending to keep her for a lifetime, and educate her children if God blesses and doesn’t take me away. She is the type of friend who every girl needs, the friend who understands what life is and doesn’t go about hurting others for the sake of it.
One interesting factor about her is that she has never asked me for any favor. She only asked me sometime back that when I get three thousand I should give her to buy a phone and she will be refunding monthly. Now that’s an interesting friend, she has nothing much but she has the courtesy to try pay back, yet when i give somebody something i never ask for it, i let them decide whether they want to refund or not, if they don’t that’s fine i know God always refunds in other ways, but i am sure if it were others on her position she would be taking advantage of me everyday.
Then recently she asked me for a favor. To help her with a dress and not just a dress my favourite blue dress. She said she had a date, her first date, she has been married by two different men but she has never gone out with a man for a drink. And of course as a best friend i was excited for her. But I loved that dress to bits, I had won it once, and i intended to keep it for a lifetime.
Esther has been praising this dress every time i was at home, but I never imagined she wanted it. I tried changing her mind by giving her several options, but they were too short or simply didn’t impress her because i prefer floral she prefers figure hugging. One white dress fitted her perfectly, but still she said no. Given how much I loved that blue dress I of course said no, and insisted she takes the white dress. She did.
I was reading the Power of a praying woman, relieved that the battle with my new best friend was over. Then she said, ‘Thank you Katoto (hahaa that’s the name everyone calls me in the house including mum), at least I will wear a dress for the first time.’
‘You’ve never owned any?’ I asked
‘No imagine. I have Never’
Her confession hit me. And I thought to myself, ‘I have so many dresses, some of which I hardly wear, what would hurt me, to part with this favorite dress. God has blessed me so much, I can even afford to buy a another one like that if i want, but Esther cant because the salary she gets cannot allow her. What will cost me to give her this dress as a gift, and make her first dress memorable and exactly what she has been dreaming of?’
I got in the wardrobe and gave it to her. She couldn’t believe her eyes; she actually wanted to give it back to me, saying the white one was fine, or rather thinking I was giving it half-heartedly.
‘No its yours, keep it. I want your first dress to be memorable. It’s true I love it very much and it’s my favourite, but I value your happiness more than a piece of cloth’
As I went back to read my book I realized I have not felt this happy for a long time. I also discovered, most of the time, we hide ourselves behind philanthropy by giving away our used goods and things that we no longer need, but true heart of giving is tested when it comes to giving away that we love and value very much, something we’d rather keep it for ourselves forever, but we give it anyway, because we know it will make the other person happy. True heart of giving doesn’t just just give what it can’t use, it sacrifices what it loves even if it’s not easy and gives what makes it happy to make somebody else life better and see them smile.