We sat down on the bench outside a rundown house, in a yard full of sick children. I was ready to start my job as assistant, camera in hand, where I could remove myself a bit from the poverty that surrounded us.
And then the woman we were visiting handed me a baby. I gasped as his head flung back with the weight of it, with a condition where the head is larger than normal. Additionally this little boy’s body was that of an infant, at one and half years.
She has become lame as she was placed on ARVs, the life saving drug, much too late. Along with her four kids, there are two more: orphans of AIDS. And one of them was this sick little boy that I am holding in my arms, heavy with the weight of his head.
I looked into the eyes of this woman. Her bravery and strength is apparent as she sits on her woven mat. I ask myself, “how do you find the strength to take in two more children, while practically dying from AIDS?”
We learn that she wasn’t even able to make any beads this season. Her hands are crumpled in her lap. We encourage her that maybe once the ARVs kick in she might start again. I know that our hopeful talk is probably just that: talk.
I hand back this precious baby boy, to a strong courageous woman. Then, as we handed out bits of protein bars for all of the children to gobble up, I take a deep breath.
And I start to compare myself to these women.
I think nothing of my nice clothes, my flat back in Gabs, or my health. Rather, I begin to compare myself, and I come up short.
She stands strong in the face of poverty and AIDS, and takes on even more responsibility. I fall short as I compare myself to how strong she is. How much courage it must take to wake up every morning.
I falter at a car accident, not knowing the next steps, no job, money. But through it all… I have a plan B. I can go back home, and start again. She has no such luxury.