"And if you SPEND YOURSELVES on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday."

"The Lord will continually guide you. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."- Isaiah 58:10-11

Friday, December 27, 2013

Being Thankful

Esther stopped by my house just after Thanksgiving.  I have a love/ hate relationship with her because she makes bagels.  I LOVE her and I actually love bagels, but not so much the bagels she makes… until that day.  She’s a college student struggling to make it through school and trying to fill every moment she’s home with earning money to provide for school fees. That’s difficult in America and nearly impossible in Kenya but, she has a strong work ethic and I love that about her.  Somewhere along the way, someone taught her to make bagels and on school breaks she goes door to door around Kijabe asking to make them for us muzungus who, in theory, love them.  Every time she comes I secretly think, “Seriously, it’s school break again,” but out loud I say, “Esther, I’m so glad to see you (which is true), we would love to have some bagels (which is an outright lie).”

The bagel I was picturing in my mind
Here’s why.  The first time she came I was genuinely excited about bagels.  Who wouldn’t be in Kenya? However, it took about 4 hours to make 20 bagels. By the time she left, my kitchen was trashed and she used so much propane for all of the various bagel-making stages I had to replace the tank prematurely (maybe that’s just coincidence).  She accidentally ruined two of my really great cookie sheets, which is not a big deal but, I bought them the last time we were in the US and they are really hard to replace here. When the final product emerged, my family fittingly named them “Lembas Bagels” (shout out to Tolkien) because they were so dense and heavy they were convinced they’d stick for a week. Ditto for time two and three.  Now, I must admit, she has improved her technique over the last year and the bagels have become slightly less dense. However, it is still an all day effort and costs me way more financially than the bagels are worth.  In truth, I’d rather just give her money but I know the process of working for pay is honoring to her and I do enjoy her company. 

The day she stopped by I was pulling the laundry off of the line.  I had a good 30 seconds to walk towards her and put on my “happy to see you” face. I was furtively thinking, “We are traveling quite a bit this month. I won’t really be around for her to come.”

“Hi Esther!” (hug) “Welcome home from school!  How did your exams go?”

“Good!  I’m finished now with school.”  Secret dread washed through my mind thinking now she’d want to come every week.

“Wow! Great!” …More small talk…and then the question.

“Will you need bagels this week?”

“Ummm, we are traveling this week but we’ll be around next week.”  I squeaked out, “Would you like to come then?”

“Yes!!!” She paused in her excitement and then tried to say something but stopped and started again.  “Instead of paying me with money when I come, can you give me some food and deduct it from what you will pay me next week? And I would like it if you would just pay me with food when I come next week.” 

Confused by her question, which came out slightly jumbled, I asked, “Esther, are you asking for some food right now?”

“Well, I never told you this but my sister died last year and I will be caring for her three young girls and my dad now. I just got home from school and there is nothing to eat.”

“Does your dad work? Can he help?”

“Well, he’s paralyzed on half of his body and has HIV and is sick.” 

“Please, come in….” I said, fighting back tears.  As I gathered some food, I pondered the heavy load such a young girl was carrying.  I asked her why she wanted me to buy food instead of paying her to work.  She said because she didn’t know how to feed children or to shop in the markets.  Sigh. 

“Come on Monday afternoon.  We’ll figure this out together then.” 

I read this verse this morning during my quiet time and it kept coming to mind all day.  Matthew 5:42, “Give to him who asks of you and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” I’m pretty sure God was preparing me for this moment.  He also shifted my perspective…again.  I’m sorry now for even being cynical about Lembas Bagels. 

We've eaten them several times this month, not because we like them, but because they represent a life-line for a family.  Next time you are in Kenya you can come enjoy them with us!
Lembas Bagels - some of the good ones


aswesow said...

"The optimist sees the bagel, the pessimist sees the hole.
If you can't say something nice, say it in Yiddish."
Happy New Year Smith Family.

AngieGuillaume said...

I love this:)