In the shower this morning, with sparkling water falling on my head I reflected on all the people in the World who lack this essential for life and also on the huge effort that women have to make to locate and carry, often dirty water for their family needs. Suddenly the following memory flashed back to light
It was late evening in a remote village in Doroba, about 35km from home, but every one of them over tracks with backbreaking craters and not for the fainthearted. We were on a preschool-day where we were meeting whole communities and Mary was outlining the benefits of preschools and what we were requiring them to contribute to the process. She was doing all the work while Nicole, Kate and Aoife and myself were just making up the numbers!! This was the last of four preschool groups, so we were all ready for home. We were just taking the final group photograph of the day when this old lady approached me. She was probably sixty but looked ninety. She said “can you come to look at our pumps now”? I was hot, tired, hungry, my poor bones ached and I was all set to do the scary drive back home. Now I needed a quick lie!!. In a flash I replied that the women were tired and they had to rush. But she interjected, “you promised”. “You promised last week that the next time you came you would look at where we get our water, and we’re all here” (about 20 of them, all women). Well if I premised, I promised. I looked closely at this, probably sick, half starved bundle of bones, thought of my 85 year old mother and said hop in, as I made place in the front seat for her.
I asked “where do we go”, knowing that we were at the end of the line, the end of what had any resemblance to a road. They pointed, “just, over there”, along a goat track where a few already wrecked, ancient brick lorries, had flattened the small trees and grass. Now this was the real wilderness, I had no Harisen, so I’m on my own with a group of possessed women. Four kilometres later we arrived at over there. I thought: With a quick turnaround all would be well, but no such luck.
I know if Harisen was there he would probably drive all the way to the pump location, but he wasn’t and probably having his dinner by now. So off we go led by this rejuvenated auld one, running and jumping over gorges like a kid goat. Where is it: “Just over these trees”, but when we arrive there was another landmark and then another up hills and down, following these crazy women.
After about 1km, I sat and thought, should I continue or go back. I was dead, but they came, pulled me to my feet, and said quietly, “It’s not too far now”. Well it wasn’t, not for them: just another kilometre. We saw where she wanted her well. We planned what was to be done. She had no problem with things like the size, the digging, carrying bricks sand and stones, as long as we would bring the pump and cement They all prayed and danced and sang while telling me that there would be ten pumps in all, which was great for us, when all could be done together.
As we hiked back they told me that God would reward me. “What God”? I replied, “there’s no God”, I said, because if there was, He wouldn’t have me out here, in this godforsaken place, with you crowd of mad people. The just fell apart laughing and took turns pulling me up the hills, making the path and minding me.
They are wonderful people, I love then, They’re God’s own people, and that’s how much they want clean water.
I haven’t been back but I’m told that they all have clean, safe drinking water now, all two thousand or so. Of course they’ll thank God, not me, but that’s not a bad deal.
When I returned, Mary and the gang were really tired, thought I had been kidnapped, or led astray. They slept on the journey back despite the undulations.
I will think before I promise in the future Well, No I won’t.