Monday, July 17, 2006
Let's Play "Our Home, Vera's Home"
I’d like to tell you about Vera Brown. Vera has lived in our neighbor- hood since the civil wars began, about sixteen years ago. She is not married, late thirties, and has four children, Moriah, Trokon, Gift, and Prince. The children’s fathers are completely out of the picture. We met Vera through Trokon, her 17 year old son, who we had known as a helpful serious teenager. Trokon one day approached us to help him get back to school after being unable to attend for three years. We agreed to pay his tuition for this coming year, and in exchange, he does yard work for us every week. (In addition, Renita tutors him several times a week to get him ready for school-- He will be entering sixth grade.) In gratitude, Vera visited us and after a time we became impressed by her humility, her strength, her perseverance—and her poverty.
For some time before we knew her, she and her children lived on the $20.00 a month she made teaching nursery school to sixty community children. Through a variety of ordained circumstances, we came to ask her if she would like to work with us (and in the process quadruple her salary.) She said yes, and now is part of our world five days a week. She washes our clothes, shops and cooks Liberian dinners for us Monday through Friday, and helps with some light cleaning. A couple weeks ago, I asked her if I could share her story and pictures of her home life with you. She said, “Yes, Unca Bob.”
You know, I tend to complain a bit about our house. At around a thousand square feet, it would pass as a “handyman’s special” summer cottage in Michigan. One toilet does not work; there is limited electricity and no running water. The floor is covered with plastic sheets and it is always dirty. Most Americans I know tell us we are making a big sacrifice to live here. Whenever I find myself whining more than usual, I pull out my Dell laptop computer, look at the pictures I took of her life, and play a little exercise called “Our Home, Vera’s Home.”
Here’s how it goes: